I normally label myself, if I have to, as an actor, who dances and sings. I chose that order because I have a BFA in acting from the University of Connecticut. It is also my primary career focus. Other creative fields such as comics and other performance art, are secondary. Dance and singing, I group under ‘other performance.’ I do not focus on dance or singing, but I have had formal training in both in the past. In this post I’ll talk about dance.
Growing up, movement came natural to me. I was like an animal, and had good reflexes and instincts. I actually have pretty bad balance, but my nimbleness allows me to shift weight from foot to foot to compensate.
I remember, when my sister and I were little, my aunt or mom, would be out, and they’d go to a club, bar, or something where there was dancing. They loved to dance, and so, in a sea of large people, I would move and try to dance. I had the ability to feel the music, and translate what I felt, through my body. My movements, became my dance, and self-expression. Letting the music move me. Enjoying how certain beats, melodies, or baselines made me feel different things, translating to different movements.
Over time, I was fascinated by self-expression through movement, and I would observe others, either on the dance floor, socially, or television, MTV, or the Mickey Mouse Club of the time. Often if I saw something I liked,, I’d start to imitating it, and teach myself, so that I could add it to my arsenal of self-expression through movement. Sometimes, I may not have the luxury of studying a recorded music video, or watching someone doing a move over and over, so if the movement wasn’t available for me to imitate, I tried to imitate, the image and the feeling I got from watching it, or from what I imagined it would feel.
And so, I was a dancer. Dancing/movement, was my most natural and obvious of my physical talents. I loved to dance, and would recreate music videos, and learn dance moves, and eventually choreography my own dances to songs.
Seeing my passion, my mother would enroll me in dance classes, and martial arts classes, all of which I repeatedly start, then ended, started and ended, for years. I took a few dance classes growing up, mostly jazz, and ballroom, but I never really stuck with it for long. I enjoyed jazz, there was a lot of jazz in music videos growing up, BUT for some reason, I got bored. I think perhaps, the jazz I took was very classical jazz, and not entirely what I hoped it to be, having watched music videos. Sure, instructors would use popular music, used a lot of step-ball-change, jazzy hits and poses, so the dancing was similar, but I guess to me, it wasn’t the same as what people did in music videos, which was a lot more aggressive maybe, with a mix of jazz, funk and hip-hop. I don’t know. ha ha. I recall music videos by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, …. at one point, I was learning all the choreography from the Mickey Mouse Club (MMC) and the group that it birthed, The Party, which is exactly the mix of dancing I liked. Since, I enjoyed MMC, The Party, and the music videos on MTV,…. dance was always accompanied by singing, so I also was singing a bit.
My sister, Carol, and I would go on to create performances together, starting out performing for family, and eventually at various venues, festivals and fairs. We both auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club, and I made it to the last 3, in my group. I worked over the summer for Riverside Park, as a singer/dancer for their shows. You can read more about that experience, in my by blog post,
‘What I Learned About My First Paid Job‘
We also entered dancing/singing competitions, and during high school, created a performance group called Power Surge, and competed nationally in MTV/Cinnaburst’s Lip Service competition (lip syncing).
I remember once seeing a dance group, from when my sister and I performed at the Middletown Street Fair (can’t recall what it was called). This dance group called their dance style as ‘insulation-funk’ jazz. YES, I thought, that’s it, that’s what I want to do ha ha. But by then, I was already doing my own thing, and to be honest, I was just a really good mover, and not so good technically anyhow.
Though I wasn’t a good technical dancer, I auditioned for a scholarship to go to the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts (GHAPA, now called Academy of the Arts). GHAPA was a part-time school for high-schoolers. Students would attend their home school, and leave after a half-day, to attend GHAPA for the rest of the day. I auditioned for the dance department, and I got the scholarship to attend on my last year of high-school.
As a dance major at GHAPA, I took classes in dance history, ballet, modern, jazz, African, etc. I sucked at ballet, and I was always slightly self-conscious about how I looked in my dance tights. Every time I left the classroom, I’d throw my jeans on.
The school, wasn’t just for dancers, they also had drama/acting majors, music majors, writers, etc. I got to meet a whole school of creative and performance types! It was amazing and liberating, coming from a farm-like hometown where the local hangout was McDonalds, I finally felt I was with people more like myself in all facets. Artistically, emotionally, sexually, etc. These are high-school years, so even then, I wasn’t really happy. I hated my high-school years, but that’s another story.
So, at GHAPA, I was given opportunities in creativity and performance I never had before, including acting. It was here that I really started to act. Though I wasn’t a drama major, many of my new friends were, and I auditioned and got into a teen drama troupe called Looking In Theater, which was funded to create skits about teen struggles, and perform them at high schools, and provide a discussion for students. Anyhow, though I was in the dance program, I had aspirations to be an actor/performer.
I joined a performance group called Fiesta, and during college did some choreography and competed in homecoming competitions in which the Asian American Cultural Center had its first win ever. I also occasionally taught hip-hop, kung fu (wushu) and tai chi.
When I moved to NYC, I dabbled a little in more Wushu training, did some back-up singing and dancing, for Basic Black & the Off-Whites, Charlie Demos,
For more about me, my dance experience, training, and videos, please go HERE!
This is my blog for the week of Nov. 11th