For Josh Beamish, dancing and being on stage is as natural as breathing. After all, he’s been studying and performing the art form since he was three years old.
The 17-year-old Edmonton native got his start training at his mother’s dance studio and as a child appeared in countless productions.
At seven, his family moved to Kelowna, where he continued serious study and performance. By the age of 12, he was teaching his own classes, sometimes with students considerably older.
Later this month, Beamish produces and choreographs his first major production in Vancouver since moving here in July.
The piece is called Close Enough and is inspired by, and based on, the play by Patrick Marber, Closer, which was made into a film last year starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Natalie Portman.
Beamish’s adaptation follows four strangers through their sordid love affairs and has considerable gay content.
“My character is [gay] and my boyfriend’s character is bisexual,” he says. “Also, one of the other characters has a gay experience…
“The whole moral of the story is they just keep repeating the same mistakes” of betrayal and treating people poorly, he notes.
Beamish is in charge of a cast of around 40 dancers for the production, including the leads Tiffany Tregarthen, David Raymond and Joe Tremblay. Many of the performers teach or study at Harbour Dance Centre, a professional training facility for Vancouver’s dance community.
The young dancer has already won many awards for his work, including first place two years ago at the BC Provincials; first in the jazz choreography category at the BC Annual Dance Competition last year; first place finishes at Triple Threat dance competitions held in Hawaii and Edmonton; and as a 14-year-old, he placed third at the same event in Vancouver.
But it’s not the awards or the accolades that keep him motivated. “I am most proud of the fact that I get respect from the people that I work with, that I choreograph people who are older and have more experience than me,” he says. “They’ll come take my class, be in my shows and work with me for free.”
He also believes he’s a positive role model for the many kids he works with.
In fact, passing on the knowledge he has and creating a new space for dancers in Western Canada is a big part of Beamish’s future plans. He currently has an application pending to obtain funding from the BC Arts Council, money he will use to start Move Dance Company, a performance and training troupe.
What if he’s turned down? He’ll find the funding elsewhere, Beamish says with determination.
The company will focus on jazz and contemporary work, put on four shows a year, and travel in BC and Alberta helping young dancers reach their goals.
Beamish also speaks of someday going to Los Angeles or New York City to learn what he can from new people and then return to share his passion with others.
As for school, Beamish says he “did really well” at Okanagan Mission Secondary, “but I was never there because I was always dancing and doing stuff.”
His frustration at being a high achiever in an C-average world led to the school creating a High Performance Program, which allows gifted students blocks of time each semester to use for their artistic or athletic pursuits, or to catch up on missed homework.
Beamish and his friend, world trampoline champion Sarah Charles, helped make the presentation at the school board meeting where the program got the green light. Beamish’s sister is now in the program.
In addition to his roles as director, choreographer and high performance student, Beamish has also performed professionally at Disneyland, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and appeared in a dance sequence of the Vancouver-filmed (and now-cancelled) television series Life as We Know It.
“Kelly Osbourne was in the show. It was really cool to see her,” he smiles. “The cast were so nice and didn’t have big attitudes. It was a really good experience.”
Beamish may run in a very responsible, adult world but there are still the growing pains of adolescence to deal with.
Like being gay and coming out.
He’s comfortable being profiled in a gay and lesbian paper but allows that “my parents still don’t technically know. But my sister does. There [are] a lot of issues I have to deal with.”
As for relationships, there is someone he likes but it’s not serious.
Close Enough runs for three performances later this month at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, and may return for a second run this fall, if all goes well.
In the meantime, there’s always Move to keep Beamish busy. All in all, it looks like Vancouver’s dance community will be seeing a lot more of Josh Beamish in the future.