Read our exclusive interview with choreographer, dancer and actress Tre Armstrong, who currently serves as a judge on the fourth season of ‘So You Think You Can Dance Canada.’ Besides appearing on the hit reality dance competition, Armstrong also choreographs routines for Jason Derulo, Sarah Brightman and Ludacris, dances with Sean Paul, Neyo, Missy Elliott, Jason Derulo, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Rihanna and is an occasional actress. Furthermore, she travels the world, teaching hip-hop, urban and freestyle dance in workshops, seminars and classes. Armstrong discuses with us, among other things, what she finds so appealing about ‘So You Think You Can Dance Canada’ and why she combines her dancing with her acting.
ShockYa (SY): You are once again a judge on the current fourth season of the popular reality television competition ‘So You Think You Can Dance Canada,’ a position you’ve held since the show’s first season in 2008. What initially attracted you to the show, and what do you find the most appealing about it that makes you want to return to it every year?
Tré Armstrong (TA): It was the opportunity to educate, empower and mentor dancers in Canada to become global phenoms on stage and in Film/TV that first excited me. Also, the opportunity to choreograph for the TV nation, but I don’t seem to do this anymore on the show unfortunately. I come back for the dancers, they inspire me so much to keep pushing forward.
SY: What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of being a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance Canada?’
TA: As a permanent judge I have to be unbiased and keep an open mind at all times, so that can be difficult. Every dancer is unique and it’s sometimes hard to remember that, plus some are sooooo young, 18 years of age to be exact! The most rewarding part is being able to see the growth of the competitors (and myself!) right in front of my eyes.
SY: Besides being a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance Canada,’ you have also choreographed dances for such established singers as Jason Derulo, Sarah Brightman and Ludacris. Since the dancers on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ are just starting their professional dancing careers, how do your expectations for their dancing differ from your expectations of the more established performers?
TA: My expectations are really quite the same: pull up, come with a great attitude ready to work, and smash the dancefloor!
SY: Besides being a judge and choreographer, you have also appeared in such dance films as ‘How She Move,’ ‘Save the Last Dance 2’ and ‘Shall We Dance?’ What inspired you to combine your love of dance with acting?
TA: Without knowing it, I have always been an actress. Dance just seemed to come first and more naturally. We need to be more like the 1940’s when performers were triple threat entities – dancers, singers and actors. Fred Estaire, Ginger Roger, Debbie Allan, Madonna, Michael Jackson. These are my inspirations.
SY: Do you have currently any upcoming acting roles lined up? Do you have an interest in acting again in the future?
There is a film in development right now actually, based on a true story. In the near future, I would love to be an action hero. I am so athletic by nature, since I am a tomboy and after punching Rutina Wesley in ‘How She Move’ I seemed to have caught the bug for action!
SY: When you first began dancing at a young age, you studied ballet, jazz and tap dancing. How have these techniques influenced your dancing today?
TA: Ballet is what keeps me graceful, poised in the face of anxiety and nervousness. It showed me how to keep calm, yet present, with strength from the inside-out. Tap gave me a keen sense of rhythm, or how to “sit in the pocket” and “ride the beat.” And Jazz, well, back in my day we just started learning the “funk” of Jazz Funk, so I guess that allowed me to have more fun in dance. Lastly, with Hip Hop, I started at-home training (it wasn’t in studios yet) at the age of five and that is the only dance that has lasted with me fully until today. It taught me the value of persistence and tenacity.
SY: You have also traveled the world to teach hip-hop, urban and freestyle dance in workshops, seminars and classes. Why did you feel compelled to teach these classes, and have you learned any new dancing techniques during your travels?
TA: As I grow, I feel the need as a human, and dance instructor, to mentor the upcoming generation. I’ve experienced so many styles, like Krump, Glitching, Jive, Salsa, Zuumba, Socacise and so much more! Too many to talk about! And yes, I’ve tried them all!
SY: What advice do you have for dancers who want to compete on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ and what’s the best guidance you received when you were first starting your dancing career?
TA: Watch the show, every show and take notes. Then, practice what you see, but go beyond that and experiment. Don’t be afraid to create new forms of movement. And always, be yourself. Given the choice to choose, always choose not to lose. Listen to your gut, take risks and travel the world of dance!
Written by: Karen Benardello