Sydney Runions: Looking Back While Moving Forward
Sydney Runions joined CCDT at age 14, and is now currently in her fourth and final year with the Company. Also a grade 12 Dance Major at Cardinal Carter Academy of the Arts, Sydney aspires to have a long career as a performing artist, taking her experiences from CCDT with her in the years to come.
What influenced and/or inspired you to audition for the company?
My original intention was to audition for CCDT’s summer intensive, but as I learned more about the company I became intrigued about the prospect of training with them full time. Although it is now clear to me that I want to pursue a career in dance, four years ago I was just entertaining the idea. I thought that CCDT’s program might give me a clearer idea of what the world of professional dance is really like, and it delivered in spades.
Describe your history with CCDT.
I am currently in my fourth and final year with CCDT. My first year was spent as a company apprentice and the following three as a company dancer. I have also attended four of CCDT’s summer intensives called SunDance. When I first joined CCDT, I felt inspired, exhausted, challenged and elated in equal parts. It felt great to collaborate with dancers who shared my passion and commitment to dance, and the teachers brought expertise, experience, and advice from the professional dance world. CCDT provided me with precisely the knowledge and training I needed to prepare me for the professional dance world.
Describe a few highlights from any previous seasons/productions with the company.
One of my favourite pieces from the CCDT repertoire is Nowell Sing We. Choreographed in 1988 by Carol Anderson, Nowell has become an annual winter tradition for the company. I first performed Nowell in 2016, and it’s crazy when I look back at how much I have improved as a dancer since then. Not only have my technical abilities been enhanced, but my self-confidence and love of performing have grown too. In addition, I love that Nowell has allowed me to build relationships with some of CCDT’s Young Apprentice dancers. It’s true that you can learn something from everyone, and they remind me that there is so much joy to be found in dance.
Photo: Sydney Runions and Young Apprentice dancer Tallis Coleman, with artists of CCDT, performing the Mother and Child duet in the 2019 remount of Nowell Sing We by Carol Anderson.
Is there a particular piece you are most excited to be a part of this season? What makes it most exciting to you?
I am currently looking forward to the premiere of Gioconda Barbuto’s new piece. Gioconda’s choreographic process is highly collaborative and improvisation based, so each dancer is really able to show their individuality. The piece was largely created using experimentation, such as seeing what would happen if you performed your duet material as a solo, or combining two duets to create a quartet. This method has allowed Gioconda to create phrases that flow together seamlessly while keeping the audience on the edge of their seat.
I am also excited to be a part of Colin Connor’s ARENA. I have been hearing praise about the piece since I first joined the company, and have always wanted a chance to perform it myself. The intensity and intricacy of the choreography are going to require lots of hard work, but I am ready to take on the challenge!
Are there any choreographers, teachers, guest teachers or guest artists you have worked with at CCDT who have been greatly influential on your training and/or growth as a dancer and artist?
CCDT’s rehearsal director Natasha Poon Woo has taught me that there is so much more to being a dance teacher than meets the eye. It’s almost like she has a sixth sense for dance and picks up on every detail, Natasha doesn’t miss anything! She is also a constant source of support and encouragement for all of the company dancers, and she inspires me every day to push myself as an artist.
One of my favourite choreographers I have worked with at CCDT is Jennifer Archibald. She has a unique style that fuses the hip-hop aesthetic with technical ballet. She demands greatness from her dancers, and I felt that she helped me reach a whole new level with my dancing. At age 14, Jennifer’s SEEDS.whisper was the first CCDT premiere I was cast in, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sydney, alongside artists of CCDT, in the 2017 premiere of Jennifer Archibald's SEEDS.whisper.
(Tap or click to enlarge)
What do you enjoy most about touring?
I feel so lucky to be able to tour with CCDT. Between the long car rides, early mornings, and multiple shows a day, tours can be pretty exhausting; however, I love the sense of independence and professionalism that they give me. Touring with CCDT has given me a better sense of what it is like to be in a professional dance company, which is such a rare opportunity for young dancers. It makes me happy that I am able to spread my love of dance to audiences all over Ontario, and I hope that our shows are able to inspire and educate audiences about the world of contemporary dance.
How do you do your best to balance the training and performance demands of CCDT with school, family commitments, and the rest of your life?
Finding a balance between the different aspects of my life is by no means easy, but I have become good at prioritizing and planning. I update my planner regularly to map out my priorities for each day. Some weeks are pretty crazy but I remind myself to focus on tasks one at a time so as not to be overwhelming. I often have to decline social events because of my dance commitments, but I’m okay with that since dance is so much more than a hobby to me.
Sydney Runions and Rashidah Quaye.
What skills do you think your training, performing, and overall experience with CCDT have given you that are transferable to other aspects of your life?
There are so many positive habits and skills that I have developed from my time at CCDT. In addition to increased focus, independence, and responsibility, I have learned to find a balance where I can work my hardest without burning myself out. I have also become better at giving and taking feedback in a positive way, and recognizing the importance of constructive criticism.
Finally, CCDT has a mentorship program where each year Company dancers are paired up with 2 or 3 younger dancers. CCDT’s mentorship program has taught me what it means to be a good role model as well as the importance of community and collaboration.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about auditioning for CCDT?
I think all applicants should be aware that CCDT is a huge commitment, and requires you to be fully dedicated to the program. If you are someone who is considering a career in dance, or perhaps you just want to bring your dance training to the next level, I would definitely recommend auditioning for the company. SunDance, their summer intensive, is a great place to get a sense of what they are all about. In addition to the excellent technical training the dancers receive, the company operates very professionally and has such a challenging, diverse, and fun repertoire. Plus, CCDT is a great place to form friendships that will last a lifetime!
A parting quote from Sydney:
"More is more!" – Deborah Lundmark
Sydney, centre, with artists of CCDT performing Roderick George's RESET (2018).
Sydney will perform in all of the works on our upcoming Teasing Gravity tour, presented at theatres across the province beginning March 24, 2020. She closes her final CCDT season by performing two world premieres, by Gioconda Barbuto and Deborah Lundmark, as well as works by Jennifer Archibald, Nicole Caruana, and Colin Connor in CCDT's 40th Anniversary production of Gravity's Edge, May 22-23, 2020 at 8:00pm at Fleck Dance Theatre.
Click here for more info and tickets for all of CCDT's upcoming productions.
Outdoor photos by Francesca Chudnoff
Performance photos by David Hou