If you are just tuning in…Thanks! This blog is a haphazard auto-biography of how Dustin Anderson discovered the treasure of performing for children as the Purple Pirate….now on with the entry!
Toronto is a big concrete jungle!
Before I left Edmonton, Brian Webbs’ , manager told me to call a former National Ballet dancer, Micheal Downing, that did had his own dance company, Dance Front. I called him when I got to Toronto and he had a show coming up and hired me over the telephone. He was interested in the tricks and gymnastic training.
The gig itself was great. It was physical and fun. Some very skilled dancers involved in the work as well. I felt like part of the community right away. Rehearsals were difficult as I had to learn the choreography from the side. I surpassed my expectations of myself and learned everything.
I stayed with my mother for a short period of time when I first arrived but it was uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to connect with my mother at that time. I still didn’t understand the sacrifice and struggle she had as a single mother. She welcoming and helpful but it wasn’t ideal for anyone. With the help of a friend, Marie Jose Chartier I got to sublet an apartment from another dancer that was out of town. It was 122 steps west of St. Laurence market…an awesome location.
I found Toronto exciting, welcoming and intimidating all at the same time. There was a lot of great dance happening and I was both inspired and insecure about my skill and place in that community. I felt like an outsider and felt that if I made a mistake I could wind up on the street as I had no safety net there….and there were many homeless people on Younge street.
I got a part time job at a swank restaurant on Bay St. but that didn’t last as I needed schedule flexibility to perform. Working for minimum wage has never appealed to me so I started to look for work as a costume character like I did as a teenager. I contacted agencies and connected with a man named Birthday Party Doug.
I was impressed that Doug Tannahill was earning a great living performing for children’s birthday parties. Doug would hire me to perform with him as a duo and performing with him for a children’s audience was fun. The seed of performing for children was planted….
Doug was/is kind, funny and taught me my first balloon dog. He gave me my purple Doc Martin shoes and even planted the seed about children’s’ fascination with pirate. He was/is flamboyant and loves Anne Murray….I mean really loves Anne Murray.
I was still growing up emotionally and when I was acting childish and angry he would ask me “is it better to be right or to be kind? ” It took until about 5 years ago that I truly understood the power and accuracy of that statement. It is liberating to be comprehending these valuable life lessons.
The looming grayness of an impending real Canadian winter and fear of an Ontario deepfreeze is clear in my mind. It might have been that I was missing the trees and green of my home but none the less it was intimidating. My sublet was also coming to an end and I didn’t know what to do. A friend of mine told me of an audition (des ja vous!) for a cruise ship based in Miami so I showed up. I was injured at the time but did what I could finished it off with a back flip. Maybe there is a grand lesson about backflips and success because I got the gig….hmmm.
In 2 weeks I would be flying out of a Canadian winter and to the sunshine of the Caribbean….with many more life lessons to learn….