Episode 13: Meet the pioneer of Vancouver's street dance community
Natasha Gorrie is combining her passion for dance with a desire to elevate the opportunities for fellow street dance enthusiasts. As an entrepreneur and founder of Higher Ground Dance Company, Natasha brings a tenacious passion to Hip Hop education. Alongside her work supporting aspiring dancers through workshops and battles, Natasha is part of Diamonds in the Rough; an all-female dance crew. Moving between slick choreography and energetic freestyle, Natasha is an aspirational example of art in motion.
Tune in to this podcast episode to hear Natasha tells us about the continual growth of her career and how dance has allowed her to embrace both the feminine and masculine side of her expressive self. Interviewed by Sassy host, Cyd Eva, we get an insight into the thriving dance scene of Vancouver and the essential role failure has played in Natasha's journey to defying the limitations her industry can impose.
Having started out in ballet at the age of 4 before moving into street dance and hip-hop, Natasha Gorrie grew up with the unique experience of having a Mother whose life revolved around dance. She tells us how her Mother would go to clubs to take part in competitions and then "come home and show me the moves that she saw... the running man was the first move that I learned from my mum coming home from the club". Her Mum went on to open one of the first studios in Greater Vancouver for people who connected to hip-hop music. This led her to introduce an array of street dance styles including popping, locking, breaking, house, and a variety of choreography coming out of LA. Noting her Mother as a key inspiration, Natasha explains how, "to this day I keep on exploring the different street, funk and hip-hop dances that come out of the States." It seems only natural that Natasha felt supported to carve her own career within the arts, performing, battling and facilitating workshops for the ever-growing community of movers and groovers.
When asking Natasha about the journey she has been on as a dancer and entrepreneur, she shares how "It hasn't been easy but it has been very rewarding. I have questioned myself here and there throughout this process because being in an art form that's very physical and the limitations of age that the commercial side of the dance world [impose on you] has you questioning yourself a lot". However, having recently turned 40, it is clear how Natasha is continuing to defy expectations by overcoming injuries and continuing to listen to what she wants in silence. By tuning in and staying open-minded to the different directions her work can take, she has learned how "When you are truly following your heart's passion, you find so many rewards in it! I'm failing a lot so I either try it again or I approach it in a different way, a different perspective or view." For Natasha, this has meant not giving up, letting go of things that don't serve her, and looking for new business adventures or collaborations along the way.
When you are truly following your heart's passion, you find so many rewards in it!
In the last 5 years, Natasha has been training in light feet which she says has made her reconnect with hip-hop dance after feeling a little lull that came with doing it for so long "There's something about light feet and the energy that's so contagious. It made me fall back in love and give me that fire and passion." Natasha points out how, with the pandemic, online classes become more readily available for people to catch onto the ever-evolving forms of street and hip-hop dance. From Chicago footwork to Memphis Jookin' and everything in between, Natasha reminds us how vast and wind the breadth of movement can be, as well as the history that influences each style.
Part of Natasha's process of reevaluating her dreams and goals has come with searching out ways to get more street dancers into theatres to perform. This is in parallel to her continual push to create more battles and events for the community, explaining how important dance can be for younger and older generations to connect with a passion and find a support system. Through her dance company Higher Ground, Natasha is providing more dancers with fuller programs, working with both professional dancers and beginners. She explains how, recently, she has developed different ways to teach people who may struggle to pick up choreography. By teaching them a variety of moves and endless encouragement, they are able to enjoy the magic of dancing and free-flowing movement without feeling a sense of discouragement. "I have a passion for inspiring people who think they couldn't dance or didn't like a dance - to be like, let's go!" Similarly, for professional dancers, Natasha explains how there are often these archetypes of how you are expected to move through your career. However, "if you're different from the rest and not following that path it's hard to find your way". Therefore, it is her hope to help up-and-coming freestylers, battle organizers, performers, and choreographers get to where they want to go.
I have a passion for inspiring people who think they couldn't dance or didn't like dance - to be like, let's go!
It's thanks to spots like Robson Square in Vancouver that has allowed dancers to come together and practice with fellow passionate movers and groovers of all abilities. This special space is also home to the Vancouver Street Dance festival; a three-day event for people to battle and compete, as well as take workshops run by judges who are professional dancers in their own right. Natasha plays a large role in this festival both individually and with her all-female dance crew Diamonds in the Rough.
Having run for 13 years, Natasha talks about how Diamonds in the Rough has helped shape her ideas surrounding feminism and what her gender means to her today. "A lot of times in street dance cultures, there is a lot of language against women in hip-hop music, it's really hard to get away from it." With this in mind, Natasha is trying to portray her own voice within the art and be secure enough in her identity not to be defined by what other people say is feminine and masculine. For Natasha, identifying with both sides is something she is embracing, encouraged by the fellow females in her crew. Formed of a diversity of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and global perspectives, Natasha describes how it is "really beautiful being in an all-female crew, seeing all the spectrums of feminity, masculinity, womanhood, motherhood, and identifying in different ways." It is with these women that Natasha has found ways to explore her own sensuality and Sassy side.
It's really beautiful being in an all-female crew, seeing all the spectrums of feminity, masculinity, womanhood, motherhood, and identifying in different ways
When discussing sassyness with Cyd Eva, Natasha tells us how, alongside fashion and dressing herself "loudly", her style of locking has also moved in a fresh direction, explaining how "when you have a funk track with a woman singing some soul, I'm letting out my sassy side." Watching how other women will move, especially at events such as Babes on Babes, (a Queer Weekend Long Jam), Natasha has also felt encouraged to explore this other side of herself.
It is with admiration that we step back and witness Natasha actively supporting a movement into more free forms of expression and play. Inspired by all that Natasha is doing for her community and beyond, helping run programs, classes, and free events throughout her area. As we leave this episode feeling inspired to move and groove, it is without a doubt that we know Natasha will continue to spread the Sass. Encouraging others to step into their potential and brighten up their days through dance, one step at a time.
Feminism means having the mindset of being able to do anything you set your mind to and it not being gender specific. Just doing it because you're human
When do u feel most confident?
Cyphering, and when I'm teaching
What key experience has shaped you positively?
My many failures
One dream you'd like to come true?
becoming a mother
One cause that's close to your heart?
Best thing about being you?
Name your Sassy tracklist
Leven Kali - EVERYTHING I WANT
Teon Gibbs & Chill Winston & Omar Khan - Prophet
Tiffany Gouché - Dive
Lex Leosis - Wanted
Lucky Daye - Over
Interview by Cyd Eva @cydeva
Podcast edit and article by Bethany Burgoyne @bxsassy2