When I discovered Danielle Hubbard’s lunchtime Cardio Plus dance class at Le Gym Concordia in Montreal 5 years ago I was thrilled and excited because I could really get into this class listening to bands I loved and could dance to. Guided by Danielle and her super energetic style and unique moves you may feel as cool as she is (although you certainly may not look it!) doing sexy hip swivels to elegant pirouettes, giggling and gyrating, and rockin’ it out with air-guitar-drum-violin-keyboards, etc. Every class is different, infused with creative choreography, while hearing all your favorite punk, rock, goth, ambient, metal, industrial and garage bands. You might dance to the likes of The Cramps, The Clash, Dead Kennedys, The Fixx, Flock of Seagulls, Siouxie and the Banshees, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ministry, Ramones, Deadbolt, Stone Roses, Rob Zombie, OMD, David Bowie, Sisters of Mercy, Fine Young Cannibals, Anne Clark, Simple Minds, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails…and many more such bands, including some music I don’t know in the vein of maybe techno, but cool, and we also get the special treat of the classical ballet number or tap tune thrown in. Danielle is an inspiring woman, always cheerful and full of smiles, beautiful, quirky and cute, making fun and interesting noises to indicate dance changes, demonstrating light as a feather leaps so effortlessly and gracefully, she’s always a model to aspire to, and makes you feel welcome, happy, compelling you to move, get down, feel free, and rock out. ♥
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing at 4 years old.
Did you start doing recitals? Dance school?
Yeah, I started ballet with my sister and then she dropped out quick because it wasn’t her thing and me, well I didn’t have to get pushed to dance. Really, I was always dancing with music on the radio, but the ballet classes was what I started with. And we did recitals at the end of the year and we had to put that horrible blue makeup on our eyes. It was fun. When you are a little kid you love that, right? With sparkles, and I think my first show I was a star, not the star of the show, but an actual star in the sky, I had all these sparkles everywhere.
So was it your dream when you were little to be a dancer?
Yeah. I think my first thing of being an artist in that sense was when my mom was calling me for lunch and I was not appearing so she came in the back room and I was busy drawing and scribbling on paper doing doodles or whatever, and she said it’s time for lunch and I completely bypassed what she said and I said “Mum, I’m going to be an artist” so that was a definite thing but just where was the art going to come in, it wasn’t sure yet where, but quickly it came apparent that it was going to be dance.
So then after that discovery you started to take more classes?
Yes, I started with ballet and then started to do ballet jazz and then I took a year off.
How old were you then?
I was about 11-12. (Laughs) Yeah it was hard work, I was done! But then I did bowling for a year, that’s what I did, I bowled instead of doing ballet. They both start with B, ballet and bowling, but then I couldn’t do the bowling anymore. I liked the bowling shoes, that was one of the reasons why I did it, but then I thought no, I’ll just put my ballet shoes back on, and then went back into ballet. Truth.
That’s hilarious. Ok. So what styles have you trained in and have there been some that you just learnt on your own?
I learn on my own, I guess one would be the Ragedance. It’s kind of like you’re having a fit but to music. So you are actually getting fit.
Is that sort of the same like we do at Concordia?
Kinda, yeah. Sometimes as you know it’s like we’re having a major fit, but you’re getting fit.
You developed your own kind of style, incorporating heavy music like goth, metal, punk and rock moves?
Yes, It’s contemporary dance. We even do some ballet. I like mixing things up like doing something very contemporary but to classical music and punk, and then maybe doing something classical on metal. But we also do something classical on classical music too so people can feel that vibe. It’s fun to be a ballerina for a few minutes. So, it’s all good, it’s all in good fun, serious good fun. And probably prior to that when I was much younger I did my first little choreography at school, I was probably about 7 or 8 and I asked my mom to buy lots and lots of tulle that you make tutus with but it wasn’t to make a tutu it was to make me into a cocoon and my music that I brought for the teacher that she played and I told her when I open the vestibule doors to come out where I was changing back there, it was “Funeral for a Friend” so I really always had a dark side. So I was very little and I wanted that and the music was by Elton John, and the music that he wrote was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the Usher House. So I was definitely into that and Halloween and everything else, and I just loved that. Costume and dancing or being a ghoul, but that was my first choreography. I was dressed in this tulle all wrapped up like a kind of mummy. The tulle was transparent it was sort of a dark grey, maybe it was white but I was rolling around on the ground so much it probably got grey, however when I came out of it I was doing all these weird spasmodic movements.
