michael gillis: he’s a dreamer

Today I went to visit my grandad in the hospital; his health has been deteriorating for quite some time. Seeing him so helpless nearly broke my heart. But just as I was starting to feel sorry for him, he flashed me one of his huge, classic smiles & gave me a warm embrace. I spent the rest of my time listening; to his one of a kind jokes followed by his contagious laugh, and so many stories. So many beautiful stories of his past.

He was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters, all of whom were raised by their single mother. His family was incredibly poor and at seventeen he left home to find work. “I was 300 miles away from home. Didn’t know where I was going. But I just kept on walking. It was either that or starve,” he told me. For years he worked and worked and worked. He spent years drifting from city to city.. wherever he could find work, barely getting by. Yet, while he is telling me this story, he continuously says how lucky he was.. to find the jobs, to meet his wife, to buy a home where they would eventually raise their family. Life has never been particularly easy for him but he never gives up hope. Even now, as he spends weeks in the hospital, unable to walk, he talks of how good it will feel when he goes home. He is a fighter.. a dreamer. He sees the good in every one he meets; he believes in the kindness of other human beings. Most of all, he believes in himself. 

As I sat and listened, I was in awe of the man sitting in front of me. I began to think of my own life.. how privileged I am. How I take basic human necessities for granted.. like the fact that I have a home to come back to every night, and no matter how far I fall there will always be someone there to catch me. Like the fact that I can go to school and do something that I absolutely love, every single day. I am lucky to worry about what piece of music I am going to use for my newest choreographic creation. I am so lucky. 

Going forward, I am going to keep this wonderful man in mind anytime I feel defeated or hopeless. I hope that sharing a portion of his story touches you in some way.

Infinite x’s and o’s




Hiatus = over

Been a long time, been a long time, been long lonely,




lonely tiiiiiime!

So I guess suddenly a bunch of months have passed since that magical evening back in September 2011, that many of you joined us for. We still have a hard time believing that it was real, and can’t get over how much we loved bringing all of that art under one roof. We’re planning to make it an annual thing! An Evening of Art Collaboration will make a fierce and elegant comeback in the fall of this year (woah is it already 2012??).

In the meantime, we want to keep in touch with you and share our day-to-day explorations, as we continue to navigate this crazy dance world together. We’ll get some posts up at least once or twice a week about whatever it is that we’re fascinated about at the time. We’ll share some cool videos or articles, or just a thought of the day. We’d love to keep hearing from you, either in comments or via email. If something we bring up strikes a chord in you, we’d love to start a dialogue, and nerd-out about art with you!

Today me and Liv sat and talked about her piece for this course she’s taking in school called Choreographic Workshop. It’s essentially a creation-based course, where the final project is a dance piece as a part of a full-length show, showcasing the third years’ giant strides as artists. We talked a lot about how one of the most challenging tasks at this point is that of directing dancers when choreographing; trying to express what it is that you want or need to see in your dancers so that they understand it and can insert it into their own experience in the piece. Aiming to guide them to create their own voice and story within yours – phew! Challenging things to accomplish my friends!

Olivia has really been loving this process, and every time I talk to her about it, I become more awed at her passion and dedication to her artistry and to her dancer’s individuality. I’m so, so excited to see the final product, and feel blessed that I get to join her for little snapshots of this amazing journey she’s been going on! The Choreographic Workshop show, Butterfly in Bone – 18 Ways to Get There, is February 17th and 18th at 8pm at The Winchester Street Theatre, and you really will want to come out to see this extremely talented class in all their glory. I’ve heard rumour of some of the other pieces in the works, and I just know this will be a night of really well-crafted and inspiring movement and emotion.

❤ Maddy and Liv

Videos of An Evening of Art collaboration!

We were lucky enough to have two wonderful videographers capture the magic of our show last friday! So if you’re feeling blue because you missed it, check out their videos at these links!

StasBasko: The evening at a glance

Diogenes Baena: Wesley Shen on Toy Piano

❤ Maddy

Photos by Richard Van

Best Night of my life

Thank you so much for the best night we’ve had in a really long time. You all made it so real for us by being there with your hearts and souls. We are so lucky to have such amazing people in ours lives, and we can’t wait to keep exploring the world together.

