Category Archives: Our Staff & Guests

Leon Blackwood

12179695_10153753095828593_40417769_nLeon Blackwood is no stranger to Music and Movement. He began to explore the possibilities of a Dance Career around the age of 15, Performing at community events and with school dance crews. In hopes of building his choreography reputation he started his own Dance Group/ Company, Nu Limit Entertainment. in early 2003. His strong performance skills and signature cool factor have landed him Principal Dance roles in movies such as “Honey”, “Frenemies”, “How She Move”, “Alvin and The Chipmunks 3” (Playing Alvin), Assistant Choreographer and Dancer on “Make Your Move” and the upcoming 2015 dance film “Full Out”. Training in classes and workshops around the GTA and the U.S he joined the cast of one of the most noted Hip Hop conventions in the world “Monsters of Hip Hop” In 2009. Through hard work and dedication he has been able to Danced and/or Choreographed for the likes of Ariana Grande, Down With Webster,, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Victoria Duffield, Jully Black, Blake McGrath, Mandia, Keshia Chante and Danny Fernandes to name a few. for major Events, TV Networks and charities such as the YMCA, Much Music, Toronto District School Board, The Juno Awards . Leon has been able to provide choreography and work along side top choreographers on many projects from music videos to movies to major network programs such as The Juno Awards, City TV’s New Years Bash, So You Think You Can Dance US, So You Think You Can Dance Canada and SoYou Think You Can Dance Vietnam. Leon recently teamed up with Entrepreneur Aaron Libfeld to open Toronto’s newest dance studio The Underground Dance Centre, located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Leon has become one of the most sought after Dancer/ Choreographers in the Entertainment Industry.

Musical Theatre Directing Team

 IMG_5148-732x1024Katherine Baranowski (Co-Director/Choreographer)

Kat Baranowski has previously performed in Binbrook Little Theatre’s Pinocchio and also co-choreographed Puss n Boots the Panto. She has danced with multiple studios including Broadway Bound Dance Studio for over fifteen years in jazz, ballet, hiphop, tap, musical theatre, modern, lyrical and acro. She also participated in many shows in the Hamilton,Burlington and Binbrook area in venues such as Hamilton Place, The Sanderson Center, Burlington Performing Arts Centre and many supportive schools. She has recently been seen in her first professional show that was an aboriginal dance showcase gala called Dream Catchers. Kat also completed a specialized performing arts program called ArtSmart where she learned a variety of skills for both on stage as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, and dance ensemble in Beauty and the Beast. She has also gained experience behind the scenes in cotsumes, props and set design. This past summer Kat played ‘Kitty’ a Kit Kat Klub dancer in Cabaretpresented by The Neverland Project. She also choreographed for multiple musicals like Hairspray and Beauty and the Beast, alongside being the Dance Captain of Saltfleet High Schools Competitive Dance Team. Kat has now been working at Broadway Bound Dance Studio for 6 years teaching competitive and recreational classes. She is excited to be involved with Relever Performing Arts Academy this season and looks forward to working with all their lovely students!
Read about how much Miss Kat loves Musical Theatre Here

IMG_5002-732x1024Danielle Viola (Co-Director/Musical Director)

Danielle has been teaching dance, voice and directing for children’s productions for five years and loves every minute. She has participated in competitive dance for fifteen years including Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Musical Theatre, along with completing exams in both Jazz and Tap. She has studied in classical and contemporary voice for 12 years and now has her own private students, Danielle has also studied piano and theory for multiple years and has completed Royal Conservatory exams for voice. She has recently been Vocal Director of Brock Musical Theatres production of Little Shop of Horrors, has choreographed Once on this Island Jr. and 13 The Musical while directing drama productions at Saltfleet District High School including Fame the Musical. She has been involved in theatre productions with Theatre Ancaster and EBP Productions musicals and vocal reviews, she has also participated in the ArtSmart Co-op program playing various characters and has recently been seen in Cabaret (Frauline Schnider), The Wiz (Wiz/Evilene) and Les Miserable (Mme. Thenardier) Currently she teaches song and dance at Broadway Bound Dance studio, is Assistant Director for Theatre Ancasters Peter Pan JR and is Stage Managing for ArtSmart. Danielle is in her third year of University where she is studying Theatre as well as completing her Bachelors of Education. She has always been involved in theatre and is looking forward to sharing her love of arts with the students.
Read about how much Miss Danielle loves Musical Theatre Here!


