There’s an undeniable energy and warmth when Emilia walks into a room. As Playocity’s Teacher of the Month, she brings with her a world of artistic passion – a passion that manifests in the fluid movements of her dance classes, the captivating narratives of her storytelling sessions, and the raw emotion she instills in her acting students. With just a little over a year with us, Emilia’s impact has already been profound, and it’s an honour to delve deeper into her journey and understand what drives her.
From a young girl who dreamt of wielding paintbrushes to a young woman captivating many with her breathtaking dance performances, Emilia’s artistic journey is an inspiring story. Emilia recalls being a shy kid, but the art of dance helped her step out of her shell and find her place under the spotlight.
As a Dance Teacher at Playocity, Emilia cherishes the close-knit environment and the meaningful relationships she has built with her colleagues. For her, the sense of inclusion and understanding, especially as an immigrant, is paramount. Playocity’s meticulously crafted programs get a thumbs-up from Emilia, who witnesses the transformative journey of her students from the start to the end of each program.
For the young souls struggling in school, Emilia’s advice is heartfelt and empowering: “Trust the process, learn from your mistakes, and believe in yourself. This too shall pass.” Join us as we celebrate Emilia’s contributions and continue to be inspired by her story!
I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a painter for the longest time until I found dance. Then, I wanted to become a dancer with all my heart but photography was something that really inspired me so I studied photography as well. Later on, I became very interested in acting, and it became part of my life as well. Dance has been the biggest love of my life and the most constant career I wanted since I started taking dance classes as a teenager.
I was always a very shy kid and thought of myself as an introvert. This explains why I wanted to be a painter so that no one could burst my bubble. One day, my mom told me she was going to put me in Tap classes and I cried my eyes out because I didn’t want to do whatever “tap” was. I took the first class and immediately fell in love and that’s when I came out of my shell (thanks Mom). The first time I performed on stage it just felt right, it felt like home and I wanted it to be like that forever.
Both my grandmothers were dancers on and off but it was not their main career. Art definitely runs in my veins as my mom is a musician and an excellent performer. I think that my mom is the reason I have a great love for music and my body works as my instrument.
It depends on the season. During the summer months, I love going out with my friends, walking my dog, or having a nice date with my husband. I would say that hiking and swimming are my favourite things to do during the summer. In winter, I love embroidering, painting, playing videogames, doing outdoor winter activities or shopping!
Mexican feminists inspire me every day to be bolder and more authentic about my art. The struggle we face every day in Mexico is something that really inspires me to talk about our story and work towards making a change in society. Also, my mom is a great inspiration for me, she’s such an amazing artist, musician, woman and human being.
Not a big fan of strength-related exercises like push-ups, crunches or squats.
I’m really trying hard to save money to make a trip to Europe to see as many countries as I can. I would add Egypt as well.
My camera, music and a journal.
What I love about working with Playocity is the closeness and safe environment I get with Alanna, Alena and Krystina. I feel like I can communicate any type of concerns, or questions or even share anything with them and I feel heard. It’s a big part for me as an immigrant to feel included in my work and I feel that I have that in this space. As a teacher, I’ve had great experiences with every school that I have worked with. The programs created by Playocity are amazing for the kids and I am able to witness progression and transformation in my students from day one until the end of the workshop. I love how all the programs are authentic and very well thought out.
This too shall pass. I know it may seem overwhelming but this big struggle you’re having is going to be a great lesson and an even bigger opportunity to create something incredible. Trust the process and remember that we learn more from our mistakes than from our achievements. Most importantly, trust yourself, you’re doing great!
We are thrilled to introduce Jeannine, an incredibly talented Dance Teacher and Movement Therapist based in Philadelphia. Jeannine’s dedication to the art of dance has been an invaluable part of our team, and we couldn’t be more grateful for her contributions.
With her knowledge and expertise in both teaching and therapy, Jeannine has touched the lives of countless students, helping them explore and express themselves through movement. We feel lucky to have Jeannine on our team, and it’s an honor to be a part of her inspiring journey.
Growing up, music has always filled Jeannine’s home as well as her parents’ interests in theater and attending live concerts whenever possible. An average Saturday morning household chores were coupled with an array of any kind of album playing in the background and Jeannine and her sister gladly dancing and singing along.
