From The Stratford Festival to Broadway, choreographer David Connolly has had a remarkable career which includes collaborations with Katy Perry, Sarah Jessica Parker, KD Lang, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah Brightman, Natalie Portman, Judy Davis, Deepa Mehta, Dean Brody and The Tenors on screen, on stage and on tour. He is currently choreographing the Broadway-bound musical version of The First Wives Club.
Dance Magazine described his life as being "the quintessential balancing act between career and community service." Yet most impressive of all is how he has achieved such world success in the highly competitive entertainment business using two artificial legs!
David was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, with a severe deformity. His mother took her baby son to Montreal to the Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children where he had both legs amputated below the knee, enabling David to walk without a limp on two artificial ones.
It was a brave and inspiring decision and David has been inspired by his mother ever since. "My fascination with the human spirit began with a mother who decided that her doctors and her family were wrong, and then made an extraordinary situation seem ordinary. Because of her, I never saw the situation as traumatic or myself as a victim. It was simply my life. She made sure I wasn't angry at the world."
As a child, David learned he had a singing voice in school choirs. But after an art teacher gave him tickets to see the musical A Chorus Line, he decided he also wanted to dance. "I had no flexibility in my ankles, my feet were dead bolted on" he says, "but I could learn the steps." By late high school, he was singing and dancing in community-theatre musicals .
At Sheridan College he auditioned and was accepted into the school's musical-theatre program, once again managing to conceal his disability. Says David "I think I was so happy doing what I loved, that no one noticed my feet."
Straight out of College David was cast in the revival of Shenandoah, which went to Broadway after a Toronto run. His next production won him a Tyrone Guthrie Award which allowed him to live and study in New York. From there he landed roles in regional theatres across Canada and in musical revues on cruise ships that literally sailed around the world.
David turn his attention to choreography and directing in 1995, moving to Los Angeles to work with famous Hollywood choreographer Anita Mann on such mammoth projects as the Miss America contest and the Jerry Lewis Telethon. He ended up staying in L.A. six years, during which he choreographed National Tours, as well as television and Las Vegas shows, and music videos.
Returning to Toronto, he directed and choreographed musicals, industrials, commercials and music videos across the country, as well as the dance numbers in Deepa Mehta's film Bollywood/Hollywood, for Judy Davis as Judy Garland in the ABC mini-series, "Me and My Shadows" and the children's TV show The Doodlebops. David was also a wedding planner on the TV reality series Rich Bride, Poor Bride.
David feels it's important to give back and has choreographed Toronto's Fashion Cares AIDS fundraising show for 12 years . He also has a solo CD with proceeds going to the Shriners' Hospitals for Children.
"My goal is to help people redefine what's possible by reminding them to approach their goals one step at a time."
- One Step At A Time
As a double, below-knee amputee, David Connolly defied the odds to dance on Broadway, choreograph Katy Perry, Sarah Brightman, The Miss America Pageant and star in a reality TV series. He always understood that his success was directly related to teamwork, having a plan and taking action. David says, "Goals aren't achieved in your head," and in this inspirational keynote he shares that to achieve anything you have to identify goals, nurture resources, risk defeat and with courage and enthusiasm, take action one step at a time.