This month’s Eye on Culture interview allowed me to interview Brennan Clost, a rising senior in the Dance Divison who hails from Canada. This interview was particularly fun as I get to learn more about his hectic schedule balancing Juilliard during the school year and filming a tv show during the summers at home!
You do a lot of different types of dance styles—what’s your favorite and why?
It’s a toss up between contemporary and jazz. Contemporary has the freedom to explore and borrow from any dance style, which I love. I’ve found in my time at Juilliard that contemporary dance, because it is limitless, enables young choreographers to find their niche and voice through their own natural style of movement. I have loved jazz since I first started dancing, there’s just no other dance class I’ve felt the same ecstatic energy through the room as I do when I’m dancing in a jazz class.
You’ve had a very busy career so far (Canada’s Got Talent, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and your current show, The Next Step)—what made you decide to leave Canada to come to Juilliard?
My parents have always emphasized how important it is to have an education, and they instilled in me a belief that university/college is not only great for your mind, but for finding yourself as a person and learning how to navigate being an adult. I’ve been lucky that The Next Step films during my summer vacation in between academic years at Juilliard, so I’ve been able to balance doing both. First of all, getting into Juilliard is beyond imaginable, so deciding to go was the easiest decision to make. Getting an education, while pursuing the arts is, and it hasn’t taken away from my other passion for acting and commercial work. Win, win, win!
Are the fans of The Next Step surprised to find out that you’re actually a Juilliard student since your character didn’t get into the school?
It’s entertaining to see the fans of the show comment on my social media because they’ll share their candid thoughts about the story of an episode or my character’s storyline. Since a lot of the viewers are younger they don’t understand that me, Brennan, lives a different life than my character, Daniel. However, the older fans don’t hold back when they assure the other fans, “Yes, I know I’m right, he actually goes to Juilliard in real life”. It’s adorable imaging these younger kid’s rational minds exploding at the confusion that I got cut from Juilliard but wait… I actually go there.
How is prepping the dance scenes for the show different than how you prepare for a Juilliard show?
Well since film and television is time sensitive and quick-paced we rarely have more than five minutes to warm up before doing a dance scene, and then we will shoot the dance at least six times, if not more. At Juilliard, this would be unheard of, the faculty is very adamant about having a full ballet warm up class, and ample time to get in the right headspace before a performance. Even the rehearsal periods are so different between the show and at school. Time is money in TV land, so we usually only will have two or three hours to set an entire dance. At school we have about two or three months with hours upon hours of rehearsal to prepare a piece for a big performance. There’s definitely a lot of pressure on the performers in both circumstances, but an entirely different experience.
I know a lot of people don’t think that Canadians aren’t “real” international students—tell me about something that surprised you about US culture when you moved here.
The glorified holidays are something that surprised me in my first year living in the US. There must be a statutory holiday every other week – no wonder Juilliard doesn’t observe all of these holidays, we’d never be in school!
What are the challenges of being an international student that your US friends don’t have to deal with?
Having double of everything. Two phones, with two phone plans to pay for. Filing two sets of taxes. Two health insurance plans. Two banks and two debit cards, that won’t connect through online banking. There are a lot of hidden challenges of living in another country, and it definitely helps to be organized.
What is your favorite trivia about Canada that most people don’t know?
Once a year Tim Horton’s has an event called “Roll-up the Rim” and it is the single most exciting coffee event of my year. After drinking your hot beverage from Tims, you roll up your coffee cup rim and have a chance at winning tons of awesome prizes – from small items like free coffees, or a donut, to larger scale prizes like a car, or a camping trip. Usually, I catch the end of it when I come home for spring break!
Please share a funny or interesting story about your time in the U.S. (a language misunderstanding, something you found strange or unusual in the U.S., etc.):
One time while my class and I were rehearsing for our New Dances performance, I asked the choreographer if I could run out to the washroom quickly. I remember the look on the choreographers face as she tried to not laugh at my use of “washroom”. This of course has added to my classmate’s supply of Canadian phrases I use. They always poke fun at me whenever I come back to school after being home for a while, and I tack on “eh” to the end of all my sentences!
What is the most common misconception about Canada?
The most irritating misconception about being from Canada is the assumption that I shouldn’t feel the cold in the dead of winter. First of all, New York’s climate is not any different than my home in Toronto. Secondly, just because I grew up with snow outside during the winter, in no way means I’ve evolved a cold-weather-armor over top of my skin.
What advice do you have for other international students?
Find a place that makes you feel like you’ve found a piece of home. For me that was Starbucks! My mom and I used to always have outings to go book shopping and we would always get a Starbucks together, so being as home sick as I was moving to New York City I visited Starbucks probably six times a week to get that little bit of home that I needed to make it until Christmas break. Perhaps, find a cheaper piece of home than a $5 latte…