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2018 Grantee Profile: Pretty Wings

Spread your wings to fly and you will take flight. Fly to the stage and express your story and the emotions that come with it. Let your wings be seen; no matter the span, size, colour, or feather, you will move the audience with your routine. I wanted to spread my wings, as I witnessed the dancers; feeling the emotion present in their dance moves, wanting to unleash my inner feelings. Spending time with the group sparked in me a deep sense of humility, friendship, support, connection, and love. During this time, we were all one.

The Pretty Wings: STAGES Dance Mentorship Project has brought together a group of young women who self-identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ2A+, survivors of abuse, or as facing/faced mental health challenges. Participants have been individually coached from a trauma-informed perspective so that dance can be used as a mechanism to share one’s personal narrative. Repeatedly, this has shown to be healing in and of itself. One participant shared, “The Pretty Wings project help(ed) me a lot as a person ... to believe in myself. I have gained self-confidence; but, it has also helped me to discover different feelings (good ones and others that are not so easy to understand). It gives me the capacity to create and experiment with new movements with my body, so I will be able to express (myself) more naturally”.

In meeting with Jena and Cassey, the co-directors of the project, they spoke to the importance of individuals being able to understand their physical bodies, and the many ways emotion, stress and trauma can manifest within them . They mentioned how dancers can best connect to their authentic movement by understanding and connecting to their bodies and narratives. A participant explains, “Pretty Wings was an even bigger life changer than I initially pictured it to be. Just the opportunity to work on my own dance piece and have a voice through it was enough for me to look forward to the healing that would come along with it. With Jena’s help and support, the group meet ups and time and effort on my part, I was not only capable of coming up with a piece but I was able to find a way to face a part of me that I didn’t know was there. The experience was beautiful in every way and I can honestly say it is one of the best experiences in my life. I will forever be thankful to everyone at Pretty Wings for their support and time.”

And, this year, the support has extended. Beyond the one-on-one sessions, the collective piece is a new addition to this stage of the program. Within the group, participants are encouraged to share their personal narratives; and, from there, collective themes of experience and support organically emerge. These themes have been fused together in their choreographed piece. I was lucky enough to experience one of these rehearsals and the emotions and healing displayed through the facial and bodily expressions of the dancers were tangible. Certainly, many of them were clearly connected with their inner selves - something I realized early on from the sheer warm welcome I received upon my arrival.

Thanks to Steps Dance Studio, Toronto Art Council, ArtReach’s contributions, Pretty Wings had the opportunity to help their flock to fly - and there is no doubt that you will, too! There will be many more birds and butterflies in the sky, dancing and soaring, thanks to Pretty Wings!

Learn more about their amazing work and upcoming opportunities at

Join Pretty Wings for their showcase entitled “The Graduation” on Saturday June 15th, at the space of their community sponsor: Steps Dance Studio (819 Yonge St. - 3rd floor).


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