Dancer back on the small screen
Arts: Former Okotokian Bree Wasylenko returns as Kate on The Next Step this month
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 03:23 pm
A former Okotokian is delighting dance enthusiasts with her reappearance on television screens around the world this month.
Twenty-five-year-old Bree Wasylenko returns as dance instructor Kate for the second season of the Family Channel’s Canadian dance drama The Next Step, and stopped briefly in Okotoks the week of the premiere (March 7) to visit family and teach an evening of classes on March 4 at the Alberta Dance Academy, where she got her start in dance 22 years ago.
“I think that for any dancer the first studio they dance at gives them a foundation for the rest of their dance career,” said Wasylenko, who now lives in Toronto. “I had such amazing training at Alberta Dance Academy. I don’t know if I could be where I am today if I hadn’t started there.”
Wasylenko is now a Canadian star, recognized and admired for her role as Kate.
“It’s good to be stopped by people and recognized and told how much they love the show and their kids love to dance because of The Next Step,” she said. “It’s really rewarding hearing all of that.”
Alberta Dance Academy owner Erica Hendry said there was a lot of excitement in the studio regarding Wasylenko’s appearance.
The fact Wasylenko had her start at the academy shows her students it’s possible for them to reach their dreams as well, said Hendry.
“It opened some students’ eyes that no matter who you are or where you are from that you can follow a dream,” she said. “The girls can see that it’s tangible. If they wanted to be a dancer or work as an actor or choreographer there is that possibility.”
Wasylenko spent her childhood training and competing in various forms of dance including ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, modern and hip hop.
“I think it’s so important for kids to be interested in dance no matter if it’s recreation or competitive,” she said. “It’s an amazing skill to have. It teaches you about yourself and your limits, how to work hard, how to work as a team.”
Wasylenko and many around her thought she would become a doctor like her parents, but in her final year of high school she decided to pursue dancing professionally.
“I decided at that point I would at least try and see what happens and luckily it has gone very well so far,” she said.
Wasylenko stayed in Calgary a year after graduating, teaching dance classes at studios and saving money for her move to Toronto, which provided better opportunities for dancers at the time.
There, she trained in many forms of dance under some of the best choreographers in Canada, appeared in music videos for such musicians as Carly Rae Jepsen and auditioned three times for the So You Think You Can Dance contest, she made it to the top 20 in her final year.
Then Wasylenko auditioned for a new television program called The Next Step among hundreds of other dancers. With no acting experience or training, Wasylenko made sure not to get her hopes up.
“You have to approach every audition with the attitude I’m going to do this for the fun of it,” she said. “No matter how good you are you might not be right for that show. You can’t say I’m going to get this or I’m going to die or you would be dying every week.”
Wasylenko was ecstatic when she got one of the lead roles in the show and finds the experience a great transition into acting.
Rather than be given lines, the actors are provided a story line and plot and improvise the dialogue, she said.
“The directors, writer and producers really wanted the show to be very authentic,” she said. “Because they wanted to hire dancers and most of us didn’t have much experience acting it’s easier to speak in our character in our own words (than) reciting lines we were given. For a lot of these dancers they are still in high school and this was their very first audition.”
When the series debuted on March 8 in 2013, it became Family Channel’s largest premier audience for any series with 574,500 viewers and was the number one program of that week in the 7 p.m. time slot, according to information provided by The Family Channel.
“We had a really good feeling the show was going to do well,” said Wasylenko. “I don’t think any of us expected us to do so well.”
The first season told the story of Kate taking over the dance studio from her mom and preparing her dancers for regionals, which they won at the end of the season. In the second season, Wasylenko said her character is preparing her students for nationals.
She said the show is more about just dancing, it portrays relationships between the dancers and Kate is often the last to find out about it.
“The ongoing joke is I don’t know what’s going on in my own studio,” she said. “Things are brought to me at the last minute where it’s gotten so out of control where the parental figure has to fix it and make things better.”
Filming for the second season took place last summer and the season consists of 26 episodes.
New episodes of The Next Step will air Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT.