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Meet the Performing Artists

Michael Bryden

Michael Bryden

Michael Bryden is a visual artist, musician and creative director born in Montreal and raised in Ottawa. Following his education in Fine Arts and Communication, Michael moved west where he dedicated his working career to graphic design and art direction in Vancouver and Victoria. In 2010 he co-founded the creative agency Dead Famous and over the years his work has been recognized by various award shows and industry publications. Inspired by the birth of his daughter and from his early work as a puppeteer for children’s performer Marie Soleil, Michael recently decided to leave advertising and refocus his creative on developing children’s content. He is currently in the process of writing and illustrating his first children’s book while writing the accompanying bilingual children’s songs.

“My interdisciplinary art is based on forging connections with young audiences through the use of playful and thoughtful songs, imagery and storytelling.”
Axé Capoeira

Axé Capoeira

Axé Capoeira (pronounced aH-shay cap-oh-AIR-ah) was founded in Brazil, first arriving in Canada to perform at the Vancouver International Children's Festival in 1990. Since then, they have become one of the premier capoeira organizations in North America. With over ten performance DVDs, seven internationally acclaimed music CDs, a vibrant track record of over 5,000 school shows and stage performances, and two years running as choreography consultant to So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Axé Capoeira will present a show unparalleled in its spectacular combination of dance, acrobatics, music and theatrics.

Grupo Axé Capoeira originated in Recife, Brazil, in 1982, and opened the first-ever capoeira academy in Canada, in 1996. Based in Vancouver, BC, the organization today continues to rise as one of the world’s leading schools of capoeira. With its internationally high standards of teaching and training students, Axé Capoeira has seen enrolment steadily increase over the years, to a current total of approximately 8000 students in over 20 countries around the world.

“With its emphasis on active health, arts and cultural appreciation, it fills a much-needed niche in the education of today's students. Capoeira teaches an appreciation for multiculturalism through music played on traditional Afro-Brazilian instruments, songs in Portuguese and Brazilian dance.”
Christine Couture

Christine Couture

From a very young age, Christine Couture has always been a dynamic, creative and versatile dancer. Specializing in contemporary dance, Christine completed the Professional Contemporary Program from The School of Dance in Ottawa in 2011 and is certified in ‘Contemporary Dance Teacher Training’. Since then, she has been working in the Ottawa area as a teacher, choreographer, performer and stage manager. Aside from her professional contemporary certification, Christine has trained in jazz, hip-hop, ballroom and creative movement. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to work with amazing teachers and choreographers such as Sylvie Desrosiers, Yvonne Coutts, Peter Boneham, Susie Burpie, Anik Bouvrette, Sasha Ivanochko, Emmanuel Jouthe, Sylvain Émard and Tara Luz Danse. Independently, Christine works with different institutions offering dance workshops in different dance styles and providing choreography to different dance groups. Christine has been teaching dance for the past 10 years in different schools across Ontario and Quebec, including studios such as the Double Creation Dance, The School of Dance and theShenkman Arts Centre. Currently, Ms. Christine is based in Vancouver BC, delivering the Luv2Groove™ dance program all across school boards in beautiful British Colombia!
Naomi Cromwell

Naomi Cromwell

Naomi Cromwell has been singing since she could make sound. Born into a musical family in Vancouver, music has always been a part of her life. Naomi Cromwell has studied the performing arts in various capacities since childhood, taking piano and voice lessons, singing in choirs and studying theatre. She majored in Composition at Selkirk College School of Contemporary Music and Technology in Nelson, B.C. In 2006, she moved to Calgary, Alberta where she worked as a Gallery Interpreter developing and leading children’s programming at the National Music Centre and as a vocal coach at the Young Canadians School for the Performing Arts before returning to Nelson in 2013. Through 2013-2017, she has been involved in youth-focused programming through the Nelson and District Youth Centre, sat on the board of directors of the Nelson and District Arts Council and assumed the roles of Outreach and Engagement Manager and Youth Advisory Committee Coordinator with the BC Touring Council. Although Naomi now lives in Vancouver, she still performs regularly with her Nelson-based musical project, The New Gramophones.

