Instructor Spotlight – Shenel Williams

Meet Shenel, Our Featured Instructor

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!

Shenel’s Journey into the Performing Arts

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.

Q&A with Shenel Williams - Playocity Instructor Spotlight

Q: What parts of our mission do you connect with?

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.

Q: Does dancing and acting run in your family?

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.

Q: What do you like most about working with Playocity?

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.

Q: What did you want to be when growing up?

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.

Q: What is your favourite thing about performing?

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.

Q: How did you get into performing arts?

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.

Q: What advice do you have for kids who are struggling in school?

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.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

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.

Q: Where would you like to go on a dream vacation?

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.

Q: What is your least favourite exercise?

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!

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