One of the most accomplished and acclaimed male dancers of his era, Rex Harrington brought seemingly limitless panache, energy, style and showmanship to the vast range of characterizations he created during his twenty years with The National Ballet of Canada. A much sought-after dancer internationally, he performed with Teatro alla Scala, San Francisco Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet.
Renowned for his incomparable partnering skills, Rex danced with such legendary ballerinas as Ekaterina Maximova, Carla Fracci, Evelyn Hart, and Karen Kain. He created numerous roles during his career as a dancer, including the central role in James Kudelka’s “The Four Seasons”, the Elder in Mr. Kudelka’s “The Contract” (The Pied Piper), Lewis Carroll in Glen Tetley’s “Alice” and The Young Gentleman in Mr. Tetley’s “La Ronde”, as well as lead roles in works by such choreographers as John Alleyne, Jean-Pierre Perrault and Dominique Dumais.
Rex was born in Peterborough, Ontario and graduated from Canada’s National Ballet School in 1981, joining The National Ballet of Canada in 1983. He became a Principal Dancer in 1988 and remained in that position until his retirement in 2004. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000 and was given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2005.
In 2006, he received an Honorary Degree from York University and was appointed Artist-in-Residence with the National Ballet.
Rex Harrington returned to the stage this past September, starring in Theatre Calgary’s “Tosca Café”, a co-production with the Vancouver Playhouse. He was a frequent judge on the popular television program, “So You Think You Can Dance Canada”. For readers who love the ballet, The National Ballet of Canada’s Summer Season features the North American premiere of “Hamlet”, June 1 – 10 and a mixed programme of “Chroma”, “Song of a Wayfarer” and “Elite Syncopations”, June 13 – 17. Visit: national.ballet.ca for more information.
Rex, I wanted to start with when you started dancing. Did you really start when you were fourteen-years-old?
It’s true, yes I did.
To me that’s crazy! Because I think of all the moms who are running around saying, “Oh my God, my baby isn’t in dance yet! She’s two!! I’ve got to get her started! She’s going to be the next great!” Is fourteen considered too late to start dance?
It’s late for girls. Guys can start a bit later just because the girls have to work on getting onto pointe right – you have to strengthen the feet. But my mother tried when I was nine-years-old. It didn’t work because she had stolen me from my father and he got me back. It was all her big thing, to make me dance, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t one of those kids who said,
“I saw the Nutcracker and I have to dance!”
So she saw something in you…
She saw something, yes. She always thought I was either a bit quirky, or weird, or expressive, or whatever, and she just wanted to channel it. And I think she wanted to live vicariously through me.
The behemoth tragedy in my life (and I’ve talked about it forever) is that she never saw me dance. You know, through her mental illness and everything – and the separations.
So she would say, “Oh, I saw you dance.” And I would say, “No, you didn’t.” –She never understood how far I had come.
And you know, before she died, she came to live with me.
I showed her a tape and I said, “Do you want to see a tape of Four Seasons?” She said “yes”, so I sat her in front of the television, made her scrambled eggs, and she ate them. She just couldn’t connect.
She said, “Oh yeah, good. Nice hair.” I was like, “Okay. Thanks mom.” (Whispered)
I’m really sorry…
So yeah… It was all hers. It took me years to really enjoy it and realize I had a talent for it…
So had she not pushed for you to go there, you likely wouldn’t have danced?
No. I was at Appleby College. My dad had sent me there. I ran away from home when I was fourteen-years-old to live with my mother in Vancouver – by myself. I just packed my bags and got on the plane, which nowadays is absurd when you think of a fourteen-year-old getting on a plane unsupervised and nobody asking questions!
And so I lived with her for a bit. I took a few ballet classes in Vancouver and then she sent me back to Toronto, (unbeknownst to my father), to the National Ballet School. They didn’t accept me because they were worried about everything I talked about – because they had psychology testing back then. All I talked about was my fear of my dad finding me, and running away from home, and the fact that I had just run away, so they said, “Oh, we can’t take him!” They were like, “We need a parent here with him and la…la…la…”
So my mom wrote them a letter in her indomitable way and said, “You know, if he has any talent at all, don’t add to his problems, just let him dance.”
