Since launching Reforming Art Productions two years ago, Justine is now ready to shift her focus entirely to building her company. She followed her heart and passions for dance through her career by creating Reforming Art Productions. It is a contemporary dance company dedicated to creating innovative dance works and further developing high caliber training opportunities for the next generation of professional dancers. Justine shared some of her learnings with us.
Dance allows me to express myself more honestly than words can. The act of dancing allows me to connect to both people and communities on my most authentic level. When I am dancing, I am expressing my truest self, and that is the most liberating feeling!
What does a day in your life look like?
Depending on the day, I bounce through the roles of dancer, teacher, director, choreographer, and mentor. It can be exhausting and I have to make sure that I take care of myself, but I would not change my career for anything.
As a professional dancer, I try my best to make it into daily class with other professionals. My class time allows me to centre myself for the day ahead, while also allowing me to connect with my peers and coworkers. Morning ballet class serves as both my daily vitamin and my meditation.
Following class, I usually prep myself to head off to either an afternoon of rehearsals or teaching. While I am travelling to work (usually via skytrain), I take advantage of that time to try and tackle all of my admin work. As an independent artist, I am in charge of managing my clients, projects, budgets, grant writing, taxes, contracts, teaching preparations, and so much more!
Once I get to the studio, I am usually looking at an average of 6 hours of either teaching or choreographing. Teaching brings me great joy knowing that I am making a positive impact in someone elses' life. When I am not teaching or mentoring, I am choreographing.
What challenge are you most proud of overcoming? Why?
As any artist can attest to, my biggest challenge is self-doubt! Living a creative life can make someone incredibly vulnerable. As an artist, I am always challenging myself to push the limits of how dance can be viewed, performed, and practiced. Just as a dancer may be nervous to go onstage, I am nervous everytime I teach a class, choreograph, launch a new project, or produce a show! Through my work with Reforming Art, I am constantly looking for ways that I can deepen my imprint and expand my impact on both my surrounding community, as well as the next generation of dance artists. The nature of challenging myself like this continually asks me to think outside of the box and try new approaches to my work. All of the above scares me on a daily basis, as I continually find myself asking my inner self: "Am I Enough?", "Do I make a difference", "Do I or my work really matter?".
I cannot say that I have overcome self-doubt, but I can say that I have learned to work with this fear. Through a lot of different experiences (both good and bad), and with the help of an amazing support system, I have learned the importance of keeping my long-term vision at the forefront of my endeavours. I have learned that the act of continually trying, no matter how bad I think something was, keeps me growing and improving. There is really no such thing as failure. As long as I learn and grow from my experiences, it as all just a part of my journey. This knowledge keeps me moving forward, and allows me to look for the positives within every negative experience.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self?
My advice to my fifteen year old self would be to follow your curiosity and to pursue what makes you feel happy. As a young dancer, I missed a lot of opportunities because they didn’t fit into my tunnelled vision. Many times throughout my career, I have spent too much energy pursuing something that didn't bring me enough joy. My advice would be that if something doesn't make you happy 80% of the time, it might not be the right thing! Contrary to what a lot of people might say, it IS possible to find a career path in dance that makes you happy, accepts you as you are, and that also pays your bills! If you remain open, passionate, and honest with yourself, the right path will always appear!
Justine is going abroad for an artistic residency in Cancun, and will be heading off to Mexico for a year. She will bring her love for contemporary dance to the global stage and will bring dance training and performance opportunities to communities who don’t have access to the arts. She will be sharing upcoming workshops and projects in BC on her Instagram.