“My goal is
just to make
the whole world
~ Ryan Morisette
“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”
– Chinese Proverb
This is definitely one of my favourite quotes because it continues to remind me of the power of our own inner strength, despite the obstacles we might face. But what I love the most is meeting people who prove to be amazing examples of this- those individuals who, because of their own will, passion, and courage, manage to go beyond what they might normally be thought capable of doing, and then often inspire others to do the same.
Little did I know that one of these individuals, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently, would be a young teen- Ryan Morrissette. Ryan, a member of the hip hop crew Freshh, is a talented, charismatic dancer whose energy is well, … contagious, to say the least. His hard hits, quick and clean moves, and overall enthusiasm on stage definitely draw the attention of his audiences. But even off stage, Ryan seems to often be found smiling and sharing a positivity with friends and strangers alike that is truly refreshing. So when I heard that this young dancer has been dealing with a serious health condition since the age of two, I couldn’t believe it. You’d just never know that Ryan has Cystic Fibrosis if you saw him out there – the way he always seems to be giving it his all- whether on stage dancing, or co-emceeing and event, or just hanging out with his friends.
But that’s what Ryan does- he gives his utmost to this passion he has for dance, and to life in many ways, it seems. In fact, rather than letting CF stop him from pursuing his love of dance, Ryan uses dance as a way to heal his condition and to reach others out there to remind them to live life to the fullest. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to do a lot of cardiovascular exercise,” says Ryan. But if you saw him out there, training, leaping, doing flips and tricks- well, Ryan has pushed through many physical obstacles that might otherwise cause another person in his shoes to not even attempt any of it. And that kind of perseverance is extraordinary . Continue reading
“Ever since I was five, maybe even younger, I guess you could say my parents saw the dancer inside me. They’d walk into the room and I’d always be trying to do headstands or backflips on their bed. So they said, “Why not dance?”
They enrolled me in classes, and I took to it and I just fell in love with it.
The dancers I look up to are bboys in general. Bboys and breakers all have their own style. They all have their own flow. It’s the way they dance and express how they feel, and just their moves in general, that is so great. That’s hard to achieve now, since there’s Youtube and all that. You have everyone coming up with the same style, the same kind of flow. But with breakers, they keep it original, and that’s what inspires me.”
-Devan Isaac- age 15
-member of The Freshh Crew
“The way I got into dance was through watching movies and TV shows. I’d see all the mainstream dancing and I thought it was really cool. So I started dancing and training. And sure, it sucks sometimes when I make plans with my friends from school and then I remember I can’t hang out with them because I have dance practice. But then, once I come to dance, well, I kind of forget about those other plans because dance is so much fun.
The feeling I get from dancing, well, I can’t really explain it. It’s always different. I could be happy, I could be sad. But each time I dance, it makes me feel really good about myself. It just makes my day. And in our crew, we get to share that feeling with each other, as a family. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Because even though we’ve reached a high level, there are others out there who are better than us. And we don’t want to just stay at the same level. We want to get better too and be good role models. ”
– Justin Nicolas – Age 15- member of The Freshh Crew
“I started dancing, as a bboy first. Back then, in 1984, there was no Youtube, nothing like that. We would just see something on commercials or on TV – some breakdancing moves- and dancing looked like a positive way for us to channel our energy.
That’s how we got started, and maybe also because we thought it would help us get the girls at first (laughs). But later, you realize there is so much more to it. And when you get into dancing so deep, it becomes your passion.
I love dance, but it is the pioneers of Hip Hop who really inspire me. Crazy Legs, The Rock Steady Crew, and all the others who, despite the criticism they faced from everyone that didn’t believe in hip hop and breakdancing at the time, just kept going with it.
If it wasn’t for those guys who paved the way for us, those artists who constructed the highway for us, we wouldn’t be enjoying what we enjoy right now.”
-Cezar Tantoko- dancer, coach and choreographer
Creator of Fresh Groove Productions
(To begin at Part 1 – “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined“- click here)
What has stood out to me about your dancing is that it is much deeper than just steps. You have that heart and passion for it….
SOUL! It’s called SOUL, baby! (smiles).
Yes, exactly (laughs)! So did you grow up with lots of music and dancing in your family? Where did that SOUL (smiles) come from?