Who were you performing in front of?
The other children in our class. Every Friday she had 3 or 4 of us do something so it was my turn to perform. The teacher, I think her eyeballs got screwed up and she didn’t know what to say or how to react, she thought it was strange cause most of the kids were doing flowers in the springtime or the boys were doing firemen or police officers, and then I did this weird cocoon thing. It kind of happened really young.
That’s great. It’s like your personality or your style showed through.
What styles and what classes do you teach, and where?
I teach classical ballet with a twist, I call it Ballet Classiquomanie, and I teach that at the Belgo building which is where a lot of different studios for artists, like galleries, and you got your famous Studio 303, and just down the corridor is 310 which is where I teach, and that’s a good 2 hour class, but it does go by fast, and I put in the contemporary dance as we go along cause that’s the twist to the ballet. I give a good ballet base, I find it’s really important. And then I had been teaching Ragedance for many many years. I was on hiatus for a while because I had an awful bicycle accident, but that removed I’m back into everything I do.
And will you go back to that?
I will go back because there is a demand. I get that kind of thing in our class that you know about at Concordia. It’s very much like the Ragedance but it’s not as long and not as much floor work, cause when I do the other stuff I really push that, both. Because our movements are really conducive to high energy cardio but I lower it down a lot, as a dancer would. In most dance pieces, a dancer can be giving the utmost and then they fly offstage to go grab their breath stretch a little and then they run back, so it’s this up and down curve. I think personally as far as fitness is concerned and even just the pure enjoyment of dancing, you need to have those roller-coaster rides. It’s like the roller-coaster, it’s a metaphor for that, in dance it’s fun, it’s not always staying at the same level, you got your ups and your downs kind of thing.
I always appreciate those down moments!
No kidding, eh? But then you get back into the other part much better.
You’re more energized afterwards. So what festivals or dance troupes do you participate in regularly?
Well I’ve done a lot with Exos Performance Project, which was something that was enabling me to perform which I wouldn’t have had the chance on my own necessarily, throughout a lot of Europe. Basically this was during a 10 year period, and this project is based in Geneva, Switzerland. I was already doing a bit of aerial work here in Montreal as far as a dancer so I come from that background, let’s say.
So that’s like a trapeze?
Kind of, it’s like circular trapeze which is called a hoop, and you can go up and down in the air, that kind of thing, there’s no net underneath so you’re careful. But I’ve always approached it, not so much as a gymnast, but as a dancer. So I learned to do that and over there I learnt how to do La Tube Aquatique, like upright aquariums, with my friend Lluvia De Selva, De Sela…Deselva that’s a drug actually in Amsterdam. I’m thinking of that because we were in Amsterdam and they had those things when you go for a drink of wine or beer…but it’s not really important in this interview right now! So coming back, Exos Performance Project based in Geneva Switzerland was a place that I went to meet up with a lot of the performers and from there we went to mostly East, sometimes Western Europe. We went to obviously parts of Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands/Amsterdam, often we were doing multi-tasking. It was very interesting, it really was. It was for a 10-year period and I think the last time I performed was 7 years ago.
How did you find out about this?
I was actually performing in my hoop at the haunted house, the supper theatre place, I was gigging there for like 5 years.
Is that place still around?
No, the ghosts might still be but not us. And funny enough, the Director of Exos Performance Project was one of the original members of the haunted house. But I did not know that then, and I wasn’t going there then, and it was many years later..he had moved, Sotho, with his daughter and they started the company in Switzerland and came back for a holiday and that’s how we hooked up and I became a performer for his company. So it’s back and forth Montreal-Geneva or going directly to the place of performance.
And you do a lot of stuff here as well, you are always involved in something.
