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Royal City Youth Ballet grad dances into spotlight

Dancer-choreographer Farley Johansson featured in Dances for a Small Stage 29
Farley Johansson
Making his mark: Burnaby dancer-choreographer Farley Johansson will be part of Dances for a Small Stage 29 from Sept. 12 to 14.

It all started in a small basement studio in North Surrey, when a lively three-and-a-half-year-old Farley Johansson was enrolled in ballet lessons with his sister.

His family doctor had recommended it because the siblings needed to strengthen their feet and ankles - and since the young Farley was such a "monkey," as he recalls it, dance seemed like a natural fit.

He's come a long way since those days when "dance class" meant he moved around a lot and learned to skip.

Now Johansson is a professional dancer, with an extensive resumé that includes time dancing with Royal New Zealand Ballet, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Edam Dance, Wen Wei Dance, MovEnt, Ballet Victoria and more.

He's featured as a choreographer and performer in Dances for a Small Stage 29, onstage Sept. 12 to 14 at the Ukrainian Centre in Vancouver.

He'll be offering up his own solo contemporary work on the signature 10-by-13-foot stage that gives the event its name.

Working in such a confined space is a challenge he relishes.

"It's kinda cool because sometimes having restrictions or really clear physical boundaries, it allows you to create in a way you wouldn't for a big space," he says, noting it requires an extra degree of creativity to confine yourself to the curtained-off space.

(He admits, with a laugh, that the confinement hasn't always been utterly successful. In a previous incarnation, in a dance he had choreographed for himself and another dancer, he fell off the back of the stage. They improvised their way out of the mishap and kept on dancing - part of the fun of the small-stage format.)

Moreover, Johansson says, for the audience it's an exciting format because it presents short works by a multitude of different dancers, which makes it more accessible to people who might not be dance aficionados.

"It allows the audience to get a good sort of sampling of the dance that's happening in the city," he says.

Other performers lined up for the evening include Kirsten Wicklund, Karissa Barry, Julianne Chapple, Daelik, Dayna Szyndrowski and the plastic orchid factory.

"There will be a good mix," Johansson promises. "It should be a good selection."

Though Johansson is now working in the world of contemporary dance, his original training is in ballet. He moved around a lot in his childhood, studying in both New Zealand and Australia. After moving back to Surrey as a teen, he took up dancing with the Royal City Youth Ballet Company  in New Westminster.

He danced with them through high school, 1993 to 1997, and credits the group with having given him the on-stage experience that has made him comfortable on stage to this day. He notes he was able to dance a multitude of roles in many performances, going on tour with the group's Nutcracker ballet each year.

"I had a tremendous amount of performance experience, and that has served me very well," he says. "To have that much experience that young is very important."

He followed that up with training at the New Zealand School of Dance, which opened up a professional opportunity with the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company.

While he appreciates the technique he learned from his ballet background, he says he found himself more suited to the world of contemporary dance.

"You work with a much broader movement vocabulary," he says, adding with a laugh that he's still a bit of a "monkey."

Witness the new project he's working on with Shay Kuebler, which will likely take to the stage next year.

"He has an insane physicality to his work," Johansson says - meaning there are stunt harnesses and bungee cables involved.

He's also working with Peter Bingham of EDAM Dance on a new show in October.

All while parenting his two small children - a three-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old - with wife Shannon Moreno, also a professional dancer.

It's a life that he may not have been able to imagine way back when, as that three-and-a-half-year-old learning to skip. But it's one that he's not about to change any time soon.

 "It's been pretty good so far," he says with satisfaction.



WHAT: Dances for a Small Stage 29, featuring dance works by some of the region's hottest young artists on a 10-by-13-foot stage.

WHEN: Sept. 12 to 14 at the Ukrainian Centre, 154 East 10th Ave. (at Main Street), Vancouver. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $20. Buy in advance at or at the door on performance night (cash only).