By: Fatima Syed
With a lithe, lean physique and easy charisma, it’s easy enough to see why Sebastian Hirtenstein is rapidly becoming one of Toronto’s most sought after and versatile dance artists. With our new inFATuated Blog category inFATuatedWithHim focusing on the life, style and career of Millennial men, we decided to catch up with this talented artistic entrepreneur.
Once you see the 27-year-old dancer and choreographer in action, as be breathes vitality into the very hardwood he uses to perfect his craft, it becomes clear that he is not only a performer. If anything, this experienced movement artist is an athlete as well, striving to punctuate every motion with energy and passion. Perhaps not surprisingly, his passion dates back to his early days. Hirtenstein, who is more commonly known as Bash for short, fell in love with dance as a young boy.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved moving and performing. I started taking dance classes when I was 12, but most of the time I would just watch music videos, battles or movies and just copy the dancers,” he tells us. Fast forward a few years to age 16, and Bash’s blossoming career was starting to experience an upward spiral. In fact, there was one moment in particular which laid the foundation for the future. “When I was 16, I went to an audition for a production called The Red City: Society in Motion. I was a HOT mess. I could barely keep up learning the choreography, but I made a strong impression with my freestyle- they asked me to be in the cast!”
Like many of his Millennial peers, Bash pursued traditional academia at first. Although he headed to Wilfrid Laurier University to study philosophy after high school graduation, this ended up being a bump in the road, en route to his true destination. Bash, who had never before considered dance as a career option, soon found himself involved in every dance class, committee, team and event that was available on campus.
“Ironically, I was probably taking more dance classes than my actual classes! I failed most of my classes that year, and after a long talk with my mother (my number one fan) I realized that I couldn’t myself living a life where I wasn’t dancing every day. I left school and moved to Toronto to start pursuing my dreams! It’s been an amazingly dynamic, tough, and beautifully rewarding journey since then,” he reflects.
Today, Bash prides himself on drawing his inspiration from a variety of sources. While dance is close to his heart, he is also inspired by many other art forms, as well as literature. “I often research and read about topics within philosophy and history, and I love going to theatre, film screenings, lectures, networking events, or anything that is radically different from what I experience in my (somewhat) regular practice. For example, I started researching Eastern philosophies (Confucianism, Qi Gong) after I started learning classical Chinese dance.
But it’s not only art itself which inspires Bash- he is also motivated by the artists around him. He describes his dance colleagues as “brilliant artists who are also genuinely great people.”
“Gadfly’s Apolonia Velazquez and Ofilio Sinbadinho have been hugely influential in my career; they taught me how to adapt physically and deliver within any creative process. Hit & Run Dance’s Anisa Tejpar and Jennifer Nichols are among the best employers for dancers in the industry,” he muses. So, what are this star’s best words of advice for anyone looking to break out into the world of dance?
“Expect nothing, prepare for everything. Treat rejection and failure like an ice bath. Take work as it comes, even if it’s not as glamorous. Make your presence known through positive impact. Know everyone, befriend the majority, and keep confidence in the seven people that actively contribute to making you better,” he says wisely.
Asides from dance performances themselves, Bash is also skilled at choreography. He describes this form of expression as an “interesting beast to wrestle with; there’s so many factors to consider!” At first, he checks where the movement will be taking place, the musical mood, styles of movement and costumes and footwear for the performing dancers. “In all honesty, I believe the majority of the work is done by great dancers; the smartest dancers can reinterpret the most mundane movement into something magical,” he says.
Bash, who just finished performing in Breakaway Entertainment’s “Tales of a Cocktail” at the Toronto Fringe Festival, is slowly but surely learning how to prioritize his mental and physical health, away from the dance floor, stage and studio. “I also realized recently that I’m physically exerting myself in a way that isn’t sustainable long-term, so I took a page out of my mother’s book and started dedicating time for intensive rest and rejuvenation. During that time, I love taking long walks through the city and in nature, day-long spa getaways, reading old books, interacting with the elderly, travelling, learning new skills, watching indie films, and unapologetically pigging out on any gourmet experiences!”
Outside of dance wear, Bash’s personal style is eclectic, with a preference for oversize, streetwear and vintage looks, topped off with longline shirts and his signature wide brim hat from Goorin Brothers. Truth to be told, fashion is also one of this artist’s passions, as he recently choreographed Marie Copps’ Fashion Shoot Extravaganza at Daniels Spectrum in February. Bash is a major supporter of Canadian musical artists as well, as a major fan of Delaney Jane, Featurette and Polina Grace. However, decades of the past are also his jam- namely, the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. “I love a good Donna Summer, Paula Abdul, Diana Ross or Janet Jackson playlist! The one song I have on repeat is “Show Me Love” by Robin S, it feels like the purest, unaltered house jam from the 90s!”
Bash’s choreography talent can be spotted next in Toronto-based queer pop artist HERDD’s upcoming music video, set for a September release. For the fourth year, he is also slated to perform in Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror, while November sees him be part of “Tales of a Cocktail” at the Citadel. In February and March 2020, he is set to join BoucharDanse for a school tour. Clearly, the upcoming seasons seem to be filled with love, light and laughter for Bash- proof that the creative journey is always worth the struggle.
Photos: Courtesy of Sebastian Hirtenstein