Ryerson Alumna Dances in PanAm Ceremonies | Student Profile: Caryn Chappell

In this year’s Pan Am Games, hosted right here in Toronto, Ryerson represented from the stage to the podium. Athletes from our university competed, won and took home some serious bling (2 bronze and a gold, to be exact!) But even before the medals were handed out, Ryerson put on a show as dance grad Caryn Chappell performed for an audience of millions at the Pan Am opening ceremony. Read below as she reflects on her #PanAmazing experience, dancing live for a sold-out crowd and viewers all over the world.

When and why did you start dancing?

I began dancing when I was 5-years-old. I was involved in many other activities when I was young, but eventually decided to give dance a bigger commitment in my life. I trained at competitive studios, and before graduating high school I knew I had to continue with dance in my post-secondary education.

How did the opportunity to dance in the Pan Am 2015 opening ceremony arise?

The opportunity to perform in the Pan Am 2015 opening ceremonies came to me in October of last year when the artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre asked me to join the project. I responded within minutes, exclaiming that I would love to be involved.

How did Ryerson’s dance program prepare you for this iconic performance?

The Ryerson Theatre School provided me with plenty of performance opportunities and allowed me to work with a variety of choreographers. I was able to learn and work with amazing artists who helped me develop as a professional before I graduated.

What has been the biggest challenge in preparing for the performance at the opening ceremony?

The biggest challenge I faced while performing on stage was simply calming my nerves. I became hyper-aware of my surroundings and felt every little moment that was different than rehearsal. I had to relax and remind myself to enjoy the few minutes I had on stage.

caryn backstage PanAm2

What did it feel like to dance on the Pan Am 2015 stage?

 Performing on stage at the Rogers Centre was absolutely incredible. I do not think I will ever grasp the fact that we performed in front of 40,000+ people, along with the millions of viewers watching on their televisions. It is quite possibly the largest audience I will ever perform for in my life.

What has been the most memorable part of your Pan Am 2015 experience? 

A memory that will last with me forever has to be our first entrance on to the stage. There was a beautiful blue atmosphere, and a mountain of sheets that we entered underneath. Seeing the audience for the first time and the Cirque Acrobats flying above us was a magical moment. Cirque swept the performers and audience members into a dreamland and it was very beautiful to experience firsthand.

I was truly humbled to perform alongside all of the Cirque artists and performers involved in the show. The professionalism of each person was remarkable. It was so great to be in rehearsals with so much talent, passion, and mutual respect for each other’s art.

caryn backstage PanAM

What’s next for you? 

This fall, I will be performing and touring with a Toronto based contemporary company.