At the young age of 3 Jeannine and her sister got enrolled in a local dancing studio. They would end up taking classes with their neighborhood friends for years and years to follow. Eventually, a close friend opened up her own dance studio and at approximately 14 years old Jeannine became an instructor with the youngest of classes. It was a wonderful opportunity that she wanted to continue for years to come.
During her school-age years, Jeannine was always involved in some kind of school play or musical, mostly related to dancing. In a way, dance had become somewhat a part of her identity. She would choreograph shows with the help of her sister and dance friends and together they would be a big part of these productions.
Jeannine loved every minute of being on stage with friends and giving a performance to all in attendance. The sense of joy and exhilaration on show days and the prep for it were always some of her best memories. She knew then the profound effect that movement, dance, and performance had on her happiness.
Jeannine feels fortunate to have grown up in New York with New York City being so accessible. She was lucky to have an opportunity to see Broadway Shows and concerts from a young age further igniting and supporting her passion for dance and the performing arts.
Today Jeannine finds great joy in being able to share these experiences with her own children who have taken their own interests in dance and music. It’s a thrill to witness their passions unfold and the dedication they have to their craft and most importantly, the joy they find in it.
Fall is my favorite time of year, especially here in Pennsylvania. I love the colors, the chill in the air that elicits cozy nights by a fire or relaxing under a blanket. There’s something so cozy about “sweater weather”. There’s a beauty in this transition that I feel that can be easily taken for granted.
The shorter days with less light are almost a sense of permission to slow down when you can and add more stillness to your days (under a nice blanket of course lol). It’s also such a fun precursor to what lies ahead with the festive season of Thanksgiving and Christmas (My favorite holidays).
I always wanted to do something with children and psychology. I have always felt a special connection to children even from a young age myself and although I never had younger siblings (I have an identical twin sister), I would always find such a thrill being around babies and children younger them me. I felt it was fascinating that we can understand babies and toddlers even before they had words to speak.
Flash forward some years and always having an interest and joy in attending local dance classes with my sister and friends, while in High School, the profession of Dance Movement Therapy was presented to me. I had never heard of Dance Movement Therapy before this moment and as a Junior in High School, I took an immediate interest. It was then that I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I vividly remember the school counselor asking me about my interests and I said a career with children, dance perhaps, and psychology. It’s as if the role of a Dance Movement Therapist was made specifically for me and I knew that I would follow this path and all the curriculums and education it would take to earn this title.
Although formal dance training does not run in my immediate family, my relatives have always enjoyed being on the dance floor. I have beautiful memories of my grandparents gracing the floor with a fox trot and some of my Papa’s moves will stay in my heart forever.
My Parents as well as my Mom and Aunt (her sister) were known to be the best dancers at any party/celebration with the way they would do the Lindy. It was always such fun to see and be present for.
My sister also loves to dance and together we will always make time for Hustle whenever a disco song comes on, something I think we are known for now lol. Fun Fun!
My cousin and her daughter have both performed in a Broadway Show and the first Broadway show I ever saw when I was about 7 was to see my cousin in Annie. I vividly remember how thrilling it was to see her perform as a young child and then as an adult to be in the audience with my own daughter watching her daughter portray the same role.
My daughter is 14 and has been dancing since she was 3 with the Pennsylvania School of the Performing Arts. She attends classes for all styles of dance and also sings and plays piano/Keyboard.
My older Son is 17 and when he was about 8 began acting with local theater companies eventually connecting with an agent in NYC. He would go on many auditions and we had great fun traveling to NY for these moments. He would then turn his interests to music and now is a highly skilled musician-playing guitar, piano, bass, and drums and can most certainly hold a tune as well.
My youngest son (8) is also taking an interest in music and is learning the keyboard. He attends classes with a local program called School of Rock where he learns keyboard 1:1 and gets some time practicing being with “the band”. Music and Dance live strong in our home.
On my days off I find great happiness in not setting an alarm clock. I enjoy peaceful mornings sipping coffee, catching up around my home, and indulging in time without a sense of urgency to commitments, schedules, and the hustle that some days can bring. I enjoy cooking in my free time, listening to music, and spending time with my children and if I can entice them to a game of Scrabble, that’s truly my favorite!
In my free time, my happiest place is when my family including all of my 3 children are home, under one roof where we can enjoy our time together either sharing a meal, watching a movie, listening to music, and more recently creating music of our own with instruments we have set up in our basement. An extra perk would be my sister there to join and share time with us as well.
I also thoroughly enjoy an impromptu dance party as dancing is always a good idea!
