Luckie was featured as a choreographer and onscreen dance partner for Oxygen’s hit show Dance Your A** Off where he landed a spot in the finale. His choreography/staging for the off -Broadway remake of the 1975 choreo-poem “For Colored Girls”, received two nominations from the NAACP Theatre Awards. He then had the pleasure of creative directing and choreographing promotional spot dates and television performances for Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday album including the Femme Fatale Tour, Rockin’ Dick Clark New Years Eve, and Good Morning America.
Kristi Tornga is a friend and colleague of mine from CalArts. She is an exceptionally talented artist, and it has been incredible to watch her professional progression. She left LA for the Big Apple in 2010, and realized her dreams by dancing with the Paul Taylor Dance Company this season, including performances at the infamous Lincoln Center. Kristi shares her experience as a modern dancer in NYC with NoHoArtsDistrict.com, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary dance side of the coin and what’s helped her along the way.
The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) held an inaugural Dance and Wellness Intensive on March 20 and 21 on its campus in Valencia. The intensive was curated by the School of Dance administrators and faculty to provide their students with exposure to performing arts health professionals and wellness experts to compliment and balance the high level of training offered in technique, performance, choreography, and production. When I got the request to teach for the intensive, I was so excited to hear that my alma mater was joining the wellness wave and providing students with access to dancer health resources that I knew I had to cover the event for NoHoArtsDistrict.com.
Melinda Sullivan is Doing it Right – an exclusive interview for Gotta Dance
Melinda Sullivan is an inspirational performing artist in our community. You’ll recognize her from SYTYCD season 7, with a comeback on season 11 to perform in a duet with fellow tap dancer Aaron Turner. She earned a place on Dance Magazine’s top 25 to watch for 2013, and won Capezio’s prestigious A.C.E. Award in 2012. That winning entry, entitled "Gone,” debuted in expanded form in New York in August 2013. She continues to develop her many talents and interests as a dancer, singer, and actress, which have given her a broad platform for her performance opportunities and artistic enterprises. I am grateful to Melinda who eloquently shares her experiences and latest projects with NoHoArtsDostrict.com.
KC: For our professionals and aspiring professionals out there, what can you share about the experience of working in the different mediums of stage, TV, and film? What’s lending to your success and how has that shaped how you prepare for a versatile career path?
MS: As a dancer, I am lucky to have a strong ballet and jazz foundation coupled with a passion for tap, more of a "niche" dance style. That has allowed me to be versatile while at the same time being unique. Also, dancing takes an incredible amount of mental focus. I'm thankful that I had that focus at an early age. The only way to push through the discipline and sometimes monotony of your technical training is to stay inspired. Look to the masters of your art form to get you to your next level. Read books, watch footage, listen to musical scores written for dance, etc.
Once dancing and performing become your job, you must seek balance between being an athlete, an artist, and a working professional. It can be tricky. Cross train and take care of your body, feed your soul with good art, and meet people in your field who you respect.
Most importantly, if you want to work in both LA and NY as a dancer, you ABSOLUTELY need to start singing and acting ASAP.
KC: You’ve had several roles portraying characters that emulate turn-of-the-century to mid-century styles and settings. Tell us about your influences and what you’re bringing forward from these eras in some of these roles.
MS: Campfire Vaudeville is a song and dance experience that one of my best friends Galen Hooks created. She brought me on as a performer and choreographer, and last year we had a few live appearances around LA coupled with some really incredible video content that Galen executive produced (directed by Charles Oliver). Campfire Vaudeville pulls from a few decades, but definitely turn of the century culture. The project was based on these songs that Galen had written that are influenced by early folk/spirituals, and we thought sand dancing/hoofing would go well with that music. Both art forms are at the root of American jazz music and the original American jazz dance, aka tap dance. You can watch the video here.
Then, by chance, I was referred to director Gilly Barnes for a video project as a part of a series called The Decade Series. It was a centennial film project for Vanity Fair. Gilly asked me to play a woman during the suffrage movement who had been imprisoned for marching to fight for women's voting rights. Gilly had done a lot of research and encouraged me to do the same. I am thankful for directors like Gilly who use dance to tell stories. In this case, the story was based on historical events, which made it even more powerful for me as the artist interpreting Gilly's direction and my choreography. The day of the shoot, the wardrobe department even had a vintage prison outfit that a woman had worn. It was a really incredible project to be a part of and the final edit was very powerful, as Gilly had another actor recite a letter that a marcher had written as well as footage from that time. You can watch the video here.
