This article was originally published in our Winter 2022 print issue as part of the To Our Teachers series.
I want to tell you about a dance teacher I met over Zoom at the beginning of the pandemic. His name is Marc Kimelman: a Canadian-born choreographer living in New York City and working on Broadway. When lockdown happened, I found online dance classes through Toronto Online Dance Collective. I was captivated from the minute I logged in to Marc’s advanced/intermediate theatre jazz class. He was in Toronto when COVID triggered the border closings, so he taught from his brother’s basement. There was a huge screen behind him where, for some reason, images of marine wildlife floated by. After warm-up, he taught a combination. His choreography and impeccable musicality complemented the lyrics and the feeling the song evoked. He emphasized the emotional components but was hysterically funny and playful.
His class had an $8 suggested donation. Marc donated a portion of the proceeds to a not-for-profit arts organization. His classes usually welcomed around 90 participants, more than most other classes I tried, learning intricate choreography and dancing with release. He showed vulnerability and gave us permission to follow. One dancer called it “emotional cardio.” It became known as #ClubKimelman or #ClubK; we met at the club every Thursday. But that’s not the whole story…
[Kimelman] showed vulnerability and gave us permission to follow. One dancer called it ’emotional cardio.’Simon
After class he posted a short video of himself dancing on his Instagram story. He encouraged us to post one too, but at first I thought there was no way I would do it. I’m not a professional dancer – just a dancing professional who has a passion for movement. Dance has always been a healing art form for me. It helped me greatly when I went through cancer treatment. I discovered Marc is a cancer survivor too, and it wasn’t long before I posted my first video. Marc was so supportive in his feedback. He made me feel good about my ability, movement and performance. I really felt seen by him. He took time after each class to comment on and repost our videos. We watched one another’s dance videos and cheered each other on. Each dancer brought something unique to the choreography. It was amazing to witness. We became something bigger and more formidable than our individual selves. That’s what Marc created: a healing circle of friends, made up of professional and non-professional dancers.
Marc celebrates authenticity. “Don’t worry about the steps anymore. Just dance it and feel it!” he says. Surprisingly, my friends on Instagram applauded my dance videos. They encouraged me to keep going and said it brought them so much joy. And I did so for over a year, putting myself out there. Marc’s classes were more than a source of joy in an uncertain period. They were a silver lining in the pandemic and a time of personal growth for me.
Marc now teaches hybrid in-person/Zoom classes in New York City. Marc isn’t just my dance teacher. He’s a friend and mentor. I was lucky to meet him in person before he moved back to New York. They say you should never meet your heroes. They are wrong. You definitely should.