“I value the purity of expression of young people and learn a lot from them (I have had thought provoking and life-altering philosophical discussions with grade 3 students for which I am eternally grateful). Although I feel I have a lot to offer young creative beings, I am humbled by and grateful for what they offer me.”
Comfort Ero

Comfort Ero

Throughout the duration of her teaching career and since her immigration to Canada in 1996, Comfort has used the art of storytelling as effective educational tool. Her vivacity in storytelling at an early age, prompted her father to send her to school when it was unpopular to send girls to school in Africa. She uses storytelling not only to entertain and teach but to inspire students to learn about good values that keep people together in safe and healthy communities. She regularly performs in schools, colleges, universities, libraries, community centres and festivals across Canad. For her contribution to education through the Arts, Comfort has received many awards in Nigeria, France and Canada. Her main aim is to inspire enthusiasm in the art of storytelling as a great profession as well as a useful education tool for building peace and healthy minds and communities in Canada and generally in the world.

“Students' excitement at my telling and their own participatory mode in the stories told as well as their enthusiastically doing their school work after taking part in my storytelling sessions inspire me a lot to work in schools”
David MacPherson

David MacPherson

David MacPherson is a Theatre Professional working in Victoria, BC. He currently is the Artistic Director of The Story Theatre Company and performs for the company as a story teller, museum animator and stage manager. He began his career working in Fort McMurray, AB in a Children’s television program creating a weekly sketch comedy program that was written, filmed, edited, directed and performed entirely by kids between the ages of 13 and 15. He came to Victoria to study at the University of Victoria and graduated with a BFA. In 1992. Since graduating he has worked all across Canada in every province but one and at least one territory as an actor, story teller, director and pretty much every position in the theatre profession.

“I owe my 38 years of professional theatre work directly to my experience in schools with art. I also believe that work in school creates the artists and audiences of the future. And that does not even begin to speak to the value of art in developing empathy, creativity, collaborative abilities and a more rounded human”
John MacRae

John MacRae

"MacRae perform[s] poems grounded in a mythic cosmology, poems which combine a respect for traditional poetic structure with an impishly postmodern sense of humour." (Vince Tinguely, LitLive.ca)

Johnny MacRae is a spoken word poet based in Vancouver, BC. Both solo and as a member of the "talk rock" duo 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac, MacRae has performed hundreds of shows at readings, slams, and festivals (music, theatre & poetry) across Canada since 2010. A poetry slam competitor, he is a three-time Canadian Individual Poetry Slam finalist, a three-time Vancouver Poetry Slam champion (2010 team champion; 2013/2016 individual champion), and was the 2011 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word "Underground Indies" slam. In 2013, MacRae was named the Victoria Spoken Word Festival Poet of Honour.

“My work as an arts educator in poetry has been driven by a profound belief in the importance of giving youth the inspiration and the tools to express themselves. I also strive to create a space in which youth feel empowered to take risks and feel supported in their writing. What most inspires me are the moments in classrooms where students connect honestly and openly with each other across the social structures and dynamics that shape their daily interactions”
Sami Majadla

Sami Majadla

thisissami is a dance music making machine. His live show & music production workshops have been presented at numerous events and festivals in Western Canada & USA, including Shambhala, Bass Coast, and Astral Harvest.

He is not a DJ. When performing, thisissami produces original funky electronic music live - all completely improvised. His high-energy on stage charisma infects the audience, who cannot help but dance as they watch him work his magic. He has produced variety of workshops that he has taught both to youth & adult audiences. These workshops all focus on the creative aspects of music production. The goal with each of the workshops is to inspire people (both veteran & aspiring producers, and those who are just curious) to explore the world of music more and show how accessible it really is!

