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Elyssa Currey: Bringing Theatre to the Streets

Shaoren Gou

Professional Ballet Career

Elyssa Currey, a young ballet dancer from Canada, was born into a large and artistic family with a harmonious atmosphere. Growing up with numerous siblings, her eldest sister Carolyn Joy Currey, who is 14 years her senior, is a professional ballet dancer and dance teacher. Elyssa began her professional ballet training under her sister’s guidance at the age of two and has never stopped since. To this day, she dedicates three hours every day to ballet practice. Throughout her life, Elyssa has undergone training mainly following the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus, including private training at the Royal Academy of Dance in Canada (2001-2015), training in the American Ballet Theatre syllabus at the Oakville School of Classical Ballet in Ontario (2015), apprenticeship with the ministry group 1:11 Ministries (2008-2015), summer intensives at the Arise School of Dance in Ottawa (2014-2018), training with 1:11 Ministries in Ontario (2011-2013), and training with the Ballet Magnificat in Jackson, Mississippi (2017).

She holds the following professional level certificates: RAD Intermediate (Distinction, 2011), RAD Advanced 1 (Distinction, 2013), RAD Advanced 2 (Distinction, 2015), and American Ballet Theatre Grade 5B (Highest Honors, 2015).

From 2016 to 2018, Elyssa performed with 1:11 Ministries in Ontario’s external performances. In 2016, she served as a guest artist with the Oakville Ballet Company, rehearsing and performing in the renowned ballet “Paquita”. From 2019 onwards, she began accepting invitations for community and various commercial and individual performances.

Some of Elyssa’s notable stage performances include “Incarnation” (2016), “Here With Us” (2017), “Paquita” (2017), “Fearless” (2017-2018), and “The Christmas Chest” (2018). She also won the Niagara’s Got Talent competition.

Since 2014, in addition to being a private ballet teacher and conducting online ballet classes, she has been a lecturer at various ballet schools, art schools, art institutions, and dance teacher training courses in Ontario. She teaches courses related to ballet, choreography, jazz, contemporary dance, and stretching.

Stage Performance (Stock Image)

Stage Performance (Stock Image)

Stage Performance (Stock Image)

Stage Performance (Stock Image)

Stage Performance (Stock Image)

Stage Performance (Stock Image)

Training Students (Stock Image)

Conveying Love through Art

Street art is an ancient and popular form of artistic performance worldwide. According to Murray Smith’s article “Traditions, Stereotypes, and Tactics: A History of Musical Buskers in Toronto,” Toronto’s history of street art performance dates back to the Italian immigrant districts in 1860. Over more than 160 years, Toronto has truly become a metropolitan hub of diverse cultures, with vibrant street art becoming a cultural landscape of the city. People of different ethnicities can appreciate their own cultural heritage in Toronto’s streets, and the cultures of other ethnicities can resonate artistically with them.

Many towns in the Greater Toronto Area and numerous other Canadian cities host various forms of street performer festivals each year. These festivals bring significant economic benefits to the hosting towns and cities, with thousands of attendees enjoying performances by outstanding street artists from around the world. Street performances are not only suitable for hotels, restaurants, and bars but also benefit other retail sectors as visitor numbers increase.

While walking the streets of Toronto or traveling through the city’s underground world on the subway, the melodic and joyful sounds of diverse ethnic music accompany your brief journey, making pedestrians’ steps lighter and more cheerful. Street art illuminates the hearts of Toronto’s pedestrians, an essential catalyst for this global metropolis.

Toronto’s street art not only adds endless artistic charm to the city but also serves as a tool for spreading love. The annual Toronto International Busker Fest for Epilepsy is an important charity event to raise funds for epilepsy patients.

On the eve of Christmas in 2019, on December 7th, Toronto’s Citytv aired a touching video news segment titled “Toronto subway busker stunned by sweet Christmas payday.” The news story recounted how Toronto-based marketing company Zulu Alpha Kilo wanted to do a good deed for the upcoming holidays. They reached out to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to see if they could assist street performers. The TTC quickly identified Mo Guzman, a busker from Burlington, who was granted a permit to perform in the subway. On November 26th, a camera crew arrived at King subway station to film Mo Guzman. TTC officials informed him that a documentary about subway street performers was being filmed. As 40 Zulu Alpha Kilo employees, disguised as subway passengers, approached Mo Guzman while he was playing the classic song “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” they generously tipped him with $20, $50, and $100 bills, filling his guitar case. Mo Guzman was left astounded. A crowd eventually gathered around him, applauding to the music and even dancing. He posed for photos with his little dog, Milo, snuggled up beside him. Mo Guzman choked up, saying, “I just had my daughter Maria recently; she’s almost three months old. It’s my first time being a dad, and honestly, thank you guys. I’m speechless; I’ve never experienced anything like this. I feel really blessed.” He expressed, “When I came into the station today, I expected to play a few tunes, make some people happy, make some people smile.” “I feel like over the years, playing in the subway, making people smile, is now coming back in an amazing way. I feel very lucky.”

Zak Mroueh, the founder of Zulu Alpha Kilo, told reporters, “I think the most important part of this story is that kindness and love are contagious and spread.”

The Autumn Lake in Ontario ripples gently. The picturesque lakeside adorned with maple leaves exudes a dreamlike quality. After finishing her shoot on Centre Island, Elyssa begins her interview with me.

Starting in 2019 when Elyssa began her personal commercial performances, she also started practicing her motto: “Bringing theatre to the streets.” She believes that art should be for everyone, not just the “elite” or upper classes. As a professionally trained ballet dancer, she enjoys bringing a unique blend of classical and modern dance to the streets of Canada. Whether dancing on pointe in classical ballet pieces or improvising to popular movie soundtracks, she aims to share the art of dance with audiences from all walks of life. As an amateur “street ballet dancer,” she has performed in various cities in Ontario, including Hamilton, Ottawa, St. Catharines, Burlington, Port Dalhousie, and Beamsville. She is often hired as a live performance dancer for events, bringing unique artistic enjoyment to the audience.

Elyssa is deeply committed to performing and dedicating her art to places like retirement homes, communities, and charitable organizations, to comfort and inspire vulnerable groups in need. For street performances, a shawl, a tambourine, and a Chinese fan serve as her portable props. In addition to using traditional classical ballet music, she prepares some well-known church hymns, dancing to these sacred and holy melodies based on the environment and the audience, aiming to enlighten, soothe, and cleanse the audience’s spirits. She interacts with the audience not only through dance and music but also with her gaze and soul. When she sees someone in tears, she approaches to embrace and console them; when someone seems downhearted, she comes closer to communicate and offer blessings. Audience interaction is an indispensable form of street art performance for her. She blends movement and spirit into her street ballet performances, gaining unforgettable life experiences with each performance. She is a member of Toronto’s multitude of artistically talented street artists, a rare young dancer showcasing classical ballet moves on the streets, and an artistic angel who dances with her body, heart, and soul.

Toronto’s autumn nights fall early. Near Lake Ontario’s downtown Bay Street, the trees cast elegant shadows, and the city lights begin to glow. In the twilight of Toronto’s downtown, various forms of nocturnal artistic life are just beginning: African drums, Russian accordions, Indigenous flutes, Chinese flutes, Italian guitars—melodies of different tunes flow, gradually filling the night sky with vibrant colors. After her interview, Elyssa, accompanied by her ballet props, drives along the Lake Ontario highway, immersing herself in Toronto’s rhythmically vibrant night and the colorful flow of traffic.

Photography: Shaoren Gou (excluding stock images)

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Elyssa Currey: Bridging Theatre and Ballet in the Streets