Speaking of education, I’ve never known an artist to stop on stage and recite Pythagoras’ theorem in the middle of, you know, some great aria or dance!
So she lied and said she would move to Toronto, and she didn’t. So I was living in High Park (that’s probably why I live in High Park today) with a roommate, with a college kid, at fourteen! This lovely British couple owned the house, and they had all of these renters, and I was one of them. I had a tiny little room. And then halfway through the year, they found out and I got sent to the school – in residence.
Talk about life-shaping.
Yeah, but I wouldn’t trade it, really.
Did dance eventually take over your heart? Or was it just an outlet…
Um, yeah. It did eventually.
I mean, if I hadn’t – I don’t mean to sound egotistical – but if I had sat in the Corps, I would have quit; because in the Corps people are sometimes overlooked. But I became who I was very quickly. Like, within a year or two in the company, I started working with Karen Kain, and then I was a principal dancer within five years. And that’s where I shone the most, in the limelight. And I needed that. I was a good partner and I realized I had those talents. So that just fuelled my need and want, and then I had great partners so that’s what it was about.
Do you think there are coincidences in life? Like when you look back at timing and some of the stuff that you went through, even in terms of this little British couple taking care of you, do you look at your life and think, “Oh my gosh, had that not happened this wouldn’t have!” and “If Karen hadn’t been my partner, I wouldn’t have been…”
Well yeah, for sure. If my mother had just gone, “Okay” and not fought for my opportunity, I would not be here. I don’t know where I would have been – most likely dead. I think being on stage became a sort of therapy and a catharsis. And it is…it’s like going through a three act ballet and carrying the character. You know, you get to release a lot of emotion.
I think that was the main thing, she fought for it because that’s who she was. And yeah, the people I met and the partnerships I’ve had have played a big role in my life. I think starting with Karen Kain and then meeting Evelyn Hart was huge. They were both amazing!! How fortunate was I to have two of the best ballerinas in Canada as my partners? And that just lead to going to Europe and travelling…
I think about it sometimes and I think, “Did I do all that?” I danced for the Queen – I met the Queen, I’ve been, you know, all over the world. Normally people do that in reverse; they travel when they’re older. So I have all of these wonderful memories from Cape Town, and Europe, and Japan, and from all over the world. It’s great. (Smiling)
I read a quote by you saying something like, “I realized I was gay. And because I was, I just lived it fully” and that acknowledgement added to your performance on the stage. –It allowed you to just be the fullness of who you are. Do you relate that to dance? That in order to be a truly amazing dancer you need to really have a concept of who you are; to really just allow yourself to be who you are authentically?
I don’t know. I think…it’s strange for me when I…I mean, I’ve had partners that…well, sometimes it becomes a job because you look into their eyes and there’s nothing. And you fight and then it becomes an acting job, really. You know, you’re partnered with this person that isn’t your choice, and you have to make it work. And you think, “Why are you dancing?” You know? –When you can’t find anything in their core…emotionally.
Right. But isn’t that what you’re drawing on? I mean, it can’t be that different from acting…
(Interrupting) Yeah, you have to be able to expose who you are fully. Authentically.
Right! There’s nothing hidden.
And, I had, you know, a wellspring of family trauma to draw on (Laughing). It just seemed that once I hit the stage it was an innate thing…but I’m horrible at taking risks, in a sense.
I’m not a big risk-taker.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. It amazes me to think that I watched my father go to work (my brother was downstairs asleep) and I went upstairs, opened a bag, threw all kinds of stuff in it, went “zip”, got on a plane, and arrived at the airport – my mother had given me a standby ticket, like, “Come whenever you want”. So I was like, “Okay!” So I mean, yeah, that was a big risk, but at that age you don’t think…
I mean, as I get older, I’m more…
(Interrupting) But I would think that any time you get on stage, that’s a risk! To just…I mean, you must prepare yourself and say, “I’m going to get out there, I’m going to show you exactly who I am, because I know that’s going to move your heart and your mind. I’m not going to hold back, I have nothing to hide, this is it! And I imagine that’s the same for any great performer – whether that’s dancing, or acting, or singing, because magic doesn’t happen when we hold back who we are authentically.
