Photo: Mohamed Omar.

Dancing her swan song

In Arts & Culture1 Comment

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With less than a month left at Ryerson, a theatre school star takes a look back at her university career, and ahead to her life as a professional dancer. Arts & Life Editor Sean Wetselaar reports

At the last show of this year’s annual Theatre School performance of Choreographic Works, dance student Alysa Pires’ last performance was a group piece about a new angel coming to heaven.

But, for Pires, it was so much more than just another performance.

The piece, choreographed by Pires, was a tribute to the death of a friend’s mother three years earlier.

It had been reworked for this year’s show, to include a focus on healing, as well as grief. But, the final showing of Choreographic Works came only just after the death of theatre school student Sarmad Iskandar, which deeply affected the school.

“We were all sobbing,” Pires said. “I’ve never had an experience like that. It was tragically beautiful. I just felt so lucky, in that instance, to have a way to express how I was feeling.”

Pires, 21, is already well on her way to becoming a major player in the dance industry, having excelled throughout her university career.

Pires grew up in the small town of Saanichton, B.C., just outside of Victoria, and has danced since she was two years old. Pires started dancing competitively around the age of 10. She says she always wanted to dance professionally.

“I’m really interested in other things,” she said. “But nothing that I would want to pursue as a career.”

It was after moving to Toronto to attend Ryerson, that Pires earned a reputation for being her class’ choreographer. In 2009, one of her first-year pieces made it to Choreographic Works, a show which is typically reserved for work by upperyear students.

Choreography is another major part of Pires’ career, in fact she says she considers herself more a choreographer than a dancer.

“Unlike a play, or something really explicit, I can say things about myself that I would never feel comfortable saying [with choreography],” Pires said. “I can tell my biggest secret and people will still not know it, but I’ll feel like I told it.”

Although Choreographic Works was meant to be Pires’ last performance on a Ryerson stage, she has agreed to dance in a friend’s New Voices production, and will be performing March 29 and April 1.

With her time at Ryerson nearly up, Pires says she plans to go on to work as a professional choreographer, and dancer as long as her body can keep up with the stress.

Pires will also be choreographing a portion of the Women in War project, a series of plays based on Ancient Greece which discuss women’s role in conflicts.

The series will tour Greece over the summer and return for a fresh cast in the fall in time to travel to a number of Canadian military bases.

It will also be featured in Luminato 2013, a Toronto arts celebration. Pires will also be working in July with the Movement Invention Project in New York City, a group that runs dance workshops based on improvisation.

“It’s good for me, because it’s choreo-based,” Pires said. “I’m really excited, I’m really excited about everything. I was terrified, but now I’m excited. This whole year has been very strange, emotionally. I’m about a 12 on the emotional scale.”

Despite the stress of her profession, though, Pires says she loves having the chance to express herself through dance.

“I guess that’s what I like about dancing, about choreographing,” Pires said. “That when there are no words, I can still say what I need to say.”


  1. I’m very excited for you; you should be soooo proud of yourself.

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