Yes, and a lot of filming too, indie films, and there were a couple of major films but not as the main role except for one that was Quebec and France co-producing. I worked for Carole Laure, the writer/director, on the film CQ2, and I was the main actress as well as her daughter for this role that she had written. That was really a wonderful experience too.
Tell me about the show you did with Bloodshot Bill…
I had seen him perform in Montreal before but this was at Shezam Festival and it was every year and it was an amazing time just all kinds of different people and wearing their costumes to bed and waking up like kind of bloodshot (laughs), and he performed, he did a great set, and I think we performed right after him with fire and that was with another person I’ve done a lot of shows with, Simon Dragon, he started at the Maître du feu Montreal and I performed doing lots of fire, actually the first couple of years, then became a judge. Last round I was a judge for the other performers.
So is there a whole process to learn to do fire in your work.
Yeah, a lot of these things I kind of did and learnt on my own, but when you’ve had the discipline of dance for so many years, you understand sometimes it can come quickly but you’re ready to take the time. It took years of being a professional dancer before I even said I was a professional dancer, but when you got a knack for something you kind of develop it quickly but then you have to pay attention to so many different aspects of that art form, like many professional dancers would probably say if they started singing, let’s say, they wouldn’t say I’m a professional singer. Cause we know it takes a lot of hard work to back that stuff up. But yeah, life has been enriched because of all these things, and I did not go off to become a professional ballet dancer, a professional dancer yes, which enabled me to be in bands and all kinds of things that opened up my world.
You’ve been in bands? Do you play music as well?
I vocalize and I have my chaos pad which provides like soundscapes and beats and stuff like that.
Tell me about your band Blodewed…
It’s a Celtic character, spelt actually with two ds, but we spelt it with one d. And if you put two Es it would be Blodeweed which is maybe a good thing to do when you’re in a band! However Blodewed was with Kevin Jones who was the bassist and it was just the two of us, I had my chaos pad, and we were doing this band which is comprised of a young maiden, very virginal kind, and then you have the mother, she’s more like a sensual entity, mother earth, grounded, then you have the old hag. But in those days, that could be a very wise witch. We use hag today, it’s very demeaning, it’s pejorative, it’s not quite the same thing, it’s not a good thing, someone calls you an old hag!, but this is different, it’s an elderly person who has a lot of knowledge, and she’s a spirit and has all these three aspects comprised, of a woman, in a lifetime you go through all these stages. So I wanted to create something that could bring us a carte blanche, so I did writing for the songs, and sort of ritualistic type performances where there’s some white noise to begin with and an entrance and progressive, a bit like my former band which is called Maruka, which had the same idea, but Blodewed was just the two of us and we went into this, with this woman incarnated into this world with those three things going on so the songs were for that. And the bass guy, Kevin, a great bass player could play like a guitar too so he had a different way of playing. Now we could have had a drummer or even a percussionist to add, but anyway we did do a couple of shows in Montreal, at Katacombes, and Bistro Paris, and even some loft parties we did, and it was well received. I did a dance show even and later on I changed and we got our gear and performed for a dance show. And it’s nice cause when you are just two it’s easier for rehearsals as well. I think on YouTube there is only one real video up, it was at the old Katacombes, and the video to tell you honestly, the video is nice but what I really regret is that Kevin is not seen playing in the video and secondly the microphone wasn’t working properly at times, so sometimes I would just hang off the microphone and pay no attention to it, so the voice was really as you were hearing it, no vo-coders in that one!
So, you did that a while ago?
That would have been about five years ago, when Kevin moved to go back home, out east.
Where did you grow up? Do you think your environment helped you to form as a person?
Well, #1. I never grew up, #2. I’m adopted, and #3. I don’t know where I’m going…(laughs)…Well #1 is actually true… I was actually born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, and raised very well mind you. I had good parents.
Yeah, very proper. That’s why I moved to Montreal so that I could be improper! Well my environment for me had a lot to do with studios. My parents had a very good sense of humor, and had a good sense of discipline. We weren’t allowed to do just anything or buy anything, we had to work for things. I guess I got that too and I have that in what I do with my own dance, as far as environment, well environment is also studios. Yeah you pay attention to the teacher, you shut up, you do your thing, especially ballet, and it’s very old school, especially back in those days, so that was my environment, so it was a big discipline my environment, but there was a lot of loving and a lot of passion, and there’s a freedom, even through all that discipline, that I was allowed to be pretty much who I was, who I wanted to be.
