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.
These days, he's working as a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer while raising a three-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old with his wife, Shannon Moreno - also a professional dancer - at their home in the Heights.
The North Burnaby resident is 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.)
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 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 that will hit the stage in October.
For the moment, his energies are focused on Dances for a Small Stage, and he's hoping that many people - particularly those who don't consider themselves knowledgeable about dance - will turn up to enjoy it.
He says the small stage evening is an exciting format for the audience 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.
He'll be joined in the lineup by another Burnaby dancer, Kirsten Wicklund - who's recognized as a contestant from Season 3 of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and as the only Canadian to place in the top 12 at the 2007 Youth American Grand Prix World Ballet finals in New York City. After that, she was invited to join the Studio Company at the Washington Ballet in D.C.
She has now returned from a two-year world tour with Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Dance show, Rock the Ballet, as a principal soloist.
Dances for a Small Stage 29 will include the world premiere of a new creation by Wicklund.
Other performers lined up for the evening include Karissa Barry, Julianne Chapple, Daelik, Dayna Szyndrowski and the plastic orchid factory.
For details, see www.movent.ca.
IN A NUTSHELL:
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 small-stage.eventbrite.ca or at the door on performance night (cash only).
MORE INFO: See www.movent.ca.
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