Oh Canada: A Look At The Most Influential Names In Canadian Dance

Oh Canada: A Look At The Most Influential Names In Canadian Dance

The Canadian dance scene is full of incredible talent. From ballet to tap, contemporary to jazz dancers from the great North have been tearing up the dance floor, creating stunning works, winning awards and paving the way for future generations of Canadian dancers. Let's take a look at some of the most influential names in Canadian dance. 

Karen Kain

Canadian Dancer Karen Kain

Long recognized as one of the most gifted classical dancers of her era, noted for her compelling characterizations and versatility as a performer Karen Kain is one of Canada’s most renowned and committed advocates for the arts. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Ms. Kain received her training at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, joining the Corps de Ballet of the National Ballet of Canada in 1969. She was quickly promoted to Principal Dancer in 1971 with the company after her sensational debut as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake.

After joining the National Ballet, she quickly distinguished herself as an artist of extraordinary depth and versatility, and she formed an historic dance partnership with colleague Frank Augustyn. In 1973, the pair competed at the prestigious International Ballet Competition in Moscow, with Karen winning the Silver Medal in the Women’s Category and both dancers receiving a special prize for Best Pas de Deux.

Karen performed in many of the great classical and contemporary works of her time, collaborated with international choreographers on new roles and appeared as a guest artist with such companies as Paris Opéra Ballet, Roland Petit’s Le Ballet de Marseille, Bolshoi Ballet, London Festival Ballet and Vienna State Opera Ballet. She also developed a close creative partnership with Rudolf Nureyev and performed with him often.

Ms. Kain retired from dancing following a farewell tour in 1997 and took up the position of Artist-in-Residence with the National Ballet, a role that was later expanded to that of Artistic Associate. In 2004, she restaged Rudolf Nureyev’s landmark version of The Sleeping Beauty for the company and the following year was named Artistic Director.

During her tenure, the National Ballet embarked on 23 international tours and 29 Canadian tours, commissioned or acquired 71 works for the repertoire and received worldwide acclaim for the calibre of its dancing. These successes include the company’s first-ever Russian tour, landmark appearances in London, England and Paris, France, the co-commission of Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale with The Royal Ballet, the North American premiere of John Neumeier’s Nijinsky and the launch of the $104 million Soaring Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in the company’s history. Karen also appointed three Choreographic Associates, established CreativAction to support Canadian choreographers and expanded the company’s education and community engagement initiatives, reaching over 100,000 students and community members each year.

Ms. Kain has received many Canadian and international awards throughout her career, testifying to her accomplishments both as an artist and an advocate for the arts. On June 30, 2021, Karen Kain stepped down as Artistic Director. Karen is the longest-serving Artistic Director since Founder Celia Franca and a Canadian dance icon of global influence.


Karen Kain: Prima Ballerina Documentary  

Karen Kain & Frank Augustyn Giselle Act 2


Tre Armstrong

Canadian Dancer Tre Armstrong

Choreographer, Actress, Dancer & Permanent Judge on CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Tré Armstrong has channeled her passion for dance into a successful career.   A choreographer, actress and TV personality, Tre’ is a proven entity in the industry.  Technically trained in ballet, tap and jazz, Tre’ later fell in love with latin, hip hop and urban dance, bringing out the inner teacher in the artist.  

She has travelled the world sharing her experience through workshops, seminars and classes in hip hop, urban and freestyle dance. Tré is the choreographer behind MTV’s film ‘Turn the Beat Around’, ‘Repo: The Genetic Opera’ (Lionsgate), ‘Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip Hop Dancer’ (NFB) and assisted on the Sundance Film Festival favourite ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ (ABC).  Also performing on Top O’ the Pops (BBC), BET’s 106 n Park (BET), Saturday Night Live (NBC) and numerous award shows.  

Tré has worked with various artists, including Jay- Z, Megan Fox, Jessica Alba, Sean Paul, Ne-Yo, Sarah Brightman, Phylicia Rashād, Missy Elliott,  Jason Derulo, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Wyclef Jean, Rihanna and Ludacris.

