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Creative spotlight: Leah Paterson

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Leah Paterson’s obsession with musical theatre led her to Edmonton where she completed MacEwan University’s theatre arts program in 2010. Her love for Edmonton’s arts community made her stay. She has been an integral part of the community ever since.

Having learnt the importance of making your own opportunities, which she attributes to her education at MacEwan, Paterson founded her own dance company, Synaethesis Dance Theatre. Paterson produced, directed, choreographed, co-choreographed, and designed soundscapes for each of their previous shows, all while gracing the stage with her presence and pirouettes. Paterson was trained as a dancer from a young age in Richmond, B.C. with a focus on classical ballet and jazz. She says of her dance company, “it’s a lot of work, but it is totally worth it,” and that, “it helps when you have a great team beside you.”

Synaethesis Dance Theatre has produced four shows for Edmonton’s International Fringe Festival. The first, Letters and Words, was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Production. For their most recent show, SWIPE, Paterson was nominated for Outstanding Direction of a Fringe Production.

Paterson has also performed professionally in musical productions in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Some highlights include Cats, All Shook Up, and Mack & Mabel.

After those performances, she returned to MacEwan to share her passion for dance as a continuing education program instructor, and as a communication studies student. After graduating in 2017, Paterson joined the award-winning marketing team at Explore Edmonton, where she says she gets “to work on ExploreEdmonton.com and write about all the unique and wonderful things going on in the city.”

After regular work hours, Paterson teaches adult drop-in classes at Motives Dance and Fitness and for Motives Dance Company, a post-secondary professional training program, both of which are run by Brett Bowser, another integral member of Edmonton’s arts community. When asked about teaching, Paterson said, “I love teaching adults. My favourite is when I meet students who are coming back to dance after not taking class or performing for a while — it’s so fun to be there as they rediscover their passion for this art form.” 

Paterson’s support is a key reason why her classes regularly sell out.

Though dance studios have re-opened after several months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Paterson admits that “the dance/performing climate is a little scary right now.” She says that she has “used this time to reset and reflect,” which she advises other dancers to do, as well as find and create new opportunities, introduce good habits like running and stretching, and continue to work on their artistry. “Sometimes when life throws you a curveball, it’s actually a gift,” she says.

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