November 15th, 2015 Workshop

Dancers will get intimate one on one instruction for some of Toronto finest artists and choreographers. The Workshop will run from 10 am to 5:00pm on Sunday  November 15 at Relever. Guest artists include Esie Mensah Leon Blackwood, Latoya Robinson and Jordan Blair Francis. Including dance styles such as Afro Caribbean, Jazz, Industry Hip hop and Commercial  Dance.

Toya Robinson

Ms Toya Robinson is a Dancer, Choreographer, and Instructor born and raised in Toronto!  She is very excited to be joining Relever for the Summer Intensive Program!

She began dance at the age of 3 and is technically trained in ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics and hip hop and competed across North America winning many championships. Ms Toya broke into the entertainment industry with a tap dance role alongside the late great Gregory Hines in the movie “Bojangles”. From there she went on to dance in a few more movies, videos and stage performances with Drake, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Akon, Flo Rida, Kardinal Offishall and Ludacris to name a few. Ms Toya has also performed on tours in North America, the Caribbean, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia with Massari, Kreesha Turner, Blake McGrath and soca star Destra. She has also assisted Tre Armstrong and Luther Brown on all the seasons of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. A true lover of dance and movement, MsToya likes to express her creativity through choreography which has lead her to produce routines for the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Argonauts, and the Toronto Rock Cheerleaders.  In the summer of 2012, MsToya had the opportunity to work with R&B superstar Mya on her performance for Toronto’s Carnival. It was a huge accomplishment and one of the years highlights for her. As of late, Ms Toya choreographed and danced in Massari’s latest music video “Shisha” and is currently choreographing and staging his world tour for 2014! Make sure you check out this entertainer and stay up to date with her at as she is busy preparing for another full year of dance and performance!

Scott Ruddick

Scott Ruddick is a top competitive Pro-Am Teacher.  He trains all ages from 5 to over 80 years old, as well as all levels from absolute beginner to Championship Level competitors.  Pro-Am is similar to “Dancing with the Stars”, the instructor trains you and than acts as your partner in competitions against other student teacher combinations of similar age and dance experience.  It is a fun way to meet new people and have fun goals for your dancing.

•       Captain of Dancesport Team Canada for the last 5 years.
•       Last Season Ranked #1 in Canada and #2 in the World (of over 5000
teachers) for Pro-Am Competitive Instructor
•       Last Season Competitive Team Ranked #1 in Canada and #5 in the World.
•       Chairperson for Canadian Wheelchair Dancesport Federation
•       Certified Adjudicator
•       Producer of North American Show Dance Championships Television specials
•       Organizer of Tulip Classic Ontario’s Largest Ballroom and Latin

Esie Mensah

Esie July 2015 (2 of 9)Esie Mensah,  the 2014 Black Canadian award winner for Best Contemporary Dancer  has worked with industry icons such as Janelle Monae, Nelly Furtado, Jully Black, Flo Rida, Mariana’s Trench, Coca Cola, TIFF, Estée Lauder FIFA Canada, We Day and more. Esie recently was one of the dancers for Luminato Festival’s Apocalypsis. An opera with a cast of 1000 people that was directed and choreographed by New Zealand’s Lemi Ponifasio. Esie was the co-choreographer of the Victory Celebration apart of Panamania to commemorate the daily medalists.

