Artistic Director, Producer, Choreographer, Media Manager, Production Manager, Costumer, Performer
Knox began her training in ballet at age three, eventually expanding her study to Graham technique and tap. She was first introduced to jazz in high school, and began training and diversifying her skillset into physical theatre, ballroom and street styles. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance Dance from Ryerson University in 2008. Although ballet has always been her first love, Knox found great joy when introduced to the world of burlesque in 2009. Since then Knox has found a second love in anything great showmanship, drawing inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including old Hollywood, drag, fashion and theatre. Some of her biggest choreographic influences are Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon, Gene Kelly and Martha Graham. To see Knox's full professional repertoire outside of High Society Cabaret, visit knoxharter.com
"All I've ever wanted to do was to create characters, put them in new spaces and watch them be human, whatever that means. And if I can do that while making it gorgeous and salacious, even better. " - Knox Harter
Knox was one of four featured dancers in High Society Cabaret's first show A Decadent Scandal in July 2012 after meeting Anna Jaeger the previous February at a networking event called "La Tease" presented by DivaGirl Inc. Knox had already been a member of the female owned networking company for three years as part of both DivaGirl Fitness and DivaGirl Entertainment with owner Laura Furtado, and was a logical addition to the first High Society Cabaret show. Knox's then-current exploration into the history and artistry of burlesque very quickly proved to be a valuable asset complimenting Anna's vision of old Hollywood style theatrical glamaganza. As Knox experimented with choreography, character and storytelling through event bookings with DivaGirl Entertainment and regular performances with Love Letters Cabaret, she brought her learned knowledge and artistry into the work Anna was striving to create.
Having ambitious visions, and after a less-than-ideal final outcome with the Santa Baby series in December 2012, Anna sought to fold Knox more actively into High Society Cabaret and its productions, bringing her on initially as a choreographer and later as an assistant artistic director. Knox's first choreographed numbers made in appearance in Diamonds and Daggers in September 2013.
As High Society Cabaret began to prepare for Down in Old New Orleans for November 2013, Knox began seeing issues with lack of promotional material from Laura and DivaGirl and began taking initiative to create content to promote the show. Throughout this show, Knox began experimenting with rehearsal structures in tandem with the dancers. Two weeks prior to the performance, one of the dancers removed themselves from the production. Shortly after, High Society Cabaret lost The Courthouse as a venue, and quickly and awkwardly adjusted the production to be performed at Parlour.
Learning from the experience of Down in Old New Orleans and in collaboration with Anna and Laura, Knox worked to build High Society Cabaret's first operational structure to produce shows. This initial production structure worked to mount a show within a six week period, approximately 3 times a year. Rehearsals were scheduled twice a week for 2 hours each. In exchange for access to the DivaGirl network and promotional resources, High Society Cabaret dancers would have to be comprised entirely of registered DivaGirls. Each dancer would be given a flat rate, while the remaining income was a profit share between Anna, Laura and Knox. Knox also saw a need for more uniform and intentional looks for the productions and began investing in costumes for the dancers and styling them for each show. Oftentimes this was an investment of Knox's personal funds with the intention that the money would be relocated for future endeavours, events and bookings. At least one group number for each show would be created as the "corporate show piece", creating choreography and costumes that could be repurposed outside of the production. The first show to test this structure would be called Meanwhile Back at the Office. Knox would take on the duties of choreography and the bulk of production, while Laura would help with promotion, and Anna was on her first maternity leave.
Knox quickly became a go-to for creating choreographed routines and running rehearsals for bookings and events, often performing in her own works. Frequently this meant she wore many hats. This included but was certainly not limited to choreographer, dance captain, point of contact, a liaison bother for the client and the dancers, as well as an administrative assistant. This experience only further honed her organizational and interpersonal skills.
This structure proved to be successful through the rest of the 2013 into the 2014 season, and as Anna began maternity leave with her first child, Knox stepped in as an artistic director. She would go on to choreograph, style, produce and sometimes perform in the first Tiki in the Moonlight, La Dolce Vita, and Meet Me at the Diner. By the second Tiki in the Moonlight in the summer of 2015, Knox began noticing Laura's absence not only from the High Society Cabaret productions, but from event bookings coming through DivaGirl Entertainment. This often meant a significant lack of communication, often resulting in Knox having to scramble to recover onsite. Moreover, Knox noticed audiences dwindle significantly without Laura's help in promoting the shows. With trust in Laura eroding, Knox began discussing the possibility of taking over DivaGirl Entertainment, and High Society Cabaret with it. Laura met Knox with an unreasonable sum to buy DivaGirl Entertainment's shortened client list and in-exclusive brand, so with Anna's blessing and support, Knox severed ties with Laura Furtado and DivaGirl, and High Society began working independently.
