South Surrey-raised Nathalie Heath performs on So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

South Surrey dancer moves to new project with studio

Nathalie Heath draws on international training and experience to help young artists move towards careers in dance

South Surrey-raised dancer, choreographer and instructor Nathalie Heath knows dance – and the dance world – inside and out.

She’s danced everything from ballet to jazz, hip-hop, modern contemporary, tap and professional-level ballroom.

She may be best known locally for finishing in the top three among female finalists in So You Think You Can Dance Canada in 2010, but her professional film and television dance credits include doubling for Hilary Duff in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, appearing in the video for Michael Buble’s Haven’t Met You Yet, being chosen as principal, choreographer and motion-capture dancer for the series of Barbie movies, and appearances in Once Upon A Time, Mr. Young and Hellcats.

Live appearances have included touring with Victoria Duffield, performing at the 40th annual Juno Awards with Shawn Desman, and in the Canadian Olympics opening ceremonies.

Now Heath is taking on what is, conceivably, an even more important responsibility – as artistic director of a new 1,300-square-foot studio, Dance Effect (#105 – 15272 Croydon Dr.), catering to students aged three to 18.

Offering both competitive and recreational programs, Heath said she is drawing both on her own experience and training with such companies as Joe Lanteri’s New York Dance Alliance, the Broadway Dance Centre and the Alberta Ballet School.

In starting Dance Effect, she’s grateful for the guidance and encouragement of longtime mentor, Susie Green, with whom she trained from an early age at Crescent Beach-based Joy of Movement studio and in international dance events with Green’s Visions Dance Company.

Starting a new dance school would be a daunting proposition for most 27-year-olds, but Heath says she’s not only enthusiastic about the challenge but feels a strong sense of mission going back to the days when, as an integral part of being a senior Visions dancer, she was helping mentor younger students.

“I always had this in the back of my mind,” she said.

“I’ve enjoyed so much working with young people and seeing them grow. I always thought one day when I was ready, and done with my dancing, I’d give that back – and obviously the best place to do it is where I grew up. This is my new way of staying involved in it.”

While some Dance Effect classes will be geared strictly to recreation – which Heath acknowledges is a great outcome in itself – she said she’s also concerned with providing an opportunity for students who are ready to take dance in a more professional direction.

She said she plans to offer students workshops with some of the internationally recognized performers and choreographers she has worked with, and has been heartened at the willingness of professionals to help her in her venture – but not surprised.

“The most successful people are often the most humble – it will always win at the end of the day,” she said. “Based on talent, you might get attention, but the people who get the jobs and continue to work, it’s because of their attitude and work ethic – not because they’re a talented, egotistical narcissist.”

As much as Heath has been involved in dance competition in the past, she said she realizes the truth of what she’s always been taught – that there are more important things than winning trophies and prizes.

“We can’t lose sight of the big picture here,” she said. “I’d rather have a committed group that works hard and loves it, rather than being a group that’s continually beating themselves up and getting first place.

“I’m all about working hard and striving for first place, but my focus is on the growth and the constant challenge and having them excited about dance.”

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