Trained in several disciplines including Traditional African, commercial dance and contemporary, Esie has also created her own unique style called Afrofusion which is an amalgamation of all her dance knowledge. She is the director and choreographer of Black Stars – an elite Afrofusion dance group. She will be presenting her next production Akoma the Journey at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.. A story of a young man’s journey as he travels from Ghana to Canada and wavers with the decision to return.


When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho

Esie Mensah

Dancer. Choreographer. Model. Teacher (New Site Coming Soon!)

Julia Garlisi

Julia Garlisi has been performing with Dancetheatre David Earle since 2003. She is a graduate of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre Professional Training Program. Along with being a Senior Dance Artist of Dancetheatre David Earle (DtDE) she has the pleasure of working with numerous Canadian companies, choreographers, film directors, and music producers. Independently, Julia has been fortunate to work with Denise Duric, Janet Johnson, Newton Moraes, Suzette Sherman, Lacey Smith, Toronto Heritage Dance, and The Niagara Dance Company. Choreographically, her work has been commissioned for Guelph Dance Festival, Stratford Spring Works Indie Theatre & Art Festival, DtDE, The Suzuki String School, Dusk Dances Hamilton, and Internationally (Austria, Germany, Italy) for the SIBA Ballet Workshop Gala Performance Tour. Julia also has an active life teaching and passing along the principals of Modern Dance for adult community classes and private school dancers. She teaches technique and repertory for these students at DtDE, Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, and the Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts.

Muscle Memory in Acting

In sports and in dance, we talk a lot about muscle memory and how the body remembers and grows more capable.  Every time you do something physical, it gets a little bit easier.  We grow and improve through constant stretching and repetition.
In many physical disciplines, the body can be thought of as a performer’s instrument.  They need to practice with it and really get to know the limits of its physicality.  Many young performers I work with see a separation between the physical and mental sides of performance.  They believe that dance and vocal music are physical disciplines with a smaller mental side and assume that acting is largely mental with a much smaller physical side.
I would argue that the physical and mental sides of performing need to be much more closely connected in every aspect of performance, and this is an idea that I would like to touch on further in future posts.  For today, I want to focus a bit on being familiar with your own body, especially your face, and using your “acting instrument” to its fullest.
For so many of us, our face is the primary way we show emotion.  In this way, we are all performers.  We use our faces to both show and hide emotions depending on the situation, and we are used to reading emotions from other people’s faces  So many of us, though, are unaware of what our own faces actually look like when we make a face.  We know how to read things in the looks we see around us, but because we don’t spend nearly as much time studying the looks we give other people, the expressions we use when we are performing may not be as clear and readable as we think they are.
Many people can tell the difference between “smug” and “overjoyed” on another person, though both reveal themselves through a smile.  On our own faces, I think we are less capable of expressing more subtle emotions consciously as performers because we do not spend the time physically practicing and examining our own faces to capture the emotions we want to show when we are performing.  Because we see our own face so little, we don’t know what signals others are picking up when they look at us.
One of the things I urge young and new performers to do is spend time every day looking at themselves in the mirror.  I want them to feel the physicality of what different types of smiles feel like as they see them to ensure they look how they think they do.  “How do my ‘Christmas morning’ smile and my ‘happy that my enemy had something bad happen to her’ smile look and feel different from one another? Once we train ourselves to feel the difference, we can use repetition to help ourselves physically support the mental part of acting.  An actor who can physically show you the difference between 5 different kinds of smiles without having to mentally feel the emotions involved will have a much easier time.
1.  Stretch every feature on your face as wide as you can, the pinch every feature as tight as you can.  Go back and forth between the two.  I like to alternate between a “Lion” face and a “Lemon” face to help stretch out all my facial features and help them be as elastic as possible.
2.  Write down 10 – 20 more complex emotions in preparation.  Look at yourself in the mirror showing each one both still and while talking.  Are you seeing what you think you are giving off?  Repeat this process daily to help cement the look and feel of these emotions to help train your face to form these looks on command.