Small stage, big moves



Peter Chu might as well be Canadian. He loves Vancouver and keeps coming back to work with companies like Kidd Pivot and be a part of shows like Dances for a Small Stage.

“I’ve danced and worked for Canadian companies my whole career. It’s hard sometimes coming back to the US,” said Chu. The creative team he works with as part of his own company, chuthis, is made up of many Canadians including costume designer Linda Chow and composer Jean-François (Djeff) Houle. His management and PR team is also based in Vancouver.

The upcoming Dances for a Small Stage 30 is a Valentine’s Day themed evening of dance by artists like Noam Gagnon, Karissa Barry, Lina Fitzner, and Jim Hibbard. Chu will be reprising his solo “Someone to Dance With,” which seems to fit the theme very well. In this solo, danced to “Superman” by Five for Fighting, Chu’s character carries a single red rose around as he looks for a dance partner. “I love the music,” said Chu, “the character is really endearing — he’s trying to find his someone to dance with. He has a sense of hope.”

Chu was first involved with Dances for a Small Stage when MovEnt artistic director Julie-anne Saroyan asked him to do a solo in 2008. That was for Small Stage 18, and Chu performed “Someone to Dance With.” In 2012 he performed his company’s full-length show, Nothing Sticks, for Small Stage 26. At that time, Stacey Tookey was part of chuthis, and now they are both back at Small Stage for the latest edition. Tookey and Chu have also worked together on So You Think You Can Dance, and he said they have a long-standing friendship. “It’s nice to work with people you respect and who are your friends,” he said.

“The character is really endearing — he’s trying to find his someone to dance with. He has a sense of hope.”

So You Think You Can Dance is a different beast,” said Chu, “I enjoyed my experience there, it gave me an opportunity to create in a different way. It’s a different realm than concert dance,” he said. “I learned that I like the process and development stage of new work. With TV, there’s not a lot of time to manage the creation.” The caliber of dancers on the show is very high, but Chu said that it’s harder to create on dancers you don’t know.

Despite that, Chu was one of the only choreographers on SYTYCD to do a warm up with the dancers before getting into the choreography. “I was still able to coach and train them a bit — they said that never happens,” Chu explained. “I’m an advocate for education and training, taking care of the body. There’s something to be said for warming up as a group.” In 2012 Chu choreographed the top 8 group dance, and in 2013 the top 16 group dance with Stacey Tookey. “It was nice because my pieces didn’t have to be judged,” he said with a laugh.

Other than working in TV and performing at Small Stage, Chu will be a company member with Kidd Pivot when they present Tempest Replica in Vancouver this March, and he’s also working on some new material for chuthis. “I work best multi-tasking,” he said, “I’m very organized — sometimes probably too organized.”

He maintains his sanity by taking at least one hour a day to take care of himself and do something like a pilates class. Loving the work he’s doing makes things easier though: “I spend a lot of time and work on research and development — that keeps me calm and sane.” He also credits his management team, Laura Murray Public Relations, with helping him stay on track. “I have a hard time saying no, but you can only do so much. It’s about finding that balance,” said Chu.

Coming to Vancouver, he finds a great sense of community: “I’m really looking forward to performing with all the artists and being in the Vancouver community. Vancouver feels like a second home almost.”

Dances for a Small Stage 30 will be presented from February 13 to 15 at the Ukrainian Centre. For more information, visit