Canadian Built: David Forteau

Written By:
Amanda Schroeder

The butterfly effect, the concept that one small event can drastically alter the rest of your life, in a positive or negative way. With David Forteau it was a simple act of kindness that shaped the way he now lives his life; in return influencing thousands of others. His journey has come full circle in a way that has allowed him to impact people who were once in the same position he once was. Not only educating and teaching dance, but also creating a community that is inclusive to all. We had the chance to see him in action and learn about the community he has built into a national initiative. 

What does an average day look like?

I have a certain amount of set days where I’m either teaching at a studio out of town or I’m working with my creative studio team to curate something for a client or a photo-shoot with an artist. So it’s very random but at the same time I control it so I set the tone for the week. Right now I’m spreading the culture of hip-hop in towns outside of Toronto, I’m teaching in Oshawa, Whitby, Brampton and Vaughn. So I go to these studios and I teach these youth hip-hop from the roots so they aren’t just learning the steps they understand the culture too; it’s a good way for me to spread awareness and expand on our community.

How did you get introduced into dancing?

Interesting story, my upbringing was meaningful and I wouldn’t change a thing but I did some dumb stuff in High School and I got assaulted by a lot of people one time and it was life changing. I realized, I haven’t done anything worthwhile in my life and I want to make my family proud and I want to do something impactful in the world. So I went searching till one day I was in a mall (Scarborough Town Centre) and saw these guys heading to an odd area of the mall so I followed them and found out it was a community centre, and the program was Tropicana. They have computers to print resumes, counsellors for troubled youth and a dance studio. So I saw this one dude spinning on his head and doing all this crazy breakdancing and I was fascinated. I was naturally drawn to it so I asked him if he could teach me. And for the first time in my whole life there was no strings attached, he said he would teach me right then and there. I had the opportunity to learn from someone that I thought was good and there was no issues, no problems, just free, inviting, and inclusive. So that one situation changed my entire life and I’ve never looked back since because of that person, His name was Andel James.

After than encounter what did you do next?

So he put a reference in for me as I was doing motivational speaking at the time, so it was full circle. I met him, learned how to dance, and then ended up working with them at Unity. I found a random hole in the wall, they gave me an opportunity, I got away from the gang mentality and I became a youth advocate. He helped me as a kid and I knew I had to do the same; you need to always give back.

"One situation changed my entire life and I’ve never looked back since because of that person."

What kind of motivational speaking do you do and how did that start?

So I went and did a talk at my High School for free. The principle then referred me to the Students Commission of Canada who then works with youth to get grants and across Canada to motivate youth and better the community. So they hired me for this project that was in the process of getting funding they wrote my name into the plan got and Project Peace was born. (public education against crime eradication.) So they would go into schools and work with police to talk about anti-gun, anti-gang bullying initiatives, and I would give an hour-long talk everyday for three years straight. So over the years I’ve spoken to over 750,000 youth and because of that on my resume Unity Charity hired me. I want to motivate them so they can be champions for the future and eventually I want more kids to do the talking.

Tell us about your studio, Rightfoot studios.

I had a drop in base, high-level hip hop studio, so if someone comes in and they want to teach a class they can rent the space and we can mutually promote it. Someone can make $500 a night at my spot within an hour instead of going somewhere else and making a $30 cheque at their place. Its made for the artist, that has been my model since day one and I’ve never had to change it because its been mutually beneficial for the artist and myself. It was always booked and they were always coming back because they were making enough to maintain their lifestyle.

What is your plan for it moving forward?

What I want to do is open another facility where its more about developing artists, if you’re already good, have a fan base, how do we take that to the next level and create a brand out of you. Basically developing artists and the main slogan is developing the best artists in Canada since 2011 because we’ve already kind of been doing that. The facility would be a one-stop shop for anyone in the industry that wants to develop themselves.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

A pinnacle moment I think is when I see something that the youth are drawn to and being able to access that has always been a key thing for me. Seeing youth come up through programs that I had a hand in facilitating and then watching them on stage beside me that’s where its at. Those moments have to be the most memorable and rewarding so far.

How has living in Toronto impacted your life and career?

Living in the concrete jungle really shaped my tough exterior/inter R&B lover way of life, I learned from the OG’s of the street how to hustle and make something out of nothing and I immersed myself in Hip-hop as soon as I was put onto it. We are in the mecca of diversity and I have understood and respected that since day one which is reflected in my career and how I do business. Toronto is the right kind of busy with a decent population for opportunity to sprout, being able to travel quite a bit I still haven’t found another place I'd live over Toronto. Yet.

"While you have the energy, put in the work."

What does the concept of chasing your passion mean to you?

I believe in going 100% in anything you do. So chasing your passion would fall into creating a plan and outlining it step by step so you aren’t just running around screaming “I want a million dollars”, Its all about the How and the Why. If you can answer those two questions you will be largely ahead in your goals.

What message or advice would you want to impart to anyone who’s just starting out.

A lot of people never had role models and people before them putting in leg work, we're in an age where information is readily accessible its just up to you what you fill your head with. Align yourself with 5 associates that are like-minded and doing better than you and watch and learn. Your friends will be there if you have balance in your life so don’t worry about being lonely. While you have the energy, put in the work. If you find something that works, rinse and repeat as you find ways to level up. Don’t let people that haven’t successfully done what you are trying to achieve tell you that you will fail. Give back as much as you can.

Through one simple act of kindness David was introduced to dance, now years later his commitment to giving back provides thousands the same experience. Using self-expression as a method of self-improvement he surrounds himself with people who share the same passion. After finding what you love dedicating yourself to it is necessary for the development of yourself and those around you. Combining his passion and talent for dance he has created a national community that enables him to impact thousands. With no signs of stopping and building a strong community this is just the beginning of his empire.

 

@peacecollective