Yeah. When you say it like that…
Maybe it’s in how you perceive it.
Well, and in partnering, of course. It’s a risk if you go for a lift – you have to take a risk to make it happen.
Right! But in life you’re like, “I’m not a risk-taker.”
No. And I don’t like surprises either, so that’s the same thing.
Oh, no, that has nothing to do with risk. That’s all about control hunny!! (Laughing) It’s your reaction to all that drama and trauma. “Because I can control it, I WILL!!!” (Laughter)
Out of all of your dance performances, what was the one most significant to you? I know you shared it at The Top 10 Event last year (and I almost cried when you shared it) how Karen Kain grabbed your hand and insisted on standing by you even though you had had a challenging performance. That she said, “You’re my partner and I’m standing by you.” How beautiful! What a symbolic gesture. But have there been some other moments that you’ve loved, for whatever reason – I’m not even going to transfer the reasons that would be there for me! (Laughter)
No, there are just so many of those moments that you remember – spectacular moments of being on stage and learning. You know…when I went to Rome and I danced with Carla Fracci, she was 60. And I thought, “She’s danced with the greatest dancers in the world, and here she is, dancing with ME and she respects me enough to let me be free, to let me partner her.” The instant I got in the room, she was incredible, and because I heard she was so horrible to her partners (rightly so, because she was an absolute prima ballerina – and she knew it too). And many, many moments with Evelyn, of course.
It was such an intimate relationship – in the moments that we shared on stage. I mean, sometimes you can’t even reach those moments with a partner because you just…you have to be so vulnerable in the moment. And she, she was extraordinary. It’s a huge risk to open yourself up that much.
Maybe you’re not even seeing how much of a risk-taker you have to be to do what you do. –It’s amazing!
Yeah. It’s scary to be vulnerable. But I can be vulnerable on stage.
Right. So maybe not in life, but that’s okay. (Laughter)
(Laughter) But I’m learning – through years of therapy on the couch. Because literally, I would not be in an eight-year relationship if I hadn’t have gone to therapy!
And the reason why I entered therapy was because a therapist had read this article I wrote (in ’86 or something) for Dance Magazine where I shared with readers that I’d known about pain in my life. I’d said I would never touch the pain because I think that that’s where artistry comes from and if you mess with it, you won’t be able to express anything. And he contacted me and said, “Well, I think that’s a very interesting statement. In my years of practice – and this is in no way to solicit you as a client – I’ve found that by examining it, it only makes you freer and more able to have those intimate relationships off the stage.”
So I sent him a letter and I did start seeing him – on and off,
I mean, over eight years or whatever it was (in the beginning it was a lot). And I remember all of my problems came from my mother and all that craziness that she had taught me.
I was closed in the beginning and just turning away; I wouldn’t show myself. I would be talking like this and he would be like, “Look at yourself”. The hidden aspect of it…
I was afraid to show myself and be real – which wasn’t great on partners, because I was horrible. But by the end, I could just sit and have a cup of tea and talk about it. And he proved me wrong – I did become a better performer – I didn’t lose that edge.
So it was a fascinating sort of thing that I was so afraid to touch what I thought gave me pain.
I read that you retired in 2004, and you came back in 2010. I don’t know if this is common in the dance industry where you retire and come back, but why did you choose to do that in 2004?
Um, it wasn’t really my decision. The artistic director kind of said, “Well…” And at the time, that was a horrible blow to me because James Kudelka – I was his muse in a sense. I created a lot of his ballets, like “Nutcracker”, “Four Seasons”, “Mandarin”, you know? All of these ballets that he did were created on me. And, you know, I understood bipolar (Laughter) living with my mother and everything, but it wasn’t that I was dancing badly or anything, I just think he decided I should stop dancing. They had sort of said, “Well, you’re going to step down over a year” and I said, “Okay”.
A decision was made for you.
