Daniel Alwell has been bouncing all over the world for the past decade.
A graduate of Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Secondary, the dancer who calls Port Moody home has been moving between Montreal and Europe for the last 10 years.
“I am on the road so much at the moment that it made more sense for me to move into a storage unit and pick up once I have a bit more time to settle,” Alwell told the Tri-City News this month after wrapping up the European leg of English singer–songwriter Sam Smith’s Gloria World Tour, of which he is a choreographer, dance captain and dancer.
The North American tour stops in Vancouver on Aug. 22 at Rogers Arena.
Alwell said he was introduced to the Grammy-award winning performer through La Horde, a collective he has worked with for the past three years in Marseille.
His rise to dance stardom began after his training with the Arts Umbrella Dance Company, under Artemis Gordon, as he was still studying at Best.
In 2013, after graduating from the Granville Island program, he moved to Quebec to dance with Ballet Jazz Montreal. There, he worked under such celebrated choreographers as Andonis Foniadakis and Cayetano Soto, as well as toured internationally, which opened Alwell’s eyes to places he’d never seen before.
But after three years, he branched off on his own and became a freelance artist, popping between Montreal and New York City for a year before officially hopping the pond to dance as a soloist with the Hessisches Staatsballett in Germany.
That gig, where he performed works by Ohad Naharin, Xie Xin and the artistic director Tim Plegge, lasted two years.
In 2019, he joined the Ballet national de Marseille and La Horde.
But, in between, he also honed his techniques as a choreographer, starting with a music video in London, England, for the English singer–songwriter Ellie Goulding.
Asked about the pros and cons of being a freelancer, Alwell said it can be a tough — but rewarding — ride at times.
“You are your own manager, producer, agent, teacher and trainer,” he said, “and sometimes that can really feel overwhelming.”
“I’ve been able to work with a variety of institutionalized companies over the last 10 years or so, so for me I am just starting my path as a freelance artist as of recently.”
The “pro” to freelancing, he said, is the freedom to do anything you want, at any time, and choosing the people you want to surround yourself with who share the same passion.
That kind of freedom also allows Alwell to rest, recuperate and re-connect with his family at home — and especially spend time with his niece and nephew.
But that kind of freedom also makes you “responsible for the kind of path you want your career to go.
“It’s a challenge, but one that can have a lot of payoff. In saying that, I also have to recognize my privileges as a white, male presenting person in dance, which unfortunately means that it looks differently for me than some of my peers. The dance world is changing, but it’s a really slow process with many parts.”
Alwell said it’s been a dream since he was a student at Best to work as a dancer with a musical artist, so when Smith tapped him for the tour, he had to take a moment to let the invite sink in.
“Then to be asked to lead the group of dancers, and then to choreograph for the tour, was huge for me. It’s a really amazing feeling to have the trust of someone in that way.”
The Irish-born Alwell, who describes himself on Instagram as a “temporary nomad,” told the Tri-City News that he hopes his journey will spark other young artists “and feel excited about the possibilities.”
“If you would have asked me even 10 years ago when I graduated what I would be doing in 10 years, I never would have guessed that I’d be doing what I’m doing.
“The world is a pretty scary place sometimes and can feel really lonely and isolating, and to see that there are people who grew up where you are growing up, doing what you are doing and went on to make a career from it, I hope [my story] can be inspiring for someone out there.”