Young T.O. dancer lands gig of a lifetime

By Quinton J. Hobson

Michael Baboolal, of Trinidian descent, will perform with Cirque du Soleil at the Pan Am Games opening ceremony.
Michael Baboolal, of Trinidian descent, will perform with Cirque du Soleil at the Pan Am Games opening ceremony.

When planning any highly anticipated event or gathering such as a wedding, a birthday party or a graduation, there almost always comes a point when merely the thought of canceling or backing out would be simply ludicrous after spending so much time, energy and money preparing for it.

Such can be said of Toronto’s hosting of the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games, only in this case on a much larger, more prestigious scale.

The date has been set, the guests invited and the venue has been chosen. All that’s left to do is wait – for us, that is. However, for the thousands of people directly involved with the Pan Am Games, one can only imagine the ongoing laundry list of to-dos they must still endure as they continue to prepare for arguably the biggest event of 2015.

To the outsider, four months might seem like a long time – the games’ opening ceremony is slated for June 10 at the Rogers Centre – but those on the inside are likely to be singing a slightly different tune.

In January, renowned entertainment ensemble Cirque du Soleil sent out a distress call, announcing the company was auditioning young Canadian dancers to feature in its performance at the opening ceremony.  Auditions were held Feb. 7 and 8, the first in search of children and the second screening 18-year-old performers.

Although several auditioned, only a few were chosen to meet the company’s quota of 50, among them Toronto-born dancer Michael Baboolal.

A recent graduate from Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, there is only one thing on Baboolal’s mind as he makes his daily hour-long trek to Ryerson University: dancing.

Now we hear stories all the time about established dancers having been able to dance long before they could even walk. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case for the Trinidadian descendent, who revealed in his interview with The Caribbean Camera that for most of his life he actually viewed himself as someone cursed with “two left feet” until he finally decided to pursue dance at age 16.

As it turns out, Baboolal actually learned of Cirque du Soleil’s audition rather accidentally while he was scrolling through a Facebook page in search of something meaningful to add to his developing résumé, giving him less than two weeks to prepare. In fact, once he arrived at his audition, Baboolal felt that he was at a slight disadvantage in comparison to his competition considering the fact Cirque du Soleil was specifically asking for hip hop dancers, while Baboolal’s background lies in modern dance.

Despite his nerves, Baboolal ultimately walked away from the audition as one of 50 finalists.

Barely 18, Baboolal is already about to score big by performing at what is sure to be one of the biggest performances in games history. He plans on continuing dancing after graduating from Ryerson where he studies dance and potentially establishing his own dance studio.

As for the common stigma that the performing arts field is an unpromising job market, this doesn’t appear to faze Baboolal one bit because he enjoys doing what he loves while surrounded by people who support him, citing his parents as supportive individuals who always “encouraged me to do what I loved.”

However, had dancing not been an option for Baboolal, he would be pursuing the mental health field, specifically working with disabled children.