Committed to seeing their proposed performance season through, How the West was Swung was High Society Cabaret's first production independent of DivaGirl. In departing with DivaGirl, Knox wish to venture into more daring territory with her concepts and choreography. She strove to incorporate her contemporary and modern dance training into the choreography of the show, creating more emotionally driven scenes and moments. This concept was not well received by the dancers on the production, often creating a tense and challenging atmosphere in rehearsals. This left Knox discouraged, but not defeated, as the show still was received with grand reviews.
Seeing it as a chance to start fresh, Anna and Knox collaborated with Adam Tupper to rebrand High Society Cabaret with a new logo. After Five was the company's relaunch event with an informal performance. Knox and Anna quickly made plans to create more sustainable methods of booking events and clients so the company could perform regularly with an established budget. However, the two frequently met challenges with negotiating with clients when it came to casting and paying the dancers properly. Knox worked tirelessly drafting and redrafting contracts and protocols to ensure open communication with clients, talent and the safety of all involved. She also became instrumental in deciding when a client wasn't worth the risk or loss of the company and its dancers, often being the voice of reason and encouraging a high standard to quality both in the work and the treatment of the artists.
High Society Cabaret's final show in Parlour was the remount of Down in Old New Orleans, after a particularly upsetting and insulting interaction between Knox and one of the venue owners. Unwilling to tolerate disrespect, and upon hearing Revival was looking to book more shows, Knox quickly convinced Anna to change venues. With a venue change would mean a drastic change in show structure. Knox had often dreamed of creating larger scale, story driven ensemble productions incorporating burlesque and the move to Revival seemed like a perfect opportunity. During the summer to the fall of 2016, Knox began writing her first script: The White Light Follies.
The White Light Follies would prove to be a massive learning curve for Knox. With Anna still on maternity leave with her second child, the show and the company feel squarely on Knox's shoulders again. Knox had large ambitions for her first full-length production, taking on directing, marketing and stage managing on top of the responsibilities of scheduling, rehearsal direction, choreography, styling, production and performance. Knox was met with conflict by the ensemble cast on a regular basis as she navigated new means and methodologies of working with a much bigger project. While the show did not sell as well as hoped and was met with lukewarm reviews from audiences, it set a precedent for Knox and High Society Cabaret on how to evolve and move forward in a new format at a new venue.
During the holiday season and in between regular bookings, Knox and Anna collaborated to write Portrait of a Scandal, with Knox primarily working on dramaturgy and assisting with writing dialogue. With the experience and knowledge gained from The White Light Follies, Knox re-evaluated a new operations and rehearsal structure for this production. Part of this structure involved setting more concrete deadlines for production elements to be completed, while soliciting members of the cast who were interested in volunteering to help with the production. Knox also created a rehearsal scheduling system she would keep going forward: providing available rehearsal time to the cast and/or asking the cast to give their availability for rehearsal, then doing some "scheduling Tetris" in line with production deadlines to complete tasks with the cast. The information would then go out in a weekly email to everyone on the production on Sunday night. Knox also integrated a commission structure for the performers to help with ticket sales. Each performer would get $5 of each ticket they personally sold in person or online. While needing regular attention and maintenance, Knox's new operational production system seemed to work, and the show was met by a larger, more enthusiastic audience.
Armed with a new found confidence, Knox wished to correct the mistakes she made by remounting The White Light Follies. One of the first things she adjusted was casting, replacing all but one of the dancers in the show's ensemble and opting to hire dancers with formalized training, and adjusting the choreography to showcase their talents and Knox's choreography. With some of the lead performers being recast, Knox refined her directorial methods allowing the written characters to shift with the new casting. This allowed her to begin to develop her style of direction and play in rehearsals, a process she really enjoyed. Knox recalls the feeling during rehearsals to be vastly different than the first show, and learned important lessons about how and who to cast for a production. High Society Cabaret was beginning to see a rise in support, as the show generated bigger audiences in attendance.
The Silent Goodbye would be High Society Cabaret's and Knox's most ambitious show to date. Modelled after classic 1930s film noir the complex script would take Knox a solid two and a half months to complete. Unlike The White Light Follies or Portrait of a Scandal, each musical and dance number was a key moment to move the story forward. The lack of "filler" numbers meant that Knox needed a dedicated cast, and reached out to specific performers from previous shows for their roles. While a lot of the content was challenging, the performers were continually enthusiastic, creating one of the smoothest rehearsal and production processes Knox can recall. The show was met with glowing reviews from sold out houses, prompting Revival to encourage an additional show to be added to the run.
