Growing up, Ryan Scheel loved Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” music video.
“That video always stood out for me,” the Elmira native said. “I always, always remember that church scene, when the statue comes to life.”
Last February, Scheel, a professional dancer, singer and actor, got the opportunity to perform alongside Madonna when the pop star opened the Hard Candy fitness studio in Toronto.
“Being in the presence of someone you grew up watching was really, really cool,” Scheel said. “I mean, she’s the Queen of pop, it doesn’t get any higher than that; it’s like working with Elvis.”
She’s still got it too, according to Scheel, who said the 55-year old “busted it full-out, going hardcore.”
The gig was just one of many where Scheel rubs elbows with the world’s biggest celebrities, including the Much Music Video Awards (MMVAs).
“This year I am coordinating, choreographing, styling and dancing” with artists like Headley, Ariana Grande and Kiesza on June 15 in Toronto.
This will be Scheel’s second MMVAs, as he worked with viral-sensation Psy in 2013.
“It was his finale for ‘Gentlemen.’ They had their Korean choreographers and dancers that came in, and none of them spoke English. So I had to coordinate and translate their choreography with 40 or so dancers from here.”
Scheel’s performance career began with singing lessons in Grade 2 and quickly progressed to musical theatre.
“I got into community theatre at the River Run Centre in Guelph, and I also did the Elmira Theatre Company at one point, as well as productions in Kitchener-Waterloo.”
Dancing came later, but it was a natural fit.
“I was so active that I never had time to stick with one dance studio. But I worked with a lot of different choreographers in the shows I was doing and they would teach me dance steps and techniques on the side.”
Once he entered high school, Scheel decided to pursue formal dance training at Encore Dance Studio in Elmira.
“First I took private lessons and worked extremely hard on my technique,” he said. “Then I moved into the competitive dance program and really grew up with my troupe at the studio.”
After studying musical theatre at Sheridan College, Scheel’s career took off, with teaching positions at numerous dance studios and a seemingly endless stream of professional performances in both theatre and dance.
But his path wasn’t easy.
“Elmira is a hockey town, so a lot of kids didn’t understand what I was doing and I got teased and picked on quite a bit growing up.”
With the support of friends and family, Scheel persevered.
“I had non-stop encouragement, and that really helped me pursue what I wanted to be.”
His mom, in particular, imparted valuable advice.
“She told me that you never know who is going to be in the audience. So you’ve always got to give everything you’ve got every time you perform.”
Now 29 years of age with an impressive résumé under his belt, Scheel remains as motivated as ever.
“This industry is like a yo-yo: there’s business one day, and nothing the next. I just want to always have the passion for performing and choreographing, and to stay inspired to strive towards my true potential.”
This August, Scheel will play the role of Valentine in Mary Poppins at Port Hope’s Capital Theatre. You can keep track of his work at www.facebook.com/RyanGScheel.