Yeah, in a sense. It’s mandatory in some companies. Like in the Paris Opera, the men [retire] at 40 and the women at 45. I mean, in Italy, Carla was 60. It just depends, right? And your body starts going as well. But I didn’t want to…I agreed with not doing the classical stuff – like being in tights and bouncing around, but I was still more than able to do “Four Seasons” and all the contemporary works, and a lot of them were his. So I had a meeting with him and I walked in and I said, “So what am I doing next year?” because I had agreed to sort of ease off.
And he said, “I planned nothing with you in mind.”
And I just couldn’t breathe. It was horrible. It was a five minute meeting and I was like, “Wow, so that’s it.” He wanted me to come back right away. I didn’t. I was so upset that I took two years off. I did musical theatre, I did acting, and all that sort of thing. But I thought, “I need to: a) have a paycheck, and b) move on.” So when Karen took over, I asked if I could come back. Karen understood when I asked for the lead; she knew it was important to me. I never really got a chance to finish on my terms. So, in a sense, this is me doing that.
Totally, very significant! I didn’t really know how it works in the world of dance.
Well, you know, your body gives out, and you have too many pains – I mean, my ankle’s huge and I have bone spurs but that, at the time, I wasn’t… Nureyev went until he was 54 and I went to see him and it was tragic. I mean, here’s this old man who was once this great, beautiful stallion of a dancer trying to maintain the thing. And I always vowed I would never be Nureyev in a pair of tights at 50. Like, I really thought I could go to 45. Um, and I probably could have but, you know, things happen for a reason…
How were you approached for, “So You Think You Can Dance”?
I had to audition three times.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
Like, do you know who I was? (Laughter) That’s my other joke – “You know who I WAS?”
I now understand what my role is on the show, and I think I offer what no one else offers, which is what it should be about – trying to find the technical aspect and giving contestants something to take away; you know, “This is what you can work on.” It’s become so, “You’re hot, you’re sexy blah blah blah…” And I understand that too, because it’s a reality show, but I’ve sort of found my groove now, so it’s fun! I enjoy it.
And what do you love most about the premise of the show?
I just think it’s great to give these kids this opportunity and just show dance as something that’s really, a) difficult, and b) something that’s not just some silly art form – that it takes training and diligence and, you know, you have to love it!
Yeah. And it’s interesting for me to hear you say, “You have to have the passion for it, you have to love it.”
Yeah, it doesn’t work if you don’t and it’s too hard…
(Interrupting) When did you love it though? It was your mom who said, “Okay, go…”
Um, after… it took me to get on stage and have that reaction and realize I was a great partner.
So the partnership?
Yeah. I hated doing solos. I wasn’t a big technician. I mean, I could do three pirouettes my whole career. There are guys now that go tombé pas de bourrée, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… nine, balance; and I’m like… It’s like that movie, “White Knights” with Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, where he goes, “Eleven Roubles, eleven pirouettes.” He goes, “Okay, go ahead”, and Misha goes tondu, one, two, three and stops. And that was like, “Oh my God!” Now, everyone can do it!
So dance has changed in the sense that there aren’t a lot of great partnerships anymore, because people aren’t put together. Everyone’s a great dancer, there’s so much technique, and I think what’s fallen by the wayside is that sense of building magic and artistry in couples.
I loved your topic for Top Ten – partnerships. Do you have a sense of why you’ve made a good partner? Let’s not talk about off stage, but on-stage.
Well I mean, jokingly, I said, the partnership works because no matter what, I respond in agreement, “Yes, Evelyn”, “No, Evelyn”. But it came down to that because I realized, in a sense, the person in front of you is right, because she’s on pointe. She is only able to be as free as she can be if her body is manipulated into the right spot. If she’s off her leg, she’s holding on for dear life or she’s shaking or she can’t let go.
So I became aware, through her and the minutia of detail that we worked on… I mean, learning “Nuages”, which was an incredible Kylian piece that thank God they filmed it (it’s on Youtube, it’s amazing)… Like, literally, the beginning – turning, and looking, and how the hands came, and went across, and…You know? There was just so much detail – just like, “Yes”, “No” – that I thought, “Oh my God”! But then her thing was that if you put in the work, when you come back to it, it’s going to be amazing!
And she was right.