Well, yes, we did listen to A LOT of music. And my sister –Irene Otero- and my brother – Ismael Otero – are six and seven years older than me. So imagine, when I was seven, they were in their teens. What do you think they were blasting? – Music EVERYWHERE. They were really into breakdancing and all that crazy stuff. And with the dancing, well, my brother and sister used to battle- in breakdancing battles, on the street. And THEY WERE BAD ASS! My sister was a beast! Don’t mess with her. Don’t even try (laughs). The way she is now in salsa is the way she was then in breakdancing, and of course, my brother too. They were the best. And I was the little sister. And so for me, oh my God, that was all normal to me (smiles). It was what I grew up with.
So at a certain point, did you start taking formal classes in any type of dance at all?
I’ve never taken formal dance classes except for learning salsa from my brother. My brother learned from Luis Zegarra, ‘cause Luis lived upstairs from us and we grew up with him. And then my brother decided to start doing his own thing. And I would just go hang out, ‘cause salsa was not my thing, in the beginning. But I learned the basics, and I caught on very quickly. Within the first three months, I was winning competitions with my brother. It was unbelievable- me and my brother were on a rampage, taking over the WORLD, just winning competitions, street-style. No rehearsals. None of that stuff. It felt like it was in us already.
But it’s not until NOW that I notice that I had a talent. The way I look at my videos now, I never looked at them like that before. So I’m kind of looking at them with different eyes now.
Wow. That must be interesting for you.
It is. It is. And I’m in awe, because I never realized I had talent then. I was grateful that people enjoyed watching me. But I never understood why. I just enjoyed dancing. You know, I never did it for attention. I’m gonna be honest, my intentions were NEVER to be in the public eye because I AM a private person. And I am a little shy, believe it or not (smiles).
And I’m learning about myself through all this stuff that I’m going through now with the MS. I didn’t really know that I had impacted so many people. And it makes me feel good right now. It makes me feel amazing to see so many people write me- oh my God- so many emails! And it’s too much for me to even respond to. That’s why I like that I’m even doing this interview, because people will also get to know me a little better through this. Up until now, they know me for my name, but they don’t know my story or who I really am.
“I got inspired to dance because of my brother. Him and his friends- they had a dance group and they didn’t really have a place to practise, so they practised in our garage. I’d sit down and just watch them and thought it was really cool. And then I’d find myself in the mirror, trying to bust a move or two myself (smiles).
But yeah, why dance? As you mature, as you grow up in this environment, what people don’t really understand is that Dance is an art. Like in a painting, people paint how they feel, right? Well, in dance, your choreography, or just how you freestyle, could depend on your emotions, how you feel inside too. Dance also builds your self- confidence. You become more confident in what you do, in dance, and in other parts of your life too.
And even if we can inspire just one person to take a dance class or something, well, that’s all we ever really wanted to do as a team, I think. It’s not always really about winning competitions or being high class dancers. It’s just about showing that we do honestly care about a lot of people out there. And we hope that what we do can help them in the future.”
– Gabriel Galedo – Age 14- member of The Freshh Crew
“There are so many kids, especially teenagers, that can get
really down on themselves and are not able to express how they really feel. To be a dancer is to have that outlet to really express yourself however you’re feeling at the time. How you’re moving, and the story you want to tell, can be portrayed through dance. And I think to have that is TRULY AN HONOUR. And you get to spend that time being around friends too. You get to share that experience amongst other people that feel the exact same way. It’s remarkable to have that.” – Zac Vran – Age 16
“The reason I started dance goes back to when I was very little- about four years old. There was a mall by my house, and whenever my mom would go grocery shopping, there would be this this big window nearby. And I’d always run away from my mom and go stand in front of the window to watch the breakdancing classes going on inside. I had a lot of energy, so my mom asked, “Do you want to try it out?” And I just got into it really fast.
Dance was more than just a hobby for me. Right from the beginning, I really looked forward to going to class. I played sports and stuff, which is fun, but it’s not the same. There’s just a different environment and a different vibe when you’re in a dance class compared to when you’re playing basketball, or football, or soccer or whatever. So why do I dance? I just kind of fell in love with it right away.”