Meet Tara Cheyenne, Artistic Director of Tara Cheyenne Performance

I have had the absolute pleasure of working with Tara for the past three years in my day job, Associate Director of New Works here in Vancouver. At least once a week she’s in the office, stroller in tow, to meet with her GM Janice, and get down to the business of running an amazing dance theatre company. She’s a ray of fresh, real sunshine, and always make you laugh. I’m so delighted that Tara is our newest interview on the site today – read on and don’t forget to see her next performance in a week!

P&H: What were you doing before establishing Tara Cheyenne Performance?

TC: I had been dancing for many of Vancouver’s amazing choreographers, collaborating with interdisciplinary artists, and starting to make solo work. I knew I needed to incorporate to gain access to more funding and to have administrative support. Doing it all by myself was super hard. Chick Snipper, Artistic Director of DSB Dance was in the process of transitioning away from running her company, but she didn’t want all the work she’d done to simply dissolve, so she very generously handed the company over to me – now, of course called Tara Cheyenne Performance.

P&H: What was your trigger to follow this career path?

TC: I started dancing at 2.5 years old. Little did my feminist visual artist mother know, when she took me to see the Nutcracker, that I’d go apeshit and demand a tutu. I’ve always been doing this in some way. Making costumes for my own creation in grade 4, or working on jokes and moves with my 5 year old son now. There have been moments when I thought I should pursue a more “practical” career, but it would be like giving up oxygen.

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P&H: Where do you get your inspiration from?

TC: People. I watch people, listen to their conversations, interview people about what they’re thinking. I’ll never run out of inspiration. We are all so strange, beautiful, unique, and similar. Also NPR and comics like Maria Bamford – she’s amazing!

P&H: What role does social media play in your business?

TC: Social media is a primary means of getting the word out about shows, workshops, tours. We really don’t do a lot of postering anymore.

P&H: Do you involve your son in your work at all?

TC: Oh yes! He tours with us. My husband Marc Stewart is my composer, so we are a family of show folk. My son helps a lot actually. He tapes down the dance floor, changes the colour gels for the lights, and when I tour with an ensemble piece, he likes to go up to each dancer to ask if they need anything. I expect he’ll be asking for a paycheque soon.

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P&H: How important is it that your son takes on or plays a part in your company when he’s older?

TC: He won’t have a choice for a while, but it’s fine with me either way. I wonder if he’ll have had enough of the performing art world?

P&H: What has been your biggest challenge running your own company?

TC: Time! There is so much to do administratively, and I really just want to be in the studio creating. My manager Janice Beley is a marvel, and I couldn’t do this without her, but it’s a juggling act. Also, working in the arts has its challenges – ha!

P&H: What is the hardest part in maintaining the work/life balance?

TC: Turning off my *!*?!!** devices and unplugging. There’s always something to do: grants, reports, contracts, Netflix 😉 I think I need more time in nature…I’ll put that on my ‘to do’ list.

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P&H: What does success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?

TC: Success is really a day by day sort of idea for me. Being in the studio, working with incredible performers and designers feels amazing. I feel so privileged to do what I do. Being on stage is home to me, and of course getting laughs.

P&H: What advice would you have wanted to know 5, 10, or 15 years ago?

TC: I would say to put less emphasis on comparing myself…but then, that probably helped me in some ways. I guess “enjoy the ride” is the thing I always come back to. Appreciate what you can do, who is in your life, appreciate failure because it’s not a set back it’s a road map. Don’t wait so long to have a baby.

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You can see Tara this September 29th & 30th at the Roundhouse Arts Centre, in her wildly successful, and hilarious show, Porno Death Cult, which kicks off the New Works Season each night at 8pm.

Click here for tickets.

First four photos by Wendy D Photography. Last photo by Mickey Meads, for Highgate.

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