I know a few years ago you had a terrible biking accident. What did you do to overcome it, are you still overcoming it, continuing in your career as strong and beautiful as ever?
Well as you can see right now I’m drinking (joking)…, but that’s alright folks, it’s Friday afternoon and there’s nothing wrong with that! I’ve become an alcoholic since my biking accident! End of story!… No, just kidding!! Shortest answer yet. No, well actually it is a traumatic thing, but I think I survived it pretty good, I guess the first thing that I wanted to say about a helmet, it’s a good thing I was wearing one because I probably wouldn’t be here today. And the surgeon confirmed that or I would have been a vegetable, and I do like vegetables on a plate but not who I am. So there’s that, and I had to revise many things in my life. Things that you don’t even imagine you have to, but you have to see what’s important and what’s not. And there was a moment of thinking would I even be able to continue dancing, there’s a couple moments that you think about that, but I quickly surpassed that and always look forward and said yes. In fact, the next day when I had to get dressed out of the hospital gown when they handed me my ripped up clothes, because what they do, they cut head to toe anything you are wearing, so it’s like gee thanks, I might as well just wear the gown, no? So anyway, I go to the washroom with my clothes in the plastic bag and I hold the bag in front of me and I see a blackened face, which is pretty much what happened with the injuries on the head and the face and I thought ok, let’s remove the plastic bag number 1, and number 2, I got to see what it really looks like and I was utterly unrecognizable and I never cried once about it ever, later on because of certain pain maybe. The look of it was atrocious but I said, it is what it is, and it just came fresh, naturally, I didn’t even think about it and I said that, that I thought that’s how I’m going to get over it because this is the worst moment and after it’s going to get better. The skin is going to fall off, it’s going to heal, it was pretty much ripped off on one side of the face, that will heal, and the tooth that had semi broken off that will heal with the dentist, but the major fractures was the upper and lower-case jaw, and my mandibles had been completely crushed. So, I had one operation, meatball surgery as they call it, just to put things together enough, and then a second surgery and then a third, and now I’m looking forward to a fourth, but this one is way less invasive, so the down time is maybe only just a few weeks and that’s it, compared to before that’s nothing. So, I’m actually looking forward to the forth one, but I did teach as soon as I could, I got right back on the horse. I’ve been in really tight spots in certain performances, things could have went really awry like really bad, and it would have been much worse instead of waiting it out hoping for the best I got right back on the horse. If I didn’t, I could never perform again. So, same thing with the bike accident, as soon as I was able to get back on my bike and the surgeon gave me thumbs up when he saw me come in one day with my helmet. But I had to really program things differently, since three years, the anniversary date was just two days ago, but I’m considerably better than I was and I always had a chance between each operation to perform, to dance, to teach, until the next op and then down time again. And well your whole body takes a rest at this point which is not a bad thing, instead of going going going, so you got to look at the positive, there’s always something that is positive.
Did you have to change your dance, I know you had to take levels down a bit?
Only in the beginning, not long. For instance in ballet, I’m a jumper, I love to run and leap, I really love that, I love floor work too, that can be kind of harsh for the body if you don’t do it properly, so you have to be really careful the way you land from high jumps, so of course I couldn’t do those high split jump in the air kind of stuff..but your instinct, and as an older dancer you are going to protect yourself, it comes more naturally than not, so I just became even more aware and paid more attention, and there’s things as far as the rest, as far as répos, for the body that I allowed myself which was actually really good because when I came back to doing high jumps across the floor, I felt great, it was all back again because my body had taken that break, that rest.
Has it changed you emotionally or professionally as a person?
Well emotionally it has somewhat been answered, but I shouldn’t hide the fact that sometimes it can get really really down, and emotionally it’s pretty much down way more than I ever let on, to sometimes only real close friends may have had an inkling into how far some of my thoughts went, so I do understand people who can be depressed and all that. And not being able to do your art, and especially as an older dancer you wonder can I really get back into that the same way that I did. I was working so hard, I got back into ballet after leaving it for almost 14 years, and then 7 years I was working real hard and then this accident, well this is cooked you know, and at the same time my father died like a year later after my accident, and there was a split up also and I don’t want to get into all that business, but before that accident, that person who was not able to handle all that much anyway, certainly being naturally kind of a cold person. I was trying to save everybody from my thoughts and feelings, and this person as well, my ex, and so he didn’t know and I decided this is enough, I knew I had my other operation to go through, and did not want to live it in the kind of relationship I was in, because emotionally that was such a drag, and to answer your question, that part was a big deal and because you are a women, you’re giving a lot of yourself to somebody, you need stuff for yourself, and you’re supposed to be a partner with somebody, it should be somewhat equalized there and it wasn’t so I had to make this decision, so it was tough and a lot of people didn’t realize all that stuff I was going through, plus you are a bit worried, you have this other operation and you don’t know, is it going to help, and they’re going to break your jaw again, both, and that’s not fun, and you’re completely disfigured because of the swelling that the surgeries cause once again, so completely disfigured three times, and it comes back but it’s not the same, but you deal with it, and that’s the emotional part, it’s tough but I just kept saying – it is what it is – I’m going to make something good happen out of this, I can’t just let it all take me down, right?
How does dancing – your art, make you feel, grow, rejoice, love as a human being?
A lot when I’m teaching, I realize sometimes it might be 70% teaching, 30% performing, sometimes the performance, the giving and sharing with the audience, it’s like, wow, that can be like maybe 90%, my joy in the dancing. So it fluctuates but there’s a definite partage, a definite division of the two that come together and work really well, for me. I miss teaching completely when I’m just performing, and vice versa, if I’m just teaching and never performing, I miss that too, so I think I need both. And that’s what makes me happy and completes me as an artist.
What are your favorite styles of dancing and do you practice all the styles that are your favorites? Or are there some that you have yet to master?
Way way way back when, when I was actually dancing with a company in the States and then I came back because I really really missed Montreal, it was ballet jazz and contemporary dance, and I really loved that because I was able to put the ballet notions, but I like the jazz too, Bob Fosse style, but then we had some very contemporary dance pieces as well, I think I like that eclectic kind of feel. And then I decided that I needed to come back to Montreal so I actually became a student again, funny, some people say well why do you want to be a student, but I did, but I had a bursary, and that really helped a lot, I didn’t actually have to pay for any classes, just obviously for my rent in Montreal, but it was not much at the time. So, I was back being a student, and loving it, and working very very hard, and dancing like in a second company as you would call it, it was in order to get into the major company but there was no room in the end and that’s why I had to be in the student program, and by the way it was a lot of ballet with contemporary ballet, and some form of jazz but a lot of technique in ballet. Anyway, one of the girls that was studying, this was the mentality that struck me as really odd and that I never appreciated in ballet which is why I got along with the girls more in contemporary, is the snobbism that can be perpetuated in this type of discipline, not all, I don’t want to generalize but there are a lot of people with who it is like that so I do have an appreciation for many forms of dance but for me ballet for my body it just seems what I like, or anyway, to get back to the girl, she just said something like – “oh African dance, that’s not real dancing. Ballet is the only real dance.” But no, excuse me, everything starts with a heartbeat, in Africa and anywhere in the world with beats like that, it comes from the heart, not just your soul, it’s an actual heartbeat, and it comprises so many things. And so the dances start from there and then they get the rhythm, and it’s just there, and for my it’s such a turn off to think that somebody would ever think that ballet is the only dance and that African dance is nothing, it’s like no, I appreciate a lot of dance, I did some flamenco, I did some tango, I did a bit of African, some Capoeira, so there’s many styles that I really appreciate and I think are beautiful. And there are certain artists that will get me much more, I can see a ballerina, or somebody on the street doing some kind of really cool and different hip hop, and it’ll get me, even if I’m not necessarily into the hip hop culture, it’s the person that is performing it and doing it, the artist.