Saturday, December 21, 2013

An (Un)likely Collaboration

Finding the perfect roommate in LA is tricky. Craigslist is generally questionable and even friends can make faulty suggestions. So I believed it to be incredible luck when I found my roommate Sorah Yang (or rather, when she found me).

If you listed a few of my and Sorah's characteristics on paper, we would appear to be identical humans:

-From the Bay Area
-College graduates (USC and UCLA, go Bruins!)
-Received business degrees
-Worked in fashion PR
-Community dancers

Even our morals and ways of thinking are rooted in the same ideals; we've had notoriously long and deep conversations on random subjects, all to find that we feel similarly.

But even though we share many of the same qualities, we are in actuality quite different in style and personality. Sorah and I both dance powerfully; that is, we both execute movement with a lot of aggression. However, our dissimilar dance backgrounds results in very different types of movement:

Additionally, unlike myself, Sorah is a beautiful singer. While I can jam out on the piano and belt a nice tune in the shower, don't expect me to be doing anything like this anytime soon:

All that being said, Sorah and I talked for a long time about collaborating together. We felt that despite our differences we could come up with something really cool and unlike anything either of us had ever done before. 

Weeks and months passed; our separate and busy schedules deterred us from turning our idea into a reality. We were finally presented an opportunity at the end of September, when our dear friend Kelly Masumiya was coordinating an arts event titled, "Passage": 

The event was an amazing arts experience hosted by Kelly, George Anzaldo, and Jillian Meyers. It featured Kelly's "Vintique" series photographs, artwork by George, and a sleuth of beautiful live performances. Among these performances was a collaboration between me, Sorah, and her friend David. Sorah found and tweaked the arrangement for the song, and I discussed with her the parts of the music I wanted to dance to. We only rehearsed a few times, but the end product was pretty awesome (you can judge for yourself): 

This was fun to work on because it was not only time pressured but also a kind of project I had never done before. It definitely won't be the last time that she and I work on something together. And hopefully, we can collaborate on a more regular basis from here on out. You might even see some contemporary moves to a Machine Gun Kelly song in the near future.

Our "Passage" collaboration was a melding of two nearly identical yet completely different artists. It was also a perfect representation of our relationship as roommates and friends: harmonious, balanced, and dynamic. 

Happy Holidays from Bangirlia

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hollywood Dance Career Show

When I was younger I used to imagine what dancing professionally would be like. I knew very little about the commercial/entertainment industry, and envisioned myself doing more contemporary-based work in the company world. In fact, I was about 90% certain that I was going to attend Tisch School of the Arts at NYU after being accepted into their dance program:

Some serious contemporary improv with my TDC teammates
Obviously, my professional career took a very different turn. 

Over the last 5 years I've gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be a professional dancer in the commercial world. However, much like how high school prepared me for college, I wish I had gone through some kind of preparedness program for the LA dance scene. 

This is where something like The Hollywood Dance Career Show would have come in handy. 

The Hollywood Dance Career Show is an online resource for dancers specifically working in LA. Spearheaded by industry veteran Courtney Miller, the site offers a variety of informative podcasts and blogposts. Already, the site boasts interviews with industry giants like Brian Friedman and Tony Testa. 

I was honored when Courtney asked to interview me; he was interested in knowing how I managed to attend and graduate from UCLA all the while pursuing a dance career. You can hear the interview here

I am a big fan of podcasts ("This is Interesting" with Matt Miller and "Left, Right, and Center" with Warren Olney, both of which are on KCRW/NPR, are two of my personal favorites) because I can learn more about someone or something directly from the source.

I will definitely be frequenting The Hollywood Dance Career website regularly for informative posts on dance related topics! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Half Marathon Training: Week 4 Wrap Up

My friends and I have attempted several times to sign up for a half marathon together, but our schedules have always been out of sync. In fact, I intended on running the Santa Barbara Half Marathon last year with a few friends but was out of town working right up until the day before the race. I ended up going as a cheerleader:

It was especially exciting, then, when about a month ago we all agreed on and signed up for a half marathon together. On January 19, 2014, I along with a handful of close friends will attempt the Carlsbad Half Marathon.

I'm following a simple training schedule that I found online:

And even though we are on the road and traveling about every single day, I haven't found it at all challenging to keep up with this schedule. On the contrary, I find comfort in having a fixed activity to look forward to in the mornings. It is also a unique and efficient way to explore the city in which we are performing. Here are a few sights I've seen while on my runs:

Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Philadelphia, Pennyslvania

Boston, Massachusetts 
Washington D.C. 
Kansas City, Missouri
Rice University 
Rice University
Houston, Texas
Surprisingly, one of the more challenging aspects of training has not been the lengths of the runs, but rather having to adjust to the different climates and temperatures of each city. I made sure to bring a variety of running attire with me (with a heavy emphasis on winter training clothes); but nothing could really prepare me for the weather in Nasvhille, Tennessee. At 21 degrees Fahrenheit, I could almost feel my sweat turning instantaneously into icicles.

The big day is still about 6 weeks away, but I already know for certain that no matter how cold Carlsbad will be that weekend, I'll be prepared. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Things in Nashville and a Thanksgiving in Miami

Nashville, Tennessee: Probably close to the bottom of my list of places that I would see myself exploring and enjoying.

But despite my initial reservations surrounding the "coolness" of this southern city, I ended up really liking the parts of Nashville that I saw.

We arrived to the city of music on the evening of the 25th after a long 14 hour bus ride from NYC. I was so happy to be off the bus, and darted to the first food spot I could find. Lucie and I stumbled on Merchants on Broadway. It had a cool upscale yet hipster vibe, and the food was delicious. After that we headed to Beer Sellar, where in true dive bar fashion we played pool and drank beers.