“I really enjoy sharing my craft with others and inspiring people to explore the world of music. My interest in teaching at schools is to inspire a younger generation of people to try their hands at music production. I want to get deeper into the music creation process, and give kids a chance to truly explore & create with the music tools that inspire them.”
Damarise Ste Marie

Damarise Ste Marie

Damarise Ste Marie is a dancer, teacher, and budding choreographer. She completed studies in dance at York University (Toronto) and L'École de danse de Québec (Québec City). Since 2012, she has been learning and sharing dances of the African diaspora. Ongoing study of functional anatomy with the Axis Syllabus community is a major influence on her artistic work. Damarise has years of experience as a dance teacher in studios, community centers, and schools across Canada and internationally. She has directed and produced artist residency programs in Québec City, Toronto, Vancouver and Kamloops. As an emerging choreographer, Damarise is working with pulse, rhythm, unison, and interdisciplinary fusion. Her new interactive performance project, Heart-Beats, is in development, supported by Made in BC and The Dance Centre.

“What inspires me about working in schools is the spirit, sense of community, and shared energy that emerges when we create and experiment together.”
Dawna Mclennan

Dawna Mclennan

Dawna McLennan is a harper, vocalist, songwriter and spoken word poet. Her instrument, the folk harp, is an ancient instrument steeped in mythos and mystery, played in a contemporary context. Even though her harp is often plugged in and she sometimes incorporates the use of a looping pedal, her performance comes from an unplugged pulse, a pulse rooted in nature wisdom. A pulse well-needed in our digitally saturated age! Dawna settles her audiences deep into an almost-forgotten place of serene resonance, the place from which their own art may rise. ‘Art makes art makes art’ is her motto. When listening to Dawna McLennan, you can expect to connect with a place of ‘aha’ and inquiry that stirs the artist in you.

“When children interact with the arts, they have opportunities to witness themselves as artists. All it takes to change a person's identity as a creative or non-creative person is one impactful interaction. When artists work in schools, children get to see the arts as a viable career path as well.”
Nina Patel

Nina Patel

Nina considers herself to be an advocate for dance as an art form — with a personal mission to create, stimulate and develop new ideas to expand the significance of dance within contemporary society. In both artistic and management capacities, Nina has committed her career to dance. As a graduate of Goldsmith College, University of London (MA Dance/Movement Therapy 2004) and Winnipegʼs Professional Training Program (BA Hons 2000), Nina has worked across Canada and the UK creating opportunities to reveal and highlight the importance of dance in how we live, learn and relate to each other. Nina currently holds distinct roles within the Vancouver dance community and advocates for dance within: Dancing on the Edge Festival, Ballet BC, Dancer Transition Resource Centre and Mascall Dance. Past roles involve work with Nico Can Dance (an Atomic Cartoons production aired on PBSKids + BBCKids), Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Gearshifting Dance, The Lime Project Dance Company, Artists in Healthcare, Notting Hill School of Dance, Kids Company and the National Health Service (NHS UK). Nina recently has been acknowledged for her strong leadership and advocacy by being selected as one of the participant for the Banff Centre for Arts + Creativity’s inaugural Cultural Leadership Program.

“I am called by a deep personal conviction that dance has the power to transform individuals, groups and society. The arts give humans a platform for their individual stories in the larger context of social issues, social injustices, in a safe environment.”
Candy Roberts

Candy Roberts

Candy Roberts was the 2014 recipient of the Mayor’s Arts Award for her work in creativity and community. She might just be Vancouver’s only tap-dance ukulele instructor and is the band leader of the critically acclaimed Myrtle Family Band. After 10 years plus of writing, producing and physical comedy creating with Jessie Award nominated Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret Society, Candy ventures forward as Artistic Director of Candy Bones Theatre, a platform for producing original theatre, event entertainment and creativity workshops. Candy Bones Theatre presents; IDEAS BOBERT: a multi-media physical comedy show, and CANDY BONES: a one woman sketch comedy!