Tonight we really felt our bare necks. We hope you felt them too! Your sincere applause and deep-felt comments really made us feel bold – thank you for that.

❤ Bare Neck and Brazen

My amazing brother

I guess I’ve known Wesley Shen for about… 22 years now! We’ve had our ups and downs, as siblings do, but I am who I am today in huge part because of him. He’s one of my best friends, and I can’t imagine my life without him.

He also happens to be ridiculously smart and insanely talented. He started playing the piano when he was about 7 years old, because our older brother and I were taking piano lessons at the time. We were both trying our best to avoid practicing, but Wesley begged my mom to let him learn. It’s a good thing she encouraged him to play and play and play, through all the years, because he is out of this world. Seriously.

The most amazing thing about Wesley is that he doesn’t just play the piano. He has a vision about what music can be used for, and what he wants to do with his music. He is passionate about the power of music, and recognizes it as a responsibility. He concerns himself with what he is doing with the music he plays. He is interested in making art. He is interested in inspiring feeling in others. And you will be kicking yourself if you miss out on seeing what he’s made of!

I can’t believe today’s the day! Wesley’s profile is the perfect one to end on, because I get to add that he’s been an amazing emotional support through this whole endeavor. Sometimes he just sees the stress written on my face and knows all I need is a good long hug. I can’t wait for you all to meet him and witness the magic that happen when he plays!


Liz Emirizan

Liz became interested in the project after hearing about it through Bartek and the Mojo Collective. They met at OCAD, where Liz majored in Illustration. She became interested in our show when it was still in its zygote phase, and I couldn’t resist showcasing her work. She is a stunning artist – her work speaks volumes, and can be appreciated on so many levels by a huge variety of audiences. Every time I look at one of her pieces I see something new or different, and that’s just a really wonderful experience.


Sunday Afternoon

I’m so excited that she’s joining our team! I know you’ll agree with me when you see her work for yourself this Friday evening!!

❤ Maddy

La Magnifique Madeleine Christie

Mado and I always had a point in common – we have the same name!

That made it easy to become friends, which we did during high school, at Collège français. She was also great friends with my younger brother, Wesley, because they both play the piano. Mado was always such a cool kid, and she’s only gotten cooler since then! I’ve got a clip of her playing a short piece by Debussy, but you really need to come to the show to hear the amazing things she has in store for us!

Madeleine Christie playing \”The Girl with the Flaxen Hair\” by Claude Debussy

❤ Maddy


Bernadette O’Sullivan is such a lovely young thing.

She’s got such a beautiful vision, and such verve when it comes to creating work. She creates work from a deep and sincere place, and taps into her technical background to make sure that the audience feels her message.

I met Bernadette quite a few years ago through friends – and I’m so glad that we managed to stay in touch because Birdy is really, really great. She has already been so involved in this project even though she’s still in school, studying Painting and Drawing at Concordia, in Montreal. She has also taken a huge interest in fiber art! She’ll be rushing to get here from Montreal on the day of the show, and you should be rushing to get here too! You wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to meet such a lovely young artist!

❤ Maddy

Mojo – a new collective

Bartek is Mishi’s brother, and I was about 11 when I first met him. I went to play at Mishi’s house all the time in my first few years of high school, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into! We used to fight like maniacs, the three of us, but Mishi and Bartek were (and still are) a huge part of my life. Bartek was the first to introduce me to a lot of music, and he taught me about fishing and other random hobbies. And to this day he shares his passions with me, and makes me laugh. We’ve become really great friends over the years, and I’m really happy to see him being passionate about what he does.

He’s recently embarked on an exciting new chapter, co-founding Mojo, a graphic design collective with three other OCAD graduates, Kyle Nielsen, Stephanie Simmons and Gareth Fowler.

Mojo is their creative refuge, a visual playground to explore, sharing toolsets, pulling together resources and collaborating with other designers and artists. They want to collaborate to create anything and everything, from dentists to drag queens!

I’m excited to see what they have to show us, and you should be excited too!

❤ Maddy