Sky Fairchild-Waller’s parents weren’t aiming for their son to spend his life on stage. The decision to plunk the Victoria native in ballet class was merely a matter of convenience. Divorced and constantly working, his folks were perpetually hunting for activities to keep him occupied. After unsuccessful stints in soccer and basketball, he finally landed in dance camp and everything changed.
“I wasn’t prepared for the vast studio of girls who were nice to me accompanied by really loud music that encouraged physical expression,” he says with a laugh. “At seven years old, I got called a faggot a lot, even though I never knew what it meant. It was the first place I felt safe and, to my surprise, inspired.”
The hunt for safety and inspiration lured him to the National Ballet School four years later. Heading to the Big Smoke sans parents, he had his first taste of the professional dance world, as well as a gentle push from the closet. Living in the school’s dorm surrounded by chiseled young men in various states of undress made connecting the dots around his sexuality easy. His parents were unfazed when he came out a year later.
He enjoyed both big city life and the constant parade of eye candy. But his knees weren’t built for the rigours of classical ballet. He bid adieu to NBS at 15 to head back to BC and finish high school, but returned to Toronto after graduation to complete a degree in dance and cultural studies at York University. He’s called the city home ever since.
His CV has since expanded to include video and installation, as well as producing works for other artists. But his current project will see him in full bend-and-flex mode, when he hits the floor for choreographer Tracey Norman’s what goes between. The work centres on social psychologist Elaine Walster’s principle of emotional contagion — essentially, it’s the scientific explanation for the reason my bad mood can sap your good mood, quickly turning you from sunshine to sourpuss.
“I’ve always thought of Tracey as a sort of choreographic sociologist,” Fairchild-Waller says. “She creates these physical portraits of empathy, in the purest form of the word. It’s something we don’t think about a lot, but it’s actually a rare thing in the current world to witness real moments of intimacy.”
While his creative life began with ballet, he has no regrets about leaving the art form behind. Along with the limitations of his joints, the decision to quit meant he could be in a place where everything he has to offer is appreciated.
“I felt like no one really listened to what I had to contribute or even cared,” he says. “You were seen and not heard and I decided that wasn’t the life I wanted to have.”
“And then there was the issue of having a rugby player’s build in a world designed for rakes,” he jokes. “So really the decision to move on was a little of column A and a little of column B.”