Everything is better together
KINAJ is a cross-genre dance collective created and led by Kin Nguien and AJ Velasco. Founded in 2020, KINAJ's mission is to bridge gaps between various art disciplines such as dance, film, photography and music through the art of collaboration and knowledge exchange. KINAJ strives to grow and become an organization that will provide valuable platforms for young artists to learn and exchange skills within multiple art disciplines. We hope to contribute to the development of our community by creating opportunities for collaboration, skill-sharing, public engagement and art production.
KINAJ originally started as a cross-genre performance duo, incorporating street style dances such as hip-hop, house, popping, and partnering techniques from modern, contemporary, and improvisation. However, due to the pandemic and inability to perform live, KINAJ has pivoted to become a creative duo currently focusing on dance film production. Since 2020, KINAJ has produced 15 dance film projects in collaboration with Toronto-based film directors, movement artists, singers and photographers. Their work has been presented at the Dance Ontario Show and Share and is curated by CineAsian Films and DanCinema. KINAJ is a recipient of an "Outstanding Performance" Award at the TEADE International Dance Competition 2021.
Their recent achievements include official selections at film festivals such as Russian Mental Health Film Festival Open Vision Film Festival in Russia. KINAJ is a recipient of the Storyline/Narrative Award for their dance short film Project Lullaby: Choice at the HomeScreen Movement Film Festival 2022 in San Francisco. KINAJ is currently preparing an enticing spring double bill through the Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) premiering April 2024.
We acknowledge the land we are meeting on is the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis. We also acknowledge that Tkaronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and work on this land and are committed to learning, unlearning and advocating for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Sovereignty. (Adapted from Land Acknowledgement Guidance by the City of Toronto)
As members of the Canadian-Asian Community, we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement. We are committed to doing our part to dismantle white supremacy within ourselves and work towards the decolonization of our beliefs and actions while being active allies to the Black community. We recognize that this is a life-long commitment towards learning, unlearning and checking our biases. The common goal is creating equitable spaces and liberation of all oppressed and marginalized peoples.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito” - Dalai Lama
Choreographer, Performer, Creative Director
Kin Nguien is a choreographer, performer, and creative director born in Ukraine and now based in Toronto, Canada. A recipient of numerous dance choreography awards within Canada and Europe, Kin is regarded as a “versatile performer who moves with heart” (Reet Roy). She is best known for her “Project Lullaby” film series, which focuses on mental health awareness and aims to break social stigmas around mental illness.
Kin was raised in Vietnam, Russia and Ukraine. She grew up multilingual, speaking Russian, Ukrainian, and English in school while communicating in Vietnamese at home. Being a first-generation Vietnamese-Ukrainian has made a significant impact on her identity, cultural awareness, and self-expression. Kin’s European upbringing has shaped her bold and daring nature in storytelling. Her choices are motivated by an honest depiction of the realities of life with minimum distortion. By utilizing clean shapes and lines, Kin thoroughly structures choreography that aims for precision and attention to detail. She creates to courageously challenge the cultural, racial, and societal biases and stigmas within the communities she lives in. At the same time, guided by the Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness practices from her Vietnamese-Asian heritage, she creates work that places significance on the values of compassion and empathy. Her movement pays great attention to breathing and the present state of the body, mind and soul. By mindfully observing nature, she combines movements that imitate the lightness of air, the fluidity of water and the power of the earth. Kin’s mixed cultural upbringing has shaped her artistic expression, where both European and Asian cultures coexist. By balancing these two philosophies, she creates work that encourages people to face the uncomfortable realities of life to fuel change towards compassion and inclusivity.
Before moving to Canada, Kin trained with Igor Osmachko and the Karpinsy Twins from UA-21, the lead Ukrainian Dance Academy, where she learnt hip-hop, popping, house contemporary, and improvisation. She has continued her training and dance education in Canada and the US, learning from world-renowned mentors as Reet Roy, Sorah Yang, Kinjaz, to name a few. Together with her dance partner AJ Velasco, Kin was mentored by Sorah Yang under the ABBD (The Artful Balance of Business and Dance) Mentorship program, developing skills and knowledge in dance, business, leadership in arts. She is currently training with Footnotes Academy, where she trains and deepens her knowledge in various street styles and dance culture.
Currently, Kin is a co-artistic director of KINAJ.co and a member of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists. She is also a teaching faculty of Rhythm2Dance, where she mentors a new generation of dancers worldwide. Kin was recipient of a Newcomer & Refugee Artist Mentorship Grant funded by Toronto Art Council. Kin has recently finished an international tour of her film Project Lullaby: CHOICE, which won a Narrative/Storyline Award at the Homescreen Movement Film Festival 2022 in San Francisco. She is currently working on Bodies of Nature (BON), a dance theater production of the work that focuses on nature preservation.
Choreographer, Dancer, Creative Director
AJ Velasco is a first-generation Filipino Canadian choreographer, performer, and creative director from Toronto, Canada. As a child, he was introduced to different genres of music, played piano, and was surrounded by dancing in family settings. Art was solely encouraged to be a hobby during his upbringing. He continued to dance throughout his post-secondary education as he pursued a degree in the Sciences and Licensure as a Registered Nurse. He achieved what he believed to bring him happiness: secure employment, steady income, and proud parents; yet, he felt dissatisfied. Later in his nursing career, AJ was presented with an opportunity to teach dance internationally. After much introspection and acceptance of his joy in the arts, he decided to leave nursing to pursue a full-time career in dance.
Known for his playful and conceptual approach to choreography, he overlays word-play, grooves, and dynamic intricacies to tell stories. Using his hip-hop, popping, locking, and house training, he creates work to empower, uplift, and educate. A recipient of various awards in Canada, "AJ creates a sense of community and leads with his character, humour and kindness" - Sorah Yang
AJ continues his dance training in Hip-Hop, Popping, Locking, and House dance under the direction of Andrew “Pyro” Chung and Mariano “Glizzi” Abarca. In Toronto, Canada, he has learned from Apolonia Velasquez, under her curated company intensive Aybrid, to prepare dancers for work in commercial, TV, and theatre performances. During the intensive, he learned repertoire, performed live shows, and practiced partnering, improvisation, and conceptual work. He has worked with Carlo Darang, the director of Choreo cookies, to refine and develop his movement and choreography through the Building Block Program in San Diego, California. AJ is an alumni of The Artful Balance of Business and Dance, an online dance career course instructed by international dance educator Sorah Yang.
Currently, he is a teacher of Rhythm2Dance, program director for VYbE Dance Studio, and dancer on Footnotes Elite. In addition, he co-directs KINAJ.co alongside Kin Nguien. He has been featured as the lead performer and co-choreographer for the short dance film: Project Lullaby: CHOICE, which premiered at CanAsian's GRIT Short Dance Film Festival 2021.