Shakin' The Blues Away is the second collaboration between myself and director Dante Russo. One of my career goals is to be involved in a movie musical, whether it be in front of the camera or on the creative side. This piece was an ode to MGM musicals, where were the golden age for this genre. I looked at a lot of the footage from that time of the female tap dancers, and I kept coming back to Ann Miller's piece. She was fiery, confident, showy, over-the-top—the epitome of a Hollywood diva. The movement is really specific as well, and was a great challenge for me as a performer and choreographer. I rehearsed for several months on the piece before filming it and had to work mostly on my upper body. Ann's style was very angular, and her body was able to create these incredible pictures. I had to work a lot on clarity of my body lines in front of the mirror, over and over. Also, she was able to change directions on a dime. That was a big part of my rehearsal process as well. And turns! Lots and lots of turns. All that ballet training came to use for the long turn sequence at the end of the piece. That particular shot for the film was shot with a crane, and I think we did it like 26 times in a row. It was quite an athletic piece, but it really inspired me to keep working in that direction with my performance quality. In general, that style of dancing takes a huge amount of core strength, so your legs and arms can go anywhere while you are still over your legs, and the ability to perform BIG, facially and energetically. No one will ever dance like Ann, though. She is truly one of the greatest! You can watch the video here.
KC: This summer your evening length show, Gone: A Sound and Theater Project, debuted at New York's Ailey Citigroup Theater. The reviews for both the choreography and music were fantastic! Will there be a restaging here in Los Angeles? What’s next for that production?
MS: Producing/choreographing/performing/writing Gone was such an incredible learning process. I literally got a taste of EVERYTHING: running my first audition, collaborating with a composer and director, assembling a lighting and sound designer, budgeting, fundraising, the list goes on. The performance in NY was part of the Capezio ACE Award Grant I received in the summer of 2012. Now that I don't have any deadlines, I have been taking my time to review the material and see what I would like to develop and change. I want to present a concert of my work here in Los Angeles in the coming months, and I would like to include excerpts of Gone in the evening. Nikos Syropoulos (composer of Gone) and I are continuing our collaboration and we are very excited about what we have learned from the process as well as what we will create next. You can watch a video rendition here.
KC: Tell us about the Melinda Sullivan Dance Project and what you’re working on now.
MS: The Melinda Sullivan Dance Project was created underneath the umbrella of the Pasadena Arts Council. PAC has a program called "Emerge Projects", which incubates individual projects and emerging organizations, offering them the ability to seek funding through fiscal sponsorship. In order to produce Gone in NYC, I needed to raise $15,000 in addition to the grant money I received in order to cover costs of production, travel, dancers, musicians, sets, etc. Establishing MSDP with PAC allowed me to receive donations through Kickstarter and use their resources, knowledge, and administrative expertise to act as a non-profit.
KC: Tell us about your work with the community and dance advocacy.MS: Teaching has become a big part of my life. I am constantly inspired by the students in my classes. When students are fearless, they can do anything! It is also fun seeing it click for people that as a tap dancer, you are a dancer AND a musician. As a teacher, class is the perfect place to play as a choreographer, and there’s nothing like watching the students bring your movement and rhythms to life. I teach regularly at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles, and I tour with New York City Dance Alliance. I've also had the opportunity to travel and work with students from around the world, in places such as Bogota, Colombia, Tapei, Taiwan, and Stockholm, Sweden. Tap dance is an oral tradition. My teachers passed down not steps and music but stories and artistry. I feel that it is my duty, as an artist and a student of such a wonderful cultural art form like tap dance, is to continue to share what I learned with as many people as I can.
Thank you Melinda! Follow her here.
Well…..Well…..Well…..Here we are again! In my last installment I took you on a trip from the beginning of my career until my unleashing in Hollywood. Let’s just get right to it….shall we????
Hmmm……where do I begin? Well, honestly I never really considered myself a dancer! I was born with unbridled energy, rhythm and passion in Brooklyn, New York to a very loving Family in very close quarters and not much income. What we lacked in finances was filled with support, encouragement, hope, dreams and discipline.
