Meet the Duo Behind Hit & Run Dance Company

Back in 2004, Anisa Tejpar and Jennifer Nichols met in the most traditional ballerina fashion: at the barre in a ballet class. Both growing tired of waiting tables to support themselves while they were building their dance careers, they decided to join forces and launch their own independent dance production company, which they named Hit & Run. With matching entrepreneurial spirits and backgrounds in classical dance training—Tejpar studied at Canada’s National Ballet School and Nichols at the Quinte Ballet School and L’École Supérieure de Ballet du Québec—they found the perfect business model and ran with it.

“It felt so natural to start producing entertainment for events,” Tejpar reminisces. “Within four years we weren’t working in restaurants anymore.” Both women describe their partnership as one with the perfect balance of yin and yang—while Nichols identifies as the creative “dreamer” of the team, Tejpar provides the “how” to Nichols’ “what.” “Anisa keeps me grounded,” adds Nichols.

Now in their thirties and the company over a decade old, the successful dance duo has produced and choreographed countless original dances for a range of clients. Hit & Run has a unique approach: rather than clients shopping through a list of dances in their repertoire, Tejpar and Nichols create each performance from scratch depending on a client’s needs. It’s “like having a custom suit or dress made for you, rather than buying off the rack,” explains Nichols.

Whether the host has a garden party, gala or gallery event in mind, Hit & Run will choreograph a live performance within that environment. “It always starts with the client and event as our inspiration, listening to their desires and ideas,” says Tejpar. “We take it from there,” she continues, listing the next steps in their creative process like playing around with different patterns in the studio, and finally inviting their performers in to bring their own artistry to the piece. “There are many layers, and that’s what makes it so interesting,” concludes Tejpar.

Nichols agrees, chanting the steps in her very similar creative process: “Listening, listening, listening. Listen to the client. Listen to potential music. Listen to our artists.”

HitandRun Dance Company

Both of Hit & Run’s founding ladies are still very active in their own dance careers, performing with various companies and choreographers around Canada in a host of dance styles. “We love working with other people in the community and learning new things to bring back to our work together,” says Tejpar. Likewise, Nichols cites the variety of performances they’re both involved in as the secret to how they keep their ideas and visions for Hit & Run so fresh.

Hit & Run’s client roster includes big names such as TIFF, The Rolling Stones and MAC Cosmetics. “Helping to create the animation for MAC Cosmetics’ “Antiquitease” collection in Cannes, France was a huge highlight,” says Tejpar. She remembers donning enormous gold ball gowns with equally enormous curly wigs while dancing around a life-sized candelabra with a clan of body-painted male dancers and gymnasts. “It was so over-the-top and unforgettable,” she concludes.

While modern technology and on-screen dance shows like So You Think You Can Dance do pose a challenge to artists like Tejpar and Nichols, they are both optimistic that nothing can replace the power of a live performance, and emphasize that the public’s thirst for that intimacy will never fully fade. For them, the key is to engage with younger generations, who might not have grown up attending the theatre. “We aim to capture the attention of a demographic who may not readily buy a ticket to the theatre,” says Nichols. “They may, however, be captivated by a live dance performance in an alternative context such as a party, gala, or fashion show.” Right now, it’s all about finding new avenues to entice people to attend future dance shows. “There’s something about watching a show on stage, watching the performers sweat and really connecting with one another,” agrees Tejpar. “Every audience member gets a once-in-a-lifetime experience, over time. It’s timeless.”

Feature photograph by Ryan Emberley.