Tré is actively involved in giving back to the community, supporting local and international charities, encouraging youth to “get active.” She is passionate about the urban dance youth program she created, called ‘D-Tour’, a division of Tre’s foundation, The Tré Armstrong Give Back Foundation.  D-Tour is a nurturing 12 week program focusing on using urban dance to promote life-skill building in young girls and boys aged 14-20 in underserved communities across Canada. The foundation is focused on encouraging creative and artistic expression through dance, in hopes of increasing self-esteem and self-confidence while building essential life skills.



Stacey Tookey

Emmy-nominated choreographer Stacey Tookey is a multitalented, Canadian-born director, choreographer, dancer and master educator who has worked with legendary musical artists such as Celine Dion, Bette Midler, Justin Timberlake and Michael Bublé.

She performed as a member of Mia Michaels’ cutting edge dance company R.A.W., New York’s Parsons Dance Project, Ballet British Columbia, ChuThis and the Houston Grand Opera’s Carmen. She also earned the coveted role as assistant choreographer for Broadway’s A Few Good Men Dancin’ and was an original cast member for the entire five-year run of Celine Dion’s record- breaking show A New Day at Caesars Palace.

Stacey’s passionate pieces on So You Think You Can Dance have earned her three consecutive Emmy nominations from 2010-2012. She has also choreographed for Dancing With The Stars. She has choreographed full length works for the Los Angeles Ballet and the Cincinnati Ballet’s 2012 season. She created a solo for Kathryn Mccormick in the upcoming feature film Dance-Off. Most recently, Stacey has also choreographed for the feature film Le Castle Papier (Paper Castle) which is set to premier in the near future.

Her dance company, STILL MOTION, celebrated its sold-out world premiere of Moments Defined in November 2012 and had it’s NYC debut in June 2014. She has taught worldwide in such countries as Italy, Russia, India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Bermuda and all across North America and prestigious Universities such as Loyola Marymount University, University of Jacksonville and The Juilliard School.

Stacey is proud board member of Nigel Lithgoe’s Dizzy Feet Foundation.

Tears | Stacey Tookey | Elite Dancewerx 
Hometown Glory | Stacey Tookey | SYTYCD Canada   


Sean Cheesman

Canadian Dancers Sean Cheeseman

Sean Cheesman is internationally renowned and has worked with some of the world’s top entertainers including Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Carmen Electra, Tina Turner, Queen Latifah, & Britney Spears.

From his Canadian beginnings as a figure skater and dancer, Sean went on to study at the Alvin Ailey Dance Center in New York. In the years that followed he toured with Janet Jackson as a choreographer and dancer. He subsequently choreographed the “Diamonds and Pearls” tour for Prince as well as tours for Faith Hill, No Angels. 

Sean is a staple on the Canadian, US and British versions of So You Think You Can Dance – as both Choreographer and Guest Judge. He was a Creative Producer / Choreographer on CBC’s Over The Rainbow – a competition to find Dorothy for the Mirvish production of The Wizard of Oz.

As a performer, Sean appeared in the Warner Brothers film “The Bodyguard” starring Whitney Houston (he also choreographed the dance sequences). Other television works include (as choreographer) Prince’s ABC television special “The Ride Divine”, the NBC television series “Guys Next Door”, MTV, Soul Train Awards and Janet Jackson’s performance on “Saturday Night Live”.

He has also written, directed, and choreographed large-scale musicals in Russia and Japan and most recently set “West Side Story” in Greece and created original choreography for “Daddy Cool” in London’s West End for which he received a What’s On Stage Theater Award Nomination for Best Choreography.