“Physical comedy training and creative thinking games bring skills for LIFE! Skills such as listening, empathy, connection to oneself and connection to others. I feel that the more ways we have to draw upon to express ourselves the more we can feel confident and understood in the world.”
Kim Sato

Kim Sato

Kim Sato is part of project soul, a crew of street dancers from Vancouver, that have come together to share their passions with each other, communities, and to schools through ArtStarts. She is extremely grateful for her long career as a professional street dance artist. She has won many all styles and locking battles around North America in San Fransisco, Toronto, Seattle, New York, Portland, and Vancouver. She has had the pleasure of judging various all styles and locking battles as well as adjudicating formal stage competitions for street dance, contemporary, jazz and tap. As a successful recipient from the BC Arts Council, Kim created a new piece “Into the Tao” mixing taiko drumming, a scratch DJ and 8 street dance artists exploring the psychology of the battle. As a professional performer she has toured to China, Japan, Brazil, Korea, Europe and all over the US and Canada. With over 23 years of teaching experience, Kim is happy to be at SFU instructing a 3-credit course she developed on Hip Hop and Funk styles dance.

“I love that moment when I see the light bulbs go off as you have enlightened or educated a young person on something that directly connects to them. The interaction with youth can be so positive, joyful and fulfilling. Knowing that us, as artists, just through interaction and exchanging with youth can be life changing is a powerful thing.”
John Stechishin

John Stechishin

Fearless pianist John Stetch pushes the edges of his jazz and classical training to fuse melodies from all around the world; from Mozart to Ukrainian folk music to TV themes. Originally from Edmonton, Stetch started piano late, at age 19, and is now a Steinway Artist and a 6-time Juno nominee. Stetch has played at the top New York clubs – Mezzrow, Smoke, Birdland, the Jazz Standard and just released his 15th CD - Vulneraville: The Vancouver Concert.

“I remember what it is like to be in school and how much I was craving for outlets in creativity. I recently did a dozen elementary school workshops in Edmonton, some for a half or even full day, and I so enjoyed the innocence of the children and how they were not afraid to ask questions...still having their curiosity.”
Will Stroet

Will Stroet

Will Stroet is a 2017 JUNO nominee and the star of "Will's Jams," a musical TV series airing weekdays on CBC Kids. Will has been performing for young audiences in English and French across Canada as a full time career for 8 years and prior to that was a French immersion teacher with the Vancouver School Board. Last summer Will and his band did their first tour in China performing their new show that used music as a fun way to learn English. In 2015, Will was honoured by the UBC Faculty of Education as one of their "Education 100" Alumni. In addition to all of this Will is a father of two funny, creative and loving daughters.

“I love performing in schools for many reasons but none more than the feeling I get when I see kids learning through my music. Music, to me, is a vehicle for learning and there is no better example of this than during a school performance when you are doing/teaching a song and collectively you see the audience absorbing and expressing their learning right then and there.”
The Well Worn Trail

The Well Worn Trail

Rob and Lillian provide lessons about Canadian wildlife through music combined with facts, stories and puppetry to kindle the wonder of nature in children. Realistic puppets, props from nature, unique facts and animal vocalizations are included, using a multi-sensory approach tailored to each audience. They stay informed of provincial curriculum guidelines. Rob taught for many years in BC community colleges. Lillian was a multi-skilled Education Assistant in three school districts with a background in Therapeutic Recreation. In several elementary schools, they guided students to write and perform collective songs about our environment. They have presented in schools, libraries, care facilities, community centres, provincial parks, special events and at the Surrey Teachers’ Association Convention explaining the benefits of time in nature vs. time with screens.

“We are inspired by children's enthusiasm and innate sense of wonder. They are quick to question, explore and share their excitement about nature. Their curiosity and compassion for living things is also inspiring as they learn simple but amazing facts about Canadian wildlife through our presentations.”