My last blog article was a first-hand account of the tireless personal and professional dedication involved in artist development.
I got a chance to speak with 16 year old dancer/singer/actress Talin Silva and talk life lessons with singer/songwriter Chris Bones. They shared a glimpse into the years of hard work and extraordinary commitment that have gone into cultivating their careers.
When I sat down to write about the result of diligence through the hardships of the music industry for the second installment of this series, my heart pulled me in a different direction. One of the joys of being an artist is that I have the freedom to create as the wind blows inspiration my way and switch focus to what excites me spiritually. Ask anyone who creates; it can be a gift and a curse.
As quickly as we get fired up about something, a negative thought or notion that it’s not possible will barge in, killing the vibe. I usually combat them by doing an inventory on pessimistic thoughts and move forward more determined than ever. Drastic transitions have been a consistent element in every chapter of my story, but now as I stand on the brink of yet another career leap, this particular vision of myself wasn’t one I latched on to quite as easily. It felt like it was a large step away from the arena I’ve become so comfortable playing in.
So what happens when the sculptor turns the chisel on himself?
Three years ago, I was asked by Linda Kuo (owner/creative director of non-profit Dancers Unlimited) to visit Hawaii to teach at a week-long cultural and artistic celebration called National Dance Week. Needless to say, I was beyond excited! It’s one of the places I'd thought and prayed about visiting for some time. My mom would tell me about her first experience in Hawaii when she was in college. During her trip, she committed her life to Jesus Christ so growing up she'd always tell us how magical it is to feel completely connected with the spirituality that the culture breeds. It runs deep through the ground and mists through the air as if God himself speaks through the elements of nature.
I was beyond thankful for the opportunity and excited to see what type of connection I would have to a place I’d heard so much about.
During my week of classes, I met a spunky kid with spiky blonde hair. This little pint sized dynamo stood front row in every single class. His family and I grew very close so when I came back to teach the following year, Steve, Hudson and Julian welcomed me into their home with open arms. During a hike to Manoa Falls, Steve asked me how I wanted to affect the world, not just with the artists I was blessed to work with, but more so considering the legacy I’d leave behind.
Without hesitating, I blurted out, "I want to do a 90s cardio fitness class." I hadn’t seriously thought about pursuing the idea before, but it just came out like word vomit. I remember stepping outside of my body for a second, looking at myself in disbelief. Steve replied simply saying, “Then do just that!” I left Oahu with an incessant voice of prophecy telling me that soon, that vision would become my reality.
At first, there was a small breeze that blew past my ear. I felt it but didn't pay it much mind because all the projects I was involved in were so time consuming. Through the years I’ve been immersed in everything that goes into creating stunning visuals and dynamic performances for artists of every caliber. It’s been a great ride and I don’t regret anything, but in the development of my purpose, I was yearning for something that connected me to not only entertaining the world but genuinely uplifting people as well.
After spending months working on Oxygen's dance competition/weight loss show then choreographing for Flash Mob America, I felt equipped with a solid foundation of techniques that inspired me to create a hype environment reminiscent of a 90s house party with cardio movement that would be fun but still challenging for dancers of all levels.
For the last three years, Old School Skinny has been a tireless daily commitment that involved me stepping out of my comfort zone and boldly into the dance fitness community.
The truth is, none of it came without a fight.
At first, I taught for free at the Arc Dance Lounge owned by One Church Intl. Every week, I would hone in on what I felt was the authentic reflection of my ambition. After that studio closed down, I was taking an hour long Orange Line ride from NoHo to Woodland Hills after teaching, rehearsing and meetings all day to keep building OSS with my Herbalife coach. There were times I prayed more money would come from my efforts but other days, the sheer excitement people got from being able to escape the woes of the world by dancing, was worth more than money could buy.
I knew this class was a calling on my life so I persevered knowing that all of it was moving me deeper into my true purpose.
To keep the bills paid, I stuck with what I was used to. For the last three years, I’ve been traveling the world with Grammy nominated artist Jhene Aiko as her creative director, stage manager and movement coach. I was also involved in producing music videos, fashion photography, artist development and so much more. Professionally everyone knows me as a creative director and choreographer so I've always felt the need to push myself in that particular focus.
Through it all, I noticed the growing demand for my time and attention. There was something more to Old School Skinny than just a class I taught on the side of my other commitments.
I started having dreams of where I see myself in the next few years and it wasn’t exactly reflective of my current situation. Though I enjoyed the road and had life changing experiences, still, there was a need to step into my own limelight.
It became clear that OSS is an electrifying extension of who I am and the joy I get from connecting directly with people is infectious. Every student could feel it.
With a wedding coming up in February on top of everyday expenses I knew now wasn’t the best time to drop everything “find myself," but I decided to pass on a tour, move away from projects that weren’t fulfilling and take the time I needed to cultivate a fitness and performance experience like no other.
Once I did, my creativity began to flow like the Mississippi River. I’d just be sitting somewhere running through my thoughts and BAM, an idea; then another and another. Slowly but surely the monument I was carving began to take shape. The best part about it was that no matter how I felt about the course I was on, it was the Party People who came to class every week, my fiancée, family, friends and even people online that supported me through the uncertainty.
The lesson I’m taking with me into 2017 is that a career in dance, or any field, can lead you into so many different avenues and it’s not that you’re giving up on what you’ve worked so hard for, but that you’re evolving! It’s by divine appointment that we intentionally take significant pieces of our experiences to create the future we see for ourselves.
There are countless memes and sayings you can read on social media about your personal power and how tenaciously believing in yourself will grant you the life you dream of, but it’s also having faith that you can actually balance all that your heart is dedicated to. The trait of a true master craftsman is when you can be a positive influence and a leader while never forgetting to be a student.
I’ve decided that every time I can do a bit of self-reflection, to be sincerely open and optimistic throughout the process. I can say from experience that it’s the authentic and truest version of us that will walk through doors only God can open.
Cheers to the future!!
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
Pope John XXIII