A Toronto Transformation

5-9: From the Desk to the Dance Floor

From the desk to the dancefloor - Bo Lam is not defined by her 9-5Photo by Taylor Aikins

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

I first encountered Bo Lam long before I actually met her. She was performing in a wonderful piece choreographed by my friend Irene. It was a gorgeous piece with four terrifically skilled dancers. Bo stood out for her fluidity of movement, and her distinct graceful energy that made it impossible to take your eyes off her when she danced.

The first time I actually met her, she was one of the friendly faces behind the counter at Barreworks, the magical place that has kept me a fit, sane person who actually looks forward to her workouts for almost 3 years now.

While her 9-5 is at least part of the same world as her passion, Bo says she still answers the question “What do you do?” with “I’m a dancer.”

“Depending on the context, this answer is usually followed by a series of justifications and explanations: no, not the exotic type; no, it certainly doesn’t pay all of my bills; yes, I have a ‘day job’; yes, it’s a crazy pursuit!”

Answering the question with her 5-9 passion, rather than her day job title means that people who ask that question do get a good sense of what kind of person she is. Or at least they do once she’s given them a rundown of what the title of Professional Dancer entails. “For me, this includes: working for an entertainment company (performing at private and corporate events), adjudicating dance competitions, working as a freelance choreographer and teacher (from weddings to full-day workshops), and working as a freelance dancer (from mainstream gigs like the MMVA’s to independent, creative projects),” she explains.

“In addition, I am incredibly lucky to be the Assistant Manager of a beautiful, boutique fitness studio called Barreworks. This provides me with the stability, and financial security, to choose the work I wish to devote time to. Not to mention gorgeous studio space!! Once all of this is explained, I do think that people have a greater understanding of the kind of person I am! I am goal-oriented and creative, I am capable of juggling multiple jobs and managing my time accordingly.”

While all that juggling keeps her busy, it’s Bo’s love of dance (obvious to any who have the good fortune to see her on stage) that sustains her. “I am passionate about dance – about teaching and sharing dance, about healing with and through dance, about the physicality, power, entertainment, and escape that dance provides. The feeling I get when I dance is my inspiration. The amount of freedom…it’s the closest thing to real magic. I can’t live without it.”

Bo says her day job at Barreworks is the perfect fit for her, as it gives her the flexibility to create, it can be difficult to find balance in her days, not to mention the energy to get it all done. Visualization is key. “It is so hard. It really helps to have people holding me accountable. I love deadlines and a wee bit of intimidation! I try to post little things on my social media, so that my progress is public,” she says.

“I find that encourages me to push forward. I always try to do a little bit every day. Sometimes, it’s as small as watching a rehearsal video of a choreographer I admire or journaling. I also need to have a very clear vision of exactly what I want. What is my end goal? I visualize down to the smallest detail exactly what I want to achieve, and that keeps me working hard to get there.”

And how will she know when she’s reached that end goal? Well for now, she says, success means making strides in her artistic development and pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.  “It’s about all the small successes – reaching deadlines, completing grant and festival applications, creating movement sequences and setting choreography – that will add up to big success and fulfillment by the end of the year.”

Bo’s advice for anyone who doesn’t find fulfillment in their 9-5, but isn’t sure how to go about discovering what inspires them outside of it is to start with some personal reflection.

“Start with a little journaling,” she says. “What kinds of activities did you enjoy growing up? What were your favourite classes at school? What kind of games did you play with your friends? There are so many opportunities in this city to volunteer, take a night course, craft your creativity and find your passion! Think about what you have to offer this world, what you want your legacy to be, and then dive in!”

Bo is currently using her passion for dance to run a series of free dance workshops for inner-city Toronto youth. If you’re in the city March 20th, stop by Ganzi Osteria and enjoy a night of “music for movement” in support of Bo’s program. Event details here.

Want to know more about Bo and her upcoming projects? Check out her dance collective’s website: miscellumdance.com, or follow her on Twitter and instagram.

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