People who endure hardship and greet each day with a grateful heart, appreciation for the blessings around them, and move through their day with purpose despite any hardship truly inspire me.
I have witnessed family and friends experience indescribable loss. I have seen people I love endure cancer and yet have the strength of a complete warrior. I have seen family support each other in the hardest of times knowing that love is really all you need to get through some challenging moments. These people inspire me daily.
More specifically my Grandmother is one of my biggest inspirations. She is now 102 years old and has the most loving joyful heart. She shares her gratitude for life daily; she acknowledges the love around her even when so many have gone ahead of her. She has the ability to see the positive nature of any given day, is able to omit negativity, and she’s so genuinely thankful for the people and love she has in her life. She is the biggest inspiration for me and for the many who know and love her.
Lastly, I have worked with many young children who have disabilities as well as older adults with cognitive impairments. They all have been a source of inspiration to me. They remind me that no matter the challenge there are ways to connect, to be present, and to engage in meaningful ways where shared moments can mean so much for healing and growth. They give me hope that joy is possible no matter the ailment and that it can truly make a difference. These wonderful folks also inspire me.
My hope for any child struggling in school is that they know with confidence they have a safe place to go for support, to express their feelings, and most importantly to feel validated in their concerns. Sometimes just another ear to listen empathetically can go a long way. I would remind them that no tough time lasts forever, look for the light of love, look for the helpers; they most certainly don’t have to ride the storm out alone.
I would encourage children that all feelings are acceptable and they are ok for owning them. I also would encourage a child who is struggling to be patient with themselves and the process. I would ask them to envision an ocean. Sometimes the water is rough yet eventually, there comes a sense of calm in the waters. Just like the tides of the oceans, our emotions are a never-ending flow of waves constantly moving, and constantly changing.
I would remind a child that is struggling to tap into their personal power. They have the ability to discover and utilize coping skills that could be of value. Paired with help and support from others I would hope this would elicit hope for better days.
Ultimately I would remind the child they are loved, even through the hard times they are loved. I would remind them of their strengths, and their power and help them to see how they can best overcome any challenge.
It has been wonderful to work with Playocity and be provided with the opportunity to lead groups for children throughout Philadelphia. It’s encouraging to be entrusted with my ideas, skills, thoughts, and planning for class as it helps expand my creativity having the support system so well in place.
I have enjoyed reviewing and utilizing the lesson plans provided and It’s nice to feel inspired and well-prepared for any kind of lesson. I’ve appreciated how everyone I have met through Playocity has truly cared about uniqueness and my own personal teaching style. I appreciate how the team values the instructor that I am and the background that I come with that makes me ME.
To be part of a team as a contractor yet feel so connected is so important to me and even though there is a great distance in miles, I truly feel part of the Playocity family, and the opportunities that continue to arise only help my personal growth as an instructor and leader. It’s wonderful to feel so valued by all at Playocity who truly take the time to understand who we are, what we stand for, and how we can best represent this wonderful team and support their mission.
I strongly believe in the mind-body connection and we have a commitment to keep our children moving, exploring themes of feelings, self-control, sense of self, and relation to others through movement and play. In a society where we are moving less, children may be enduring more hours of screens than ever before. It’s imperative we play, we connect, and we move for fun and the overall well-being of our minds and bodies. Children deserve the space to explore all of the stated above in a playful manner where learning is fun and engaging. Motivation is the key to insight and learning. I strongly believe in and stand by the mission with Playocity.
If I could travel anywhere right now it would be somewhere with warm comfortable sunshine, a calm beach, something all-inclusive with the options of the outdoors and natures beauty easily available for me and my family, outdoor activities, good meals, enjoyable music and of course the option to be moved and dance 24/7.
We are proud to introduce our Featured Instructor, Shenel Williams. She is an incredibly talented dance teacher and has been such an amazing addition to our team! Shenel’s work has been truly inspiring and her dedication and passion for teaching have made her an invaluable asset to us. We are so grateful for her contribution and can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!
Born and raised in Toronto, Shenel is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher. Growing up she self-trained in Hip-Hop, Ballroom, African/Afro, Dancehall, and various other styles. She was the captain of the Downsview Dance Company in her senior years, where she performed at various events such as tdsbCREATES and collaborations with JustBGraphic. Through JustBGraphic, Shenel was featured in the Unplugged Festival: Middle School Tour in 2015 with artists such as Mike Black and Danny Fernandes.