His award winning choreography credits include:

  • MTV Music Video Award
    – Best Choreography (Michael & Janet Jackson’s “Scream”)
  • Bob Fosse Award Nomination
    – Best Choreography (Michael & Janet Jackson’s “Scream”)
  • MTV Music Video Award
    – Best Dance (Prince’s “Cream”)
  • VH1 Video Award Nomination
    – Best Choreography (Prince’s “Get Off”)
  • NAACP Image Award Nomination
    – Best Choreography (Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman”)

Finale Opening Number | Sean Cheesman | SYTYCD Canada 

Peggy Baker

Canadian Dancer Peggy Baker

Peggy Baker is acclaimed as one of the most outstanding and influential contemporary dancers of her generation. Her unique abilities are the product of an education in both dance and theatre, pursued initially through the drama department of the University of Alberta, with The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and in New York at the Martha Graham School and the Herbert Berghof Studio.

She established Peggy Baker Dance Projects in 1990, and for the first 20 years she dedicated herself to solo performance, winning rapturous praise for the eloquence and depth of her dancing, and accolades for her collaborative partnerships with extraordinary musicians and designers. Since 2010 her choreography has focused on works for small ensemble. Over its 26-year history Peggy Baker Dance Projects has been presented at major festivals and dance centres in North America, Asia and Europe. She has premiered five all-night choreographic events for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, situated her hour long choreographic installation move – danced by local community members – in a public market in St. Catharines, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, and the Tett Centre in Kingston; staged The Perfect Word, a 3-hour sound/video/dance installation, for in/Future on the abandoned west island of Toronto’s Ontario Place; and presented interior with moving figures – four dances, performed simultaneously in four different spaces for a span of 70 minutes – and land | body | breath – an hour long installation for 8 dancers and 2 vocalists – at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Under the banner The Choreographer’s Trust she has published a series of booklet/DVD sets that document six of her landmark solos, and she is the subject of a book by Carol Anderson, Unfold – a Portrait of Peggy Baker, published by Dance Collection Danse.

Peggy Baker Dance Projects offers a wide variety of training including technique classes, summer intensives, dance educators seminars, and emerging artists programs. You can visit www.peggybakerdance.com for more information on programs and events.




Travis Knights

Canadian Dancers Travis Knight

Tap Dancer. Performer. Choreographer. Speaker. Believer.  Montreal native Travis Knights is realizing his dreams, pounding rhythms on wood floors all over the world. His talent and dedication have earned him audiences in Shanghai, Dusseldorf, Paris, New York, and Vancouver to name a few.  ​

His career started in 2000, when he was cast as a principal dancer in the motion picture biography of Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson with Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.  The film, entitled 'Bojangles' was choreographed by the legendary Henry LeTang. In 2006, he was tapped to be the principal dancer in the video game adaptation of Warner Brother's 'Happy Feet'.  In 2007 and 2008, Travis participated extensively as a Tap Dance consultant for Cirque du Soleil.  Since then, he has performed in Tandem Act Productions' 'Diary of a Tap Dancer' at the Apollo Theatre, and the touring show 'Wonderland: A Tap Tribute to Stevie Wonder', created by Ayodele Casel and Sarah Savelli.

He was a featured Tap Dancer in the Opening Ceremonies to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. In the same year he toured North America with the raucous and rowdy internationally acclaimed Australian Tap Dance show, Tap Dogs.​

From 2010 to 2013, Travis jumped into the dance company world as a principal dancer with Tapestry Dance Company in Austin, Texas.  During his time there he was awarded the Austin Critic's Table Award for best dance artist in 2011 and 2013.  In 2014, he embarked on a self-produced world tour, filming his web series entitled ’The Interviews' featuring celebrated pioneers in the tap dance world.  He recently debuted new works in Thomas Marek's show NOLA in Hamburg, Germany.

He currently lives in Brampton, Ontario and hosts a weekly podcast  (The Tap Love Tour Podcast, subscribe and download on itunes) featuring interviews of a myriad of inspiring artists. In 2017 he will be developing an original full length work commissioned by Soulpepper as a part of Project Imagination, Canada’s largest theatre commissioning project of new work by Canadian artists.  Look out for him, because the best is yet to come.

Travis Knights can also be found teaching locally at the Tap Dance Centre in Mississauga, as well as being a guest teacher for ECTC held in Mississauga each year (Eastern Canadian Tap Confrence)



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