Thomas: My First Day Of TMI


I had only been in Toronto maybe a month and I had never been hungrier for growth, up to that point in my life. I had no idea what to expect but I had a feeling I was going to be worked. That was an understatement, and a rather large one at that.

I showed up the next day in the studio, in my black sweat shorts and white t-shirt, where I was joined by 7 or 8 other guys (not all of them would be back). About 30 minutes into the session, I was completely exhausted and experiencing what it felt like to push yourself, in a work out, to the verge of vomiting for the first time.. and the second and the third time. This was the most intense conditioning I had experienced in my first 16 years of life, or as Shavar called it: warm up. This would also be the day I stopped carrying water in a 700ml bottle and opt for the 1.5 litre option instead.

From here, we began the actual rehearsal. Starting with some freestyle drills, hastily showed me that I had no idea, at that point, how to freestyle with urban dance. The bitter but real reality I suddenly could no longer ignore. As I took that in, Shavar started teaching us a fun upbeat piece of choreography. It would have been a more enjoyable experience if every muscle in my body wasnʼt taking turns spasming at random. Even still, it was the kind of choreo I had always wanted to learn and I couldnʼt help but smile.

“Weʼre going to slow things down a bit”, he said. Thank the lord, we were about to begin hour three and I was barely hanging on. We started learning a piece to “Wet the Bed” by Chris Brown. If you know Shavar at all, it will come at no surprise to you that “slowing things down” is rarely mentally or physically easier. This was, in no way, one of those rare occasions. As soon as the choreo was taught, Shavar introduced the added challenge of performing it in-the-round (in other words, as if the audience is surrounding/enclosing you from all angles). Formations changed as fast as they were set and by the end I felt like I had learned everyoneʼs possible positioning, all of which seemed to come to mind before the one I was actually supposed to attend to. At this point, we tried cleaning the section we had learned, and after we spent what felt like 20 minutes unsuccessfully trying to clean a count of 8, we had reached the end of rehearsal.

Broken, exhausted and regretting that morningʼs questionable sausage breakfast sandwich, I moved toward the TTC. Most of us ended up on the same bus and to my relief, everyone experienced the rehearsal in a similar way. We didnʼt talk much due to exhaustion and the general newness of each other, but it was clear everyone went through some sort of something in that rehearsal. As I limped home, what I lacked in physical comfort I made up for in the deep sense of pride, satisfaction from having survived day one, and enthusiasm to come back and try again. This thought motivated me as I slowly climbed the eleven flights of stairs to my apartment. This thought motivated me in all the classes I took that week and in each rehearsal to come.

In the weeks that followed, it became evident to me that frustration and failure were actually the feelings of growth. Up to that moment I had measured growth by the results, but in reality those results owe everything to the process. Shavarʼs process is a constant state of challenge, frustration, unrelenting curation, expectations of excellence, and moments of brilliance. What I learned from that first day was that it would not be easy being part of The Male Initiative, but it would 100% be worth it. 5 years later and every rehearsal with Shavar is the same as that first day, except now I have the results of everything Iʼve achieved since starting, to remind me of the validity of the lessons I had blindly (and rightfully) placed faith in from the beginning; influencing and informing my journey to where I am now.

– Thomas L. Colford