Shenel graduated from York University’s Dance Program in 2022 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honors. She is currently an active choreographer and performer in the Toronto dance scene. Some of the recent or ongoing projects include: choreographing a set for “ArtstartTO,” performing at Jean Augustine’s Black History Month Celebration, and training with York University’s Hip Hop dance team called “Integrated Entity.”
Aside from training, Shenel is teaching with a couple of dance studios in the GTA, and facilitating lots of exciting programs here at Playocity. As a dance teacher and an independent artist, Shenel continues to use her voice to initiate change in the dance community and beyond.
A: I connect with all parts of Playocity’s mission. It is what drove me to be a part of the organization. In particular, I connect Playocity’s mission to bring range and diversity into schools/organizations. Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to my culture or dance forms that resonated with me. Playocity makes it their mission to provide all learners with the opportunity to see themselves in the lessons. It is something that will stick with a child, and I’m grateful to be in the position to deliver it.
A: Surprisingly, no, dancing and acting do not run in my family. However, before coming to Canada, my mother – was born and raised in Grenada and partook in a traditional folk dance called “Maypole.” My mom states that I get my rhythmic ability from her side. Aside from that, I am the first to pursue dance at a higher level.
A: For the last few months, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with Playocity. The most enjoyable aspect thus far is having the ability to facilitate classes with enriched and vibrant content.
As a dance teacher, I appreciate that the content provided is not only diverse but versatile and flexible. Making it effortless to adapt and re-invent to accommodate various learning differences, environments, and much more. The lessons’ adaptable and re-inventive nature also allows me to be fully authentic and connect with the students.
A: Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things – like inquisitive most children. I can recall wanting to be a chef, scientist, doctor, and “person who listens to people talk,” which I now know is a therapist. While I always loved the arts and performance, as a child, I never saw it as a profession.
A: I love this question because it always shows me that performing is truly more expressive than I’ll ever be. Based on my current career path, many individuals believe I am introverted when I am the opposite.
Performing has always been a way to show a side of me that only close ones ever see. When I’m performing, I am 100 percent myself and then some. Being able to showcase my ability and feed off of an audience is the best feeling ever. It is euphoric and humbling all at the same time.
A: I got into the performing arts in high school. I didn’t attend an art school, but I was a part of the arts program at Downsview Secondary School. My former dance teacher nurtured me and provided me with outlets and opportunities to pursue the arts.
Before that, I had no way of getting in due to a lack of connection, inadequate finances for training, and much more. I always like to accredit high school as the place I sank into my pursuit and allowed myself to become the person I am today in the performing arts.
A: Some advice for kids struggling in school is to find someone you trust and open up to
them. Our struggles have a way of making us feel like we are the only ones going through them. When in retrospect, individuals are experiencing similar struggles. I would suggest not stopping at talking it out but asking or proposing ways to help in whatever area.
Moving forward from the stages of addressing/figuring it out, don’t become consumed with the reality of your struggles. Find community, activities, and other outlets to express those feelings and allow yourself to feel a sense of comfort. Most importantly, remember that you’re capable of overcoming any obstacle placed in front of you. Ask for help, find moments of freedom, and advocate for what is needed for your success.
A: What people may be surprised to learn about me is my burning desire to acquire knowledge. I love delving into different realms of knowledge like religion, the human mind, the global economy, etc. I spend a lot of my time learning new vocabulary and advancing my understanding of the world, people, and things around me. I can become hyper-fixated on a topic or point and find myself researching it to gain a better understanding. I really enjoy learning for learning’s sake.
A: My dream vacation would be to Israel. As a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated with the Dead Sea and looking back now, it is because I wanted to become a mini scientist. Aside from that, there are a lot of sites that I would love to visit. If I could travel anywhere right now, I would travel to Norway to a place called “the land of the Midnight Sun.”
While there are several places in the world the sun never sets, Norway is one place you can visit during that time. That would definitely be an incredible bodily experience and change in living. It goes beyond visitation and site-seeing as I would have to adapt to having no night.
A: Since I was a little kid, the one exercise I’ve disliked is push-ups. Even though I am capable, I’ve always hated the feeling of having all my weight on my wrists and trying to defy gravity coming up. I’ve resorted to other methods to get an upper-body workout. Fun fact, I have a hard time allowing my students to partake in them because I have a touch-and-go relationship with them. I would still highly recommend it!