So that’s when I realized that if I said, “But Evelyn, I need…” we couldn’t have worked as well. I realized that she was actually right. It didn’t really matter what I needed to a degree, we’d figure out,
“What note are you going for?” – that’s why it became so seamless, but I realized that she was right. Because she’s in front, and she needs to be free, and she knows where her body has to be. So it’s usually the guy’s fault, you know, in a pas de deux. It was instinctive in me,
I don’t know where it came from.
Why do you think audiences like watching reality television shows? What’s in it for them? What do you think they’re getting out of it?
Reality? (Laughing) Just living vicariously! I mean, why do we watch Paris Hilton? Why do we watch “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”, all that crap? I’m just like, “Really?” but then even I get sucked in! Bob will say, “Hey, change the channel, you put “Bachelor” on”. And I’m like, “It’s a train wreck, I just love it!”
(Laughter) The drama of it!
Yeah. I want to be in that balloon, going over the Alps, you know? It’s so heightened-crap-reality, that it’s just living vicariously.
You think? Is “So You Think You Can Dance” any different?
Oh yeah! I think it’s different because it’s got some artistic merit to it and a value that people can see the struggle in it. But if it’s just voyeurism for voyeurism’s sake, I don’t really understand those ones.
What about “Dragon’s Den” or “Shark Tank”, I think they’re…
Educational, yes. But I think they’re selling hope. You get to watch the progression, and you find yourself saying, “I’m so pulling for that particular person.” I think there’s some hope involved.
Well, I’m clicking now and it’s like, every other channel there is a, you know, “Mother-In-Law’s War Brides” – like, w-h-a-t? Life is hard enough and there’s so much ugliness, you want to aspire to the beauty. It’s like, rather than getting in the trenches and watching this crap I’m flicking through, I don’t know how we’ve become so obsessed with it. It’s strange to me.
People will go and watch WWF fighting in a cage and it sells out and brings in millions, and no one will go to the ballet – unless it’s “Alice in Wonderland” or a beautiful aria. As a society, something’s really off in the sense that we watch that crap and go, “Oh yeah, that’s really entertaining.”
What do you think happens for people that are really watching something spectacularly beautiful in an art form like dance?
Some people don’t get it. You know, my brother came to see me years ago…
And he was like, “Why is he chucking that babe around the stage?” and I was like, “Really? That’s all you could feel?” Anyway, I know he’s since learned to appreciate what I do – he hasn’t seen me dance that much.
But yeah, there are people who even now, don’t get the contemporary dance. They’re like, “What? What is it?” And some of it, I think, is trite, because they go, “This is about saving the world, she’s this, and he’s that…” and then they watch it and they don’t see any of that, so they think, “What’s the point – it’s just dance.” And I think, “Why is there so much angst in contemporary dance?”
But, I don’t know, it can be transformative I think. If you’re watching “Romeo and Juliet”, the balcony pas de deux – it’s just, the beauty and the music all combined, you know?
They say that dance is like the hidden language of the soul, it’s just everything expressed in one moment. So I think that’s why people come back.
And, you know, it’s interesting, we are getting – through education, and going into schools and that sort of thing – a younger generation coming in; and certainly with “Alice” and the new “Romeo” coming up. I think that what Karen is doing is exciting in that sense, because we’ve had the same “Romeo” for 40 years and it’s almost sacrilegious that she’s like, “No, I’m going to do a new one.” And, you know, if I was directing, I would be combing the planet for new interpretations, I mean, and forcing people outside of their boxes or their bubbles.
I mean, I saw a wonderful “Romeo and Juliet” in Europe. It was set in a jail – barefoot and very modern. Mercutio handled a bat, everyone wore street clothes, and it was a really modern take on a beautiful pas de deux where, while they were in the bedroom, the pillars went see-through and there were couples in the pillars mimicking what they…
It was just really inventive and really interesting. That’s what we’re going to have to do to get people in, rather than just sticking to the same.
