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Conversations with Grace Stuve

Today we’d like to introduce you to Grace Stuve.

Grace, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Dance has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was three years old in Calgary, Alberta, Canada my mom and dad enrolled me in a small dance studio down the street from our house. I learned the basics…ballet, tap, and jazz. When I was five years old, I auditioned to be a part of the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show and became one of their junior performers. We trained, rehearsed and prepared for the show for six months in advance and then performed in July for ten days straight. Being a part of this “Young Canadians” performance troupe was a difficult but amazing and fun experience. Performing in front of approximately 25,000 people every night when I was under ten years of age was crazy… but this was when I knew that performing and dancing was my true calling! During my time as a Young Canadian, my family moved to a different dance studio, “Airborne Dance Centre” and I trained there for the next eight years, studying ballet, tap, jazz, as well as contemporary, lyrical, and hip hop. I competed in at least four competitions every year and our studio, as well as me personally, placed in the highest ranks of the majority of the competitions. Attending all of those competitions and being part of a very competitive studio was very beneficial for my development. I became very comfortable on stage, learned how to be part of a team and realized the rewards of committing myself very deeply to something I love.

By the time I was 14 and attending high school, I wanted to focus less on the competition studio lifestyle and focus more on my overall training and technique as a dancer, with an eye to the future and a professional dance career. I auditioned for the Pre-Professional Ballet Program at the Edge School for Athletes in Calgary. It was a difficult decision but was the best move I could have made! I trained with Edge in the Pre-Professional program for the next five years, we trained six days a week with ballet and pointe work as the focus for about 14 hours a week. I continued to take part in regional competitions in all genres of dance and also competed in the World Ballet Arts competition in Seattle, placing second overall. After graduating high school, I auditioned for the Millennium Dance Complex Certificate Program in Los Angeles and moved in September 2021! I train at least three hours a day, have been taught by revered choreographers and teachers, have made so many friends and connections and already feel like a contributing member of the dance community here. My diverse training background has provided me many options and I now focus more strictly on street styles like street jazz, jazz-funk and hip hop. It is the right and smart choice for me as I pursue the artists I want to work with going forward in LA, hoping to go on tour and perform on many stages and eventually choreograph and produce my own work.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I would absolutely say there have been obstacles in my dance journey as well as in life in general resulting in struggles internally along the way. My father passed away suddenly about four years ago which was very difficult to deal with in and of itself but our relationship prior to his passing was also strained and has been the most profound test for me. He loved to watch me dance but didn’t appreciate my commitment or the great effort I put in. Injuries have also been something I have had to overcome. Of course, they are part of being a dancer and come along with the job but I probably had more than my share. A foot injury came to light when I was in grade nine but we didn’t find out what the actual problem was until the summer of grade eleven. It is a chronic foot injury that requires regular treatment and forced me to stop pointe work which was very hard for me to deal with…hard to have one of your dreams taken away. I also have a chronic tailbone injury that has caused nerve damage, glute issues and hip pain. I manage this with cortisone shots about every six months, work through the pain for both injuries, and stay on top of physiotherapy. Definitely worth it!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am now a dancer training in the Millennium Dance Complex Certificate program in Los Angeles. I have chosen to focus on street styles including street jazz, jazz-funk, and hip hop, but also continue to train in contemporary and ballet. I would say I am known for my diversity in dance styles, my aptitude to learn very quickly and my ability to emote and perform a piece. The many many awards I have won, including special awards at competitions such as World Ballet Arts, Candance, Dance Power, etc. usually speak to my unique performance quality. I am most proud of the fact that I stayed focused and committed to what I love, especially when certain people in my life made that very difficult. The number of hours of great effort and work I have put in to make my dream a reality has not been, and is not, easy especially with chronic injuries to work through. I believe what sets me apart from others is my unwavering drive, my consistency in my effort, my ability to adapt quickly to new environments and new people…and probably most importantly, always remembering the reason I dance in the first place is to be authentic, to feel and to share. When I dance, people understand that it is genuine. I feel every single piece of choreography that goes through my body.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
The most important lesson that I have learned in all these years is that you need to believe in yourself, no matter what anyone says. Yes of course, you need to train and do the work, but the mental aspect is way more important than the physical. You can have the best technique in a room but if you aren’t sure of yourself and believe in yourself and the movement you are portraying, how do you expect others to believe in you. Especially in the dance world, whether in the studio or on stage, you have to show people who you truly are as a person first then as a dancer.

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Image Credits

Dan Freeman “Tarzandan” Alissa Roseborough

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