Creative Living: Interview with Tatiana Cheladyn

creative living

One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I'll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

I met Tatiana in an online business course and was captivated by her passion for movement. We've shared plenty of creative struggles over early bird specials at the Sugar Bowl here in Edmonton and I always learn plenty from our talks.

What sort of creative work do you do?

I'm a choreographer and a dance teacher, but I get up to many different things in the realm of dance. I work both independently and with a dance studio in the Edmonton area. My specialization is in contemporary dance, but I also have training in musical theatre, Ukrainian dance, and various other styles of dance that tend to show up in my work when I least expect it!

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?

Generally, yes! Though there have been  moments when I've doubted myself and my creative process. But working through those down times have refined the ways that I do my work. I used to think that my creativity and desire to create dance would always flow, but about a year ago I found out that the flow can stop. What I've learned since then (after considering the fact that I might never touch dance again) is that if I show up for my work, the creative flow will come, not the other way around. I'm still learning but in showing up to my choreographic work everyday I'm starting to once again feel like I did when I was a kid and would make dances for my sister and I in our parents' living room... it's fun!

How did you get started?

I started dancing when I was really young, like I said previously, in the living room of my parents' house. I took creative movement at Grant MacEwan when they had a dance program for kids. I continued my formal training in Ukrainian dance and with dance classes at school. I was really lucky to be able to attend Victoria School of the Arts in Edmonton - it's where I was introduced to contemporary dance and the choreographic process. After high school I was hooked and I went on to complete my BFA in contemporary dance from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Now, three and a bit years after my graduation, I'm living in Edmonton again and helping lots of young people get their start in dance too!

creative living

What’s your process like?

My creative work happens 75% in the studio and 25% on paper. The paper plan is actually the most important part because it is the springboard to the work that gets done in the studio. If I don't have a plan, my studio time is usually wasted. The plan can be as simple as a statement: "I will figure out 30 seconds of choreography based on the movement of the wind", for example. Or it can be as complex as a huge mind map with photos, notes and drawings. After the plan is complete, the rest of the magic happens in the studio. And sometimes (lots of times) I deviate from the plan! But that's OK. It's the act of preparation that makes studio time productive.

What or who inspires you?

The contrast between everyday living and big, stylized dance movements is really fascinating to me. What makes some movements "dance" and other movements not? I don't know the answer to that question, and so I continue to explore it!

I am also really inspired by my mom, Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn. She's a watercolour artist and is currently studying to get her master's degree in Folklore. She's made tons of cool stuff happen in her career (one of her shows was opened by Prince Phillip!) and I feel really lucky to have grown up in such an artistic atmosphere.

What’s your biggest struggle and how are you coping with it?

It's definitely Resistance. I just read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and the information in that book could not have come at a better time for me. Like I said earlier, I'm learning how to do my work everyday and build a routine to make room for my creative flow. I'm having the toughest time breaking out of my morning snooze-and-smartphone routine. Every morning I usually hit snooze a few times, and then once I finally wake up I'll spend time on Facebook or Instagram, just browsing. I really want to capitalize on my mornings and work, but this little routine is so hard to break! My next plan of action is to just try getting up and going. Taking a walk, or taking my work with me to a nearby park (and leaving the phone at home!)

What’s your # 1 tip about creativity?

When you feel like you can't be creative any more, try something new. Not for the sake of abandoning your work, but for getting a fresh perspective and inspiration... or even just some downtime that exercises your brain in a different way than you're used to. Next on my list of new things: soap making, revisiting swing dancing, working through a cookbook that I haven't touched yet.

What are you working on next?

I'm doing a ton of planning. I have a big show cooking on paper right now. It's a dance piece loosely based on a passage from Collages by Anais Nin that will be a feat of production and design - I am envisioning a crazy set (I've never really choreographed with a set before!), big back drops, and at least 10 dancers. The working title is "The Walk" but that might even change tomorrow. It's exciting and scary because I have never been this passionate about a piece, and I am not sure how the logistics will work yet. My goal is to present the show either in the 2016 Edmonton Fringe Festival, or independently in Autumn 2016.

I'm also planning out my classes and choreography for the year ahead at my dance studio. I'm working on "vision boarding" my dances for this season. It basically just means that I'm making collages to capture the essence and imagery I want to create in each dance. This way, when I go to choreograph in the studio, I can just look at the vision and work from there. It's a new way of working for me, but I'm excited to see the results over the coming year.

You can find Tatiana at and on Instagram.