Right, and in the end it’s not really about what anybody says. It’s not whether a guy comes along and says, you know, “You’re too old and now you’re done” or if someone wants you to have a T.V. show; it’s about you! And so I would be listening to where the passion comes from, in terms of you going, “You know what? What if we had new renditions of this? What if we inspired a brand new audience?” You know? Brand new stuff… really creative…
Yeah. And it is… I mean, the Europeans are far ahead of us in that sense. And then it all comes down to money, right? (Sigh) Because the government really doesn’t support the arts so you just have to get private donors. And everyone’s tapped out and everyone’s pulling…you know? We always go to the same people and they’re tapped out. In Europe, I mean, that’s why our last director left. He can do six new ballets – all paid for by the government and subsidized, so if they fail, who cares! And if we do one ballet and it fails, we’re screwed! So it’s a lot harder environment, in that sense.
Right. And who would want to take a risk? …(Winking)
…You know, when you look at the consequences of it?
Yeah. So it’s weighed out.
Mmhmm. I don’t know how you’re going to respond to this one, but if you had to state (in a sentence or two) what you think your life purpose has been to date, what do you think?
Life. Purpose. Hmmmmm.
To date – it can change tomorrow (Laughter), everything’s temporary.
And I ask the question because, I mean, when Declan died, that was when I asked myself, “Have you done what you were supposed to do?” Like, “You came here for a reason, have you done it?” And the answer was no, I went, “Oh my God, no!” I’d inspired people on a small scale but had always felt like I was playing small – that, it should have been on a bigger scale – and then I took the risk…
(Interrupting) I mean, I know. But that’s why I’m toying with this whole… Everyone’s saying, “You should do this”, “You should do this”, and I feel like something’s coming in the sense that I have this ability to relate to people in a way that is human and not…you know? There’s no bullshit.
And I think, when I’m in those situations, that I do and say what everyone else is thinking. So when they hear it, they’re like, “Oh!” So I guess, in that sense, I would love to have my own talk show, or be involved in something like that. Or, you know, be more of a judge, or act.
Because I went in and I was like, “I’ve never been…”
(Interrupting) I laugh that you can say that!
I know, but I was like… You know, I’ve auditioned for things – well there’s a risk! So I take risks! So in that sense, you know… whether or not I’m going to be Oprah-esque… but I still believe that something like that could happen.
To make it easier for other people to… As much as what my life was… to facilitate it being easier to just, be, or laugh, or realize that life isn’t so serious.
(Laughter) So it’s coming along. Life’s purpose stuff would be around shedding some light on others, and being joyous, and making it light. “It’s not so heavy”, and “Everything’s not permanent” – that kind of stuff?
Which it sounds like you do for dancers backstage. To say to someone, “You know what? This is temporary. I know it feels like your entire world has just ended…” (Laughter)
(Interrupting) And I think even in that capacity, as a teacher, it’s that… Which, you know, from old school, I get criticized, saying, “No, there has to be this discipline, and there has to be…” And, you know, when I first started coaching, someone actually said to me, “You can’t be their friend”. And I said, “You know what? Why not?”
Yeah. And good for you – that’s audacity!
I’m their friend plus I get them to do the work. And you know what? If some days they didn’t want to work, I was like, “Okay.” And my thing is, “It’s your show. It’s your rehearsal period. I’m here, if you want to work, we’ll work. If you don’t, it’s your responsibility.”
Whereas I was coming into the studio one day – and I was a principal… you know, I used to walk out of the studio a lot (because I didn’t agree with the coach) but there’s none of that anymore. You take ownership of, “It’s my show, I know how to get to the stage.” And if I’m like, “No, you’ve got to work today”, it’s like, “Umm, I don’t have it in me. I’m upset.” You know, it’s an artistic kind of thing – dance.
So I’m, in coaching, trying to make a difference. And I can lay down the law. Like, I went on this tangent with a class one day… I’m the fun guy, right? So I have to back it off sometimes because, you know… You have 50 people in a room and one day they all walked in – like, class starts at 10:00 and I had 15 people walk in at 10 after, 5 after. I was like, “Really?”
I just went, “Okay, just an observation: class starts at 10:00! And it’s not only rude…” (and I thought, “Oh my God, I sound like everyone else – it’s pathetic) “… it’s not only rude to me, it’s rude to everyone else in the room…” and da, da, da. “And another thing, shut up!” I was just like, “It’s so noisy!” Because of all of the (jabbering), like, literally!
