Dancer Profile: Tara Williamson (Campbell)

Do we even have time to talk about at the reasons we love Tara? She is intelligent, kind, and ready to throw herself into anything. She keeps it real, but will also catch you off guard with her quick humor. We were excited to sit down at the cool kids table and have a chat with this sophisticated lady.

C: Please introduce yourself.

TW: My life description? (laughs) I was three when I started dancing because I was bonkers in the kitchen so my parents wanted to put me in something. When I was nine I moved to the Richmond Academy, and stayed at that school until I was 17. I had great friends and training there so I didn’t feel like I needed to go elsewhere. It is a great school and I still go back now to teach there. I did The Banff Centre Summer Program when I was 16 and 17, and that’s where I met Sabrina Matthews, who was a principal dancer with Alberta Ballet at the time. She connected me with the Artistic Director, Jean Grand-Maître.

I loved my time there. I was cast well, danced all the time and got to work with so many wonderful people. After eight years at Alberta I knew I was ready for a change. I needed something different and challenging in a different way unlike a classical full-length ballet. So I joined Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal (BJM).

A: When did Ballet BC enter your mind? When did you meet Emily?

TW: I first worked with Emily when I was 19. She created Carmina Burana for the company in Alberta. Then, a few years later, she came to create Songs of a Wayfarer, which is when I really got to work closely with her. We kind of kept in touch over the years. I contacted her when I was thinking of leaving Alberta and maybe going back to Vancouver. But I decided to take the job at BJM. It was important to me that I expand my horizons before coming home. She was really lovely about it. Then after a year I got in touch with her again and the timing was right and I joined Ballet BC. She killed me in the audition! It was amazing. I thought I should probably bring pointe shoes to the audition just in case, and then suddenly we were learning Herman Schmerman, after I had not danced on pointe for a year! It just ripped me to shreds and I loved it. I knew this is what I needed to be doing.

A: BJM is primarily a touring company and so you spent most of that last season on the road, but traveling is something you really enjoy, right? Could you tell us about that? Where did you go, and what did you love?

TW: Actually, my first big trip was with my husband Drew and we went backpacking through Europe together. Once I got a taste of travelling like that, I was sold. I fell in love with meeting all different kinds of people and experiencing their cultures.

C: Is that where you got so good at finding different places in the city? I was blown away when we went on tour that in every place we went you already had a list of spots to try and things to do. I mean we were in New Brunswick in this tiny town but you still somehow knew about a cute cafe we had to go to.

TW: (laughs) Well there is something good everywhere. When I lived in Calgary and Montreal, I used to go to coffee shops all over the city and just sit there for hours and watch people and write. I like to imagine what these strangers are going through. Also, not knowing anything about them but still letting there be space to be inspired by them is really fascinating. I find a lot of inspiration in just sitting, observing, and writing.

When I started to travel a lot it became important to me to have a special place I could go and hang out. I would do a lot of investigating to find a place. That way I got to see the city and people, get to know them, and feel more connected to the place I was visiting. I love little hole in the wall places that I feel I can really meet the local people. I love searching for the little spots because you never know what you are going to get; could be the best thing ever.

A: What fascinates you about people watching?

TW: I care about not judging people at a first glance. As I watch someone and try to understand who they are I am also very aware that I don’t know their full story. I think I learned that from my little brother, who has down-syndrome. To me he is the greatest person on earth. When we were younger it bugged me a lot when I would see people only able to see him one way while I knew that there was so much more to him.

C: That is super beautiful. Being able to recognize so early on that people have different realities and perspectives probably made you a much more conscientious and empathetic person. I think people watching could very easily become an activity that is all about snap judgments. For you it sounds like the opposite. We both know from working with you everyday that you are incredibly sensitive and patient with people. Is people watching a way that you practice reading people but without judgment?

TW: This might sound “fromage” but it’s the truth. I care a lot about other people’s well being. People that I am close with I care that they are in a good head space and if they need support I like to be there for them. That makes me happy. I don’t like cluttering people. I think once again that is from my brother because he can’t really speak, but in a way I know what he is saying. I have learned to kind of read him in another way. I think it has helped me read other people with things like body language and tone of voice. I really don’t like over crowding people either.

A: You love spending time alone, but also it seems pretty easy for you to talk to strangers and be warm and inviting without making anyone feel uncomfortable. Would you then consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

TW: A little bit of both. I find when I make the effort to be more extroverted with people they surprise me. Sometimes in really great ways, and sometimes disappointing. Either way I think it’s worth the effort, and I get excited by those experiences. I don’t want to shelter myself from the world and being with other people and sharing is part of being alive. It creates situations. I also consider myself introverted because I like to be by myself. I think that is very important. I like to check in with myself and allow myself to be emotional and dramatic. Only on the inside, I hate it when I am dramatic outside.

A: Do you have a favorite restaurant here in Vancouver?

TW: Shoot I should have thought about this. Umm, I have been to L’Abbatoir twice for a special meal and it was incredible. I love the decor in there they have this massive brick wall and amazing lighting it feels very homey. The people there are very nice and down to earth, but that is for sure a special occasion restaurant. Chau is one of my faves, I really like it because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. I love the Gastown vibe and a lot of the restaurants there.

C: What excites you about an exposed brick wall?

TW: Design wise I love Provencal/rustic-chic. It’s both classic and comforting. I guess when I see one, I think of eating pizza out of an oven in Italy. I don’t know I just love the look. It’s homey and cozy. I like how you can see the work that went into laying them. I just love an exposed brick wall… I guess I enjoy finding patterns in still things.

A: Okay that is a really interesting statement. What kind of patterns do you see?

TW: I’m a daydreamer. I can be very internal like that. I enjoy creating something in an unexpected context. Or seeing something as more than it is, with more complexity and possibility. I can just let my mind wonder on that path. I guess it’s the same reason I like people watching.

C: Do you think you try to apply that way of thinking to your work as well?

TW: I think it’s built into me now. I also use my work as another way to learn about people. I give others space in the most positive way that I can, to allow for that possibility.

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-C&A Consulting Artists

Photo by Michael Slobodian.