We are excited to feature our Instructor of the month, Sarah Hodkinson. Sarah has been teaching dance classes for kids here at Playocity for several months now and there’s no doubt that we feel lucky to have her onboard. Since she began teaching dance, yoga, creative movement, and acting programs, we’ve received nothing but praise for her stellar work. Now, our partners are requesting Sarah to come back and teach more programs across multiple locations. We are beyond thrilled to receive such wonderful requests!
Sarah is a Toronto-based performer who has more than 20 years of experience under her belt. She has worked in various industries, including theatre, TV, and film.
As a passionate performer and instructor, Sarah started with ballet when she was five years old. From there, she branched out and started exploring other styles of dance in her teens, including jazz, modern, and hip hop. Around the age of 15, Sarah started facilitating dance classes for kids.
In high school, she got into choreography and started helping with musicals and dance shows. She further honed her acting skills by taking part in school plays and at a local theatre in town.
“I’m from a small town and always dreamt of moving to Toronto to pursue acting and dance,” shares Sarah. Her high school drama teachers also played a big role in her development as they encouraged young Sarah to pursue her dreams.
Sarah obtained her Intermediate from the Royal Academy of Dance, and she is trained in the Cecchetti method, musical theater, contemporary, jazz, and hip hop.
When she moved to Toronto, Sarah got into the Randolph College for Performing Arts. Staying true to her dreams of pursuing TV and film, she got an agent, and from there, Sarah went to numerous auditions and participated in various productions, ranging from TV shows to short films and commercials. Her journey led her to a new path, where she discovered her love for writing and producing her own films. In fact, some of the short films that Sarah produced have been screened across the country. In addition, Sarah has also acted in principal roles for short films featured in prestigious film festivals such as the Canada Shorts Film Festival and the HollyShorts Film Festival.
But Sarah’s journey wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
“It sounds easy to describe it this way, but this has taken my whole life working hard, staying focused, and getting up every time there’s a rejection, setback, or real life gets in the way. Being a performer has made me very resilient,” she shares.
Sarah’s talent and passion for performing runs in the family. Her grandmother was a ballet teacher trained by Betty Oliphant herself, who then encouraged Sarah’s grandmother to become a ballet teacher. Sarah’s grandmother also stayed true to her dreams, having started her own ballet school in Dryden, Ontario. What’s more, all of Sarah’s uncles took dance classes, and her father was such an excellent dancer that the National Ballet wanted him to be a part of their company.
Growing up, Sarah always wanted to be an actress. “I never thought I would be dancing or teaching. At this age, your body takes a toll. I’m grateful to do both,” she says. According to Sarah, her favorite thing about performing is being able to live and explore a different reality. The experience allows her to connect with something beyond herself, she just loves being on set or onstage and working with other creatives. Furthermore, she thinks that the energy of make-believe is nothing short of magic.
Today, Sarah is an integral part of Playocity, where she uses her talents, knowledge, and skills to teach learners about the transformative power of the performing arts. Embodying Playocity’s values and mission, Sarah is all about creating safe, engaging, and positive learning environments for students of all ages. Like her Playocity family, Sarah wants to help kids discover and explore their creativity and combine fun and learning to make a positive impact in their lives.
Sarah shares that her experience working with Playocity has been amazing and refreshing. “I feel seen and heard, and like many people, I have a lot on the go, and Playocity has only helped me make everything work.” She adds that she feels lucky to be able to teach kids while still being able to pursue her acting career.
Sarah knows that school can be tough for kids. Having been through the rigors of school herself, here’s her advice for kids who are having a tough time in school:
“Stick with it. There’s growth in finishing something. Try to find something to connect with at school – sports, arts, photography, student council. Remember, we don’t all learn the same, so try not to compare yourself to others and maybe get off social media. I couldn’t imagine having that when I was in school.”
Now, people might be surprised to know that Sarah is an introvert. We all know her as an upbeat, energetic, and enthusiastic teacher, and while she is incredibly passionate about what she does, she admits that it can drain her battery. So, she emphasizes recharging and learning the value of rest, something that she believes is not something that’s earned but is essential.
When she’s not teaching dance classes for kids or holding yoga, creative movement, and acting programs, Sarah loves to go hiking and just being out in nature. She also loves connecting with family and friends, as well as cooking good meals, and of course, getting plenty of rest. According to Sarah, if she could eat only one meal every day, she would love to have her mom’s tuna casserole.