Kane Nelson: Following the Beat
“Yes, no, maybe so?”
Kane Nelson’s voice booms in the small studio in Miss Joanne’s School of Dance early in September. He’s just shown about 40 kids part of the choreography from a hit song from this summer’s Descendants 2 Disney movie, and wants to know if they understand the moves.
Nelson, 24, who grew up in Breton, was back in the area in early September from his home in Vancouver, and offered to show the dancers at his mother's dance school one of the dances he did in the movie. For Nelson, dancing in Descendants 2 was one of the highlights of his career so far.
Director Kenny Ortega was the artistic director for Michael Jackson, and one of the choreographers was set to have worked on a Jackson tour before his death.
“It was amazing to work with them,” says Nelson, who has danced backup for Janet Jackson. “To listen to Kenny and to see his vision, you know what Michael Jackson was like to work with.”
He’s hoping there will be a third Descendants movie so he can work with the director and choreographers again.
His resume also includes doing stunts for Star Trek Beyond, and appearing in multiple episodes of Once Upon a Time, The Flash, Supergirl, and Witches of East End. He also acted and danced in the movies Hot Street, Center Stage: On Pointe, and dancing in Status Update.
Not long before returning to central Alberta, he spent time on the sets of the TV series Man in the High Castle and Ghost Wars. When not on set, Nelson works as a bartender in Vancouver, and says life as an actor is not always glamorous.
“I’m a small fish in a giant ocean,” he says, noting he and other actor friends work in the restaurant industry and risk missing shifts and losing their jobs in order to make it to auditions. “We are trying to build our careers and risk not being able to pay rent,” he says. “In this industry, you take anything you can – any opportunity is an opportunity to work towards your goals.”
For Nelson, the ultimate would be to dance on tour with Justin Timberlake or share a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio, some of his favourite performers. He’d love to move to Los Angeles and audition for roles against Zac Efron, Cameron Boyce, Liam Hemsworth, and many more.
Nelson has been dancing since he was 3, and says the only thing handed to him was the opportunity to have his mother Joanne teach him to dance in her studio. He’s trained in many styles of dance, but specializes in hip hop and contemporary.
After leaving Breton for Edmonton when he was 17, he decided to move to Vancouver. Affordable housing was hard to find however, and a friend in Los Angeles had a place to rent. He would live and work in L.A. for six months at a time, returning to Canada between California stints.
“It was fun, and definitely a change of scenery,” he says. (Los Angeles has a population of nearly four million people; Breton, nearly 600). “I went from a place where it got to -30 in the winter to a place with a low of 27. It was nice to be in the sun every day, and see the calibre of dancers there.”
His “big break,” as people outside the industry would understand it, came in the summer of 2015 when he spent 42 days on the set of Star Trek Beyond doing stunts.
“It was one of the best times of my life, meeting amazing actors and actresses,” he says. Immediately after that, he auditioned for the Center Stage movie, a sequel to the 2000 original. It’s been, and remains hard work: dancing for over 20 years, and constant auditioning for roles.
“I’m always trying to perfect my craft and there’s always room to grow and learn,” he says. For all his success and experiences so far, Nelson said he would never have chosen to grow up in any other place or way: in Breton on an acreage, where he can jump on an ATV whenever he wanted.
“I love knowing 95 per cent of the people in my town,” he says. “I remember walking after school to Raymond’s [Haluszka] shop, and seeing my friends’ families all the time. “It’s nice to have a home in a small community, it’s where I was brought up, and I’m thankful for that.”