With the demand of international performances, it’s challenging for a top dance team to get together and practice their routines.

This is why Axel Villamil launched StageKeep, an app that helps choreographers plan out even the most elaborate of routines. While working on his Bachelor of Science degree at U of T, he was also flying around the world to compete in dance competitions. This opened his eyes to a potential startup opportunity—the pressing need for a modern tool to allow choreographers realize their on-stage visions in the global world of dance.

“It’s very hard to visualize a group of 15 people when only four are able to show up,” says Villamil.

In 2017, he teamed up with classmate William Mak to begin developing StageKeep at UTSC’s incubator, The Hub. Their vision was simple—build an app that saves production time and provides tools that allow artists to efficiently plot out formations and routines and sync them to music—all while taking into account the size and shape of the performance space.

Two years later, StageKeep’s founders have attracted global attention with their innovative product. They’ve appeared on Dragon’s Den, fielded interest from Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet, and secured the Toronto Raptors’ dance team as clients. Professionals who choreograph for big-name artists Ariana Grande, Drake and Cardi B have also demonstrated interest in the app.

StageKeep is also teaming up with governing dance organizations to develop a program that would provide the app at a heavily reduced price, or in some cases for free, depending on need. “It’s a way to give back to the community so we can make sure everybody gets their hands on the boundless creativity that it can provide,” says Villamil.

He credits his time at U of T for teaching him to deal with the complexities of founding a startup company.

“The great thing about U of T is that you’re encouraged to find innovative ways to apply your knowledge, and to forge your own path,” he says. “My education here, the innovation environment—it’s so versatile and can help you go wherever you need to go.”