While working holiday bookings, Knox proposed to Anna that they revisit High Society Cabaret roots to create Speakeasy at Revival: a monthly showcase of Toronto burlesque and cabaret talent. Anna was enthusiastically on board and the two began planning a structure to take in performer applicants and promote the show to audiences. Determined to keep a performance and entertainment standard of quality high, Knox set up a tiered system with performer applications, providing opportunity to work and workshop with Knox specifically for Speakeasy, free of charge. Knox would also frequently host the shows, a new skill she saw Speakeasy as a place to practise and develop. The first 4 months of Speakeasy would be well received and attended.
With Anna having completed the script, Knox was set to direct, choreograph and produce La Dolce Vita, a romantic comedy on stage inspired by Italian cinema. Feeling confident in her processes, Knox began rehearsals. As rehearsals continued, Knox gradually ran into issues with scheduling conflicts and production deadlines.Members of the ensemble also struggled with choreography, creating a couple of tense rehearsal days close to show opening. Keeping as much patience as possible with the new production, Knox pushed through. While La Dolce Vita wasn't welcomed to the same size audience as The Silent Goodbye, it was nevertheless well received.
In 2018 Knox was brought on as a producer and guest curator for the Toronto Burlesque Festival. As a way to promote the upcoming remount of Portrait of a Scandal, Knox applied High Society Cabaret to one of the festival’s shows. The act was a contemporary burlesque interpretation of a Baroque salon featuring seven dancers, and was a noted highlight of the weekend. Shortly after rehearsals began for the remount production. With very little changing since the original mount of the show, the rehearsal process was notably seamless and smooth, allowing space for Knox to focus more intently on promotion, and the fumbling Speakeasy at Revival.
By October 2018, Speakeasy was costing Knox far more money than it was making. Moreover, she was beginning to notice inconsistencies in communication with Revival. In November, Revival double booked the allotted dates for Ballyhoo, forcing Knox to cancel the production. By the end of January, with the obvious lack of support and another scheduling faux pas around the remount of The Silent Goodbye, Knox made the difficult decision to part ways with Revival and hunt for a more supportive venue.
Anna proposed moving Speakeasy to Katana on Bay, having been approached with interest from the owner on having regular performances in the restaurant. After initial meetings, High Society Cabaret agreed to a 6 month contract, however Knox stayed wary of whether that contract would be properly honoured, and kept thorough documentation of exchanges and proposed plans with Katana. Gradually, Knox began noticing inconsistencies with the venue on site, affecting the show's income. Additionally, Knox was struggling to keep the organizational structures of Speakeasy afloat in Katana and was regularly finding herself overwhelmed. Katana proved to be unable to fulfill their responsibilities and Speakeasy's final show was in April 2019.
The remount of The Silent Goodbye would be a tumultuous one. Knox would acquire access to The Commons Theatre in Little Italy after logging hours doing regular minor maintenance work in the venue for five months. The rehearsal process was not only littered with scheduling conflicts, but a member of the show had to be recast due to a higher paying job opportunity, two weeks before the show. Moreover, unbeknownst to Knox, members of the cast she had put in the positions of dance captain, social media manager, and on production proved to be unable to properly fulfill their responsibilities, leaving Knox to catch dropped tasks. Knox also spent the production in ill health, putting off treatment until the show closed. Exhausted, defeated, and physically unwell after the closing of The Silent Goodbye, Knox went on hiatus from High Society Cabaret to recover. In the months to follow, she would learn of actions of sabotage and ill-will among certain members of the ensemble cast of the show, further sending her into isolation.
In October of 2019, Knox was approached by music director Daniel Walsh for a residency for a weekly cabaret with live music at La Nuit Shanghai. While initially hesitant, she was convinced upon presentation of a budget and started collaborating with Daniel. The two worked well to create a unique cabaret experience that was well received by the restaurant and its patrons. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the cabaret, and soon the restaurant, was shut down.
To date, Knox is responsible for writing 3 full length shows, directing 7 shows, choreographing 17 shows, producing 31 shows, and overseeing countless bookings for event and corporate entertainment. She is the writer, researcher and curator of this archive.
"Some days working on this archive has been like a celebration of all the work that was done with very little support and funds; and some days it’s been like doing an autopsy on something you loved that used to be alive and thriving." - Knox Harter