That’s what you’re dealing with nowadays! I was like, “Okay, um – incredibly rude!” Normally, back when I was their age, a teacher would go, “Get out!”
And that’s the point of the game, just for you. That’s the taking of a risk, because if the status quo has worked forever, a boundary’s drawn, “This is how we do it.” And to go, “Oh no, no, no…”, it’s audacity – you’re just not recognizing it! You’re audacious and you’re a risk-taker, you just don’t realize it. Who knows where you’ll go? Amazing, amazing!
Do you have a sense of what you’d still like to accomplish? I mean, whether it’s the talk show or it’s, maybe, playing that role that we just talked about, do you have a sense?
I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know whether I’m going to be doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life…
I mean, sometimes I think, “I just need to change up even more.” “This is the first half, what’s the second half going to be?” You know, we even talked about, “Let’s just move to Europe, and let’s just open a bed and breakfast.” And, you know, “Live in Tuscany and…” and then I think, “Ah, I can’t do that.” And then I think, “Well why not?” Like, we could do that if we wanted to!
What brings you the greatest joy?
How does one answer that? I have no joy. (Laughter)
Look who you’re talking to!
(Laughter) Mr. Curmudgeon!
My greatest joy?
Is actually, really… gardening.
Well, I saw, I could hardly get through the gardens to get into the house!
When we moved in that was dead grass, cement, straight sidewalk, dead, all dead.
Well you did a fabulous job!
So gardening sort of gives me my biggest joy, in a sense.
There are many things I’m passionate about or that I love to do. And then, see, I’ve thought about that too – about taking it… But I keep holding back. But, like, “Well why can’t I be a landscape architect?”…
Do the thing that brings you joy!
Yeah. So, I don’t know, I’ve thought about that too.
You never know.
Well now, meeting you, I have audacity and risk-taking! (Laughter)
(Laughter) So off you go! Well, if you didn’t really like the last question because it seemed too open-ended, you’ll really love this one (and I always ask it in every interview because I think it’s amazing to hear different people’s answers): If you knew one truth that you could share to fundamentally change the world forever, like if you could say, “If people just did THIS” or “If people recognized THIS, it would change everything forever”, can you think of what that would be?
I think fear is the biggest thing that holds us all back. We’re all afraid of what everyone else will think. I think that’s the biggest thing that holds people back. So I’d have to say, “Just do it! Be in the moment!” And, you know, just trying to find the ability to not be afraid. To live free.
I think that’s why it’s so fascinating for me to have this chat with you, because I don’t think you could do anything (or anybody on the stage who’s really, fully dancing in their wholeness) without being fully present, somehow walking through fear to EVEN get on the stage – taking the risk to get there. All the things that you’ve talked about – if we transfer those beliefs to our life, can you imagine? To realize that it’s a temporary moment, even if it was a really bad night, you know? That it will never define who you are.
Well that’s the thing. Isn’t it you that says, “Always say ‘Yes’”?
That’s me! (Laughter)
That’s what I’m realizing. Because there are so many times that I get asked to do things – like the Top Ten Event, I was going to say “No”. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have done this, and I wouldn’t have learned this, and I wouldn’t have had a great time…
Because I keep always saying “Yes” to things – even the publicity people at CTV, “Rex, will you do this?” “Yes, I’ll get up at 6:00 and go to the”… Like, I just always do that. I wish I could say “No” but I think, in saying “Yes”, I’ve learned…
You know, as much as I hated preparing for my speech, I thought, “How am I going to do this?” – I got up there and I had a great time!
I loved your speech. It was completely authentic.
Because I prepared – that’s what gets me through it. Evelyn and I would totally rehearse on stage. I would just zone out and she’d be buzzing around like, “It’s okay, ten minutes and you can have a beer. Do this, and this. Don’t be nervous” I’d be like, “I’m not nervous. Get away from me. I’m going to slap you.” You know? I would either zone out totally or just go hyper.
You are a gift. Thanks for your time. Thanks for being 100% you!