Meet Dasha Schwartz. She’s a ballet dancer, choreographer, NYU masters student and all around girl boss.
Schwartz is the founder of Cardboard Stage, an online platform for artists to connect and collaborate with one another. Although her passion is for dance, the project is inclusive of artists from other fields like music, art and theatre.
On Nov. 9, Cardboard Stage hosted an event in collaboration with The Underground Dance Centre at We Work on Richmond Street W. A few hours into the event, a classical ballet trio emerged out of nowhere. They chasséd through the cocktail party with ease, eventually making their way to a clearing in the space where the three women performed a piece choreographed by Schwartz. The routine was followed by a hip hop trio choreographed by Xavier Tu, a teacher at The Underground Dance Centre.
We caught up with Schwartz to talk about creating Cardboard Stage, living in New York and collaborating with other artists.
“I started at Canada’s Nation Ballet School at the professional program, but I have been dancing since I was 5 taking recreational classes. I joined the full-time program when I was 10 and then I stayed there until I graduated in Grade 12.”
What led you to create Cardboard Stage?
“Since I am in the ballet world, initially I started it with the intention of making performance arts more accessible. I was dancing in Europe at the time and I just felt that ballet wasn’t appealing to younger audiences. You have to spend $100 to go buy a ticket and you’re not really sure if you are going to like it. I started creating pieces on my own and bringing them to unconventional spaces like galleries and on the streets, just so I could bring it to other people who wouldn’t normally get to experience a ballet. When I was in that process I found it really hard to find other artists that I wanted to collaborate with. For me that is the best part about being an artist is meeting other passionate, interesting people I want to work with and be inspired by. I started Cardboard Stage as a platform to meet and connect with people so that I could collaborate on projects.”
What kind of inspiration does New York give you?
“Everyone is always going somewhere. The rhythm of the city and the momentum is so motivating and inspiring. Dancing and living in the city has always been my dream. I get inspired by how people communicate themselves to the world without speaking. Body language and fashion is really inspiring to me.”
Did you always see yourself running a company?
“I have always been really ambitious and have always assumed a leadership role in whatever I do. I have a really hard time pushing my control because in a dance company there is always a director on top of you telling you what to do. I have always had my own voice and communicated the way that I want to. I didn’t like being one of many, I always wanted to be the star. In a sense yes, I didn’t expect it to be this path, but I had that personality.”
What has Cardboard Stage taught you about working with others in creative industries?
“In New York, where there are so many people. It seems weird, but it is actually hard to build real connections because everybody is so busy and doing their own thing. In terms of bridging the gap between people to work on innovative projects, networking can be hard. I really wanted to build those connections [for people], and then from there they can foster their own innovative projects.”
Do you have any networking tips for millennials?
“For me, I’m a yes person. I have always been really gung-ho about pretty much anything. I think it is really easy to just stay home. People are willing to help, but you have to put yourself out there. If you don’t, you are missing out on such a huge opportunity.”
Where do you turn to for inspiration?
“I think that a lot of inspiration comes from your outlook on life. You can go down the street and not really take anything from it, or choose to look and feel. My friends are all doing really exciting things, and I just love surrounding myself with people who are passionate about what they are doing because even if it is not what I am interested in, it is still so exciting and get so much motivation and drive to do it as well. My boyfriend is a composer, so I like working with him as well. The piece tonight, he composed the music for. It’s a nice partnership because I get to work with someone who is also creating, so we created it together.”
What do you believe are important ingredients for a successful creative collaboration?
“I think that open-mindedness is always number well. Sometimes, initially when you work with someone you think that it doesn’t really match your vision, but it ends up being super exciting and adds different elements. A collaboration is a collaboration for a reason. You have to give and take. I’d say be open to new experiences and possibilities.”
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