DancePlug was created by dancers for dancers with the simple purpose to raise the awareness of dance through media and the world wide web, as well as to provide a platform for dancers, teachers, and choreographers to promote themselves in an accessible professional way. DancePlug is also a leader in online dance classes. In these tech savy times, online classes may not be a unique feature, but DancePlug distinguishes itself with superb quality, both in videography and instruction.
Amongst the many other resources DancePlug offers are demo reels, audition listings, events calendar, a dance video library, and their bi-weekly web episode “The DancePlug Dish”.
The DancePlug Dish provides fresh news on various dance topics and individuals across the globe: from the Los Angeles star industry to world-renowned Ballet companies, from Broadway musicals to popular or traditional performances. The DancePlug Dish is a 10-minute show about the who, the where, and the when of the dance world. Tune in every other Wednesday 5pm PST.
For more info - visit www.danceplug.com
Last week my friend, Mr. Dolce, who is a language arts teacher at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque, NM told me about a list he had found on the web that some of his students were discussing in a round table type format. He read the list, called 16 Harsh Truths that Make Us Stronger, to me over the phone and I immediately knew I wanted to see it for myself. The original list was written by Marc and Angel (of Marc and Angel Hack Life). As a ballet teacher I felt inspired by their list to write 15 truths about being a professional dancer. Some are adapted from Marc and Angel's list and some come from my own experiences. If you haven't looked at Marc and Angel's site, I highly recommend it. They have many inspiring posts.
Paul Becker is best known as a protégé to the genius Kenny Ortega but he has evolved far beyond his dance roots to become one of the world’s busiest and best choreographer/directors; frequently appearing as a Judge on hit television shows like So You Think You Can Dance (CAN).
October 13, 2013 at The Broad Stage, Lillian Barbeito, co-artistic director of the successful LA-based contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC, had her final on-stage performance.
Gratefully, she was able to make this decision on her own accord, and with optimism and grace, after a 22-year long performing career.
The half-day gathering titled “Conversations Inside and Outside the Box: Expanding the Presence of Dance in LA” was held as a dance community forum on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at the Wilshire Boulevard headquarters of the LA County Arts Commission (LACAC). This call together is a continuation of public meetings that began with the LA Dance Summit in June at the JACCC and the annual Western Arts Alliance conference held here in late August. I had to be there to share it with you.
The 3rd annual World Dance Awards for choreography will be held at the Belasco Theatre on Sunday, October 13 at 7pm. NoHoArtsDistrict.com is a proud co-sponsor of the event. I was delighted to have been able to speak with Allen Walls and Carey Ysais, the co-producers and co-founders of the WDA, in this special interview. Both men have extensive resumes from their many years of working on stage and screen. Below we learn about their recent projects, the makings of the World Dance Awards, and their mission to serve and preserve the dance community. This comical exchange happened under the trees at Priscilla’s Coffee in Toluca Lake, nodding once more to the amazing city we live in and the wonderful people who live in it.
Well, you’ve seen him on this season of So You Think You Can Dance, rise to the top 4 – the first tapper to get this far in the competition to date! Aaron Turner is as warm and charming in person as he is on stage. I’ve had the pleasure of having Aaron as a body work client this season, and he so graciously accepted to share his experiences with us in this interview.
I’m inspired to call out to our community to encourage and insist that we get more involved in the organizations that are out there to support the few, the mighty, the dancers! As a young dancer, I wish I had known more about the resources out there that are advocating for every aspect of our field. As a body worker for performing artists, I am so thankful for these fellow practitioners and their research and clinical studies. As a dance advocate, I am amazed at how dedicated teachers can be to their students in spreading the love and art of dance. This bug of inspiration bit me at a local conference I attended two weeks ago.
Ever think about touring the world by performing aboard a cruise ship? With ever-changing destinations and audience members, life on the water has its ebbs and flows. My colleague Marcus Jackson was gracious enough to give me an interview from the docks of St. Thomas before he shoved off for another week on the water. Here he gives us the inside scoop on what his experience has been like. Is the stage at sea for you too?
The 2013 Dancers Forum, “The Evolving World of Dance: Stepping Into Hope and Change,” was held on Thursday, July 25 at The Actors Center on Wilshire Boulevard. Thanks to an email blast through the Dance Resource Center (DRC) I was alerted just a few days prior to the event. I cleared my calendar, hungry to hear what the Industry’s top professionals would share. What’s key for the working dancers in the industry? Would there be hope or hype? Should we be welcoming change or waiting for chance?