The next morning I decided to venture out on my own. I purchased an all day bus pass for an easy $5.25 and took the Nashville MTA a few stops from downtown to East Nashville. I grabbed a light snack at Turnip Truck, and picked up a cool vintage sweater at The Hip Zipper. I even took the bus into West End to snoop around Vanderbilt:

A quaint health foods store
Back entrance to The Hip Zipper 
Rainy views from the bus
That evening Erin and I stopped by Corsair Distillery and experienced a tasting of their finest spirits:

My delicious cocktail
Quinoa whiskey? Wish I had bought a bottle!
After our show the next night we endured another long bus ride. Miami is about 14 and a half hours away from Nashville, and with the time difference it felt even longer:

View from the bus en route to Miami
Though we spent the better part of our Thanksgiving Day on the bus, the entire crew gathered together for a lovely meal provided by our production team:
The ladies
My twin for the evening
A veggie Thanksgiving meal
Though I didn't spend my Thanksgiving in a traditional manner, it was spent with a group of people whom I would now consider my family on the road. Spending Thanksgiving in Miami also reminded me to be grateful for the people who, despite not being with them physically, are always with me in my thoughts. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NYC for a Week, Salesperson for a Day

The Yeezus tour has slowly been winding up and down the east coast since our first post-hiatus show in Philly. We spent a week in NYC, with two shows at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, one show at the Verizon Center in DC, and two more shows at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. During this time I made sure to do all the regular New York-y things I usually do:

Saw Darby in D.C. 
Danced with Cindy Salgado 
Clubbed in NYC
Hung out with Reed and Robbie
Watched Fuerza Bruta

Met up with an old friend from LA, Kyle Hanagami

But in addition to my usual adventures I also had another task to accomplish: to talk to local businesses about

Clnli is a brilliant new idea that partners with businesses in an area to provide people with a network of clean public bathrooms. For a nominal fee, clnli users have exclusive access to this network. You can read a mommy blog's interpretation of the service here.

I wanted to survey a handful of business in the area, and my questions included:

1) Do you have a public restroom?
2) Do you allow non-customers to use your restroom?
3) Have you considered charging non-customers to use your restroom?
4) Do you think clnli is something your business would be interested in?

I thought being a salesperson was an easy job; on the contrary, it was incredibly challenging. Of the 6 businesses I talked to, only 1 was willing to answer my questions. Many of the businesses did not have managers on site or were very rude and waved me off.

Normally, I love talking to people. But during my short stint as a salesperson I felt like people thought I was annoying, and the feeling of rejection was exhausting. After a while I just stopped trying.

The irony of it all was that throughout my stay in NY I was in dire need of a service like clnli. There were few businesses willing to open up their bathrooms to a non-customer like myself, and I ended up sneaking into a few Starbucks bathrooms a few times.

While I'm not completely opposed to the idea of pitching clnli to more businesses in the future, I think I'll have to rethink my strategy. NY was a bit of a bust, but then again I have 14 more cities for me to practice being a salesperson.

Check out, and sign up if you're interested! I'm definitely signing up to take advantage of a special promotion they are having during which the first wave of participants receive 4 additional months free (instead of 2 months for $20, I'll receive 6 months for $20). 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Willing A Way

There is nothing truer than the age old idiom that says, "Where there is a will, there is a way."

As I noted in my last post, the "Yeezus" Tour was put on an indefinite hiatus after the show's 60-foot screen was damaged en route to Vancouver. With all the uncertainties surrounding the tour postponement I immediately phoned my agent to discuss potential work opportunities in Los Angeles, emphasizing my desire to dance on X Factor. Even though it seemed highly improbable that the tour schedule and the television show schedule would align in such a way to allow me to experience both, I was hoping with all my might that it somehow would all fall into place.

And lo and behold, it did. 

What made me so hungry for this particular opportunity was the desire to work with the artistic forces behind the show. The creative team for X Factor is like something out of a dream: 

Creative Director: Jamie King - An artistic mastermind known for his work with pop superstars like Britney Spears and Madonna.

Choreographer: Galen Hooks - A visionary, industry veteran, and true artist whose resume reads like a thorough chronology of major commercial and entertainment industry projects. Incredibly talented, unique, and a college graduate (woo!). 

Associate Choreographer: Jae Blaze - A funky choreographer who is "synonymous with unparalleled creativity, exceptional work ethic, and... a commitment to the well being of her dancers." 

Associate Choreographers: Keone & Mariel Madrid - Dance God and Goddess from the hip-hop community whose talents are unexplainable:

I first met Mari nearly 6 years ago when I took my first hip hop classes with Funkanometry SF. Begin watching this video of Mari's class from 2007 at around 1:30 and you might recognize a little squirt in black sweats and a white t-shirt on the left:

And our paths continued to cross in the years thereafter. When I was involved with NSU Modern at UCLA, I remember seeing Mari and Keone at hip hop events like Vibe Dance Competition and Fusion. I have always deeply respected the duo's work with Choreo Cookies, or Cookies as they are known as now: 

Over the years, my admiration for these two as individuals and as a pair has grown immensely. 

The whole audition process for X Factor about a month ago solidified my feelings about the project. It was well organized, the dancing was challenging yet fun, and the dancers were treated respectfully throughout it all. I voiced my thoughts to my agent following the audition, letting them know just how much I wanted to work with the X Factor team. I repeated my desires to them again once I returned to LA.

The stars somehow aligned this past week, and I was very fortunate to be a part of Ellona Santiago and Lillie Mcloud's performances:

Jamie stood at the helm of the creative ship, steering and orchestrating concepts while each choreographer turned these concepts into reality. I worked mostly with Galen and Keone & Mari; working with them in the professional setting and being in the creative process with them was, for lack of a better word, magical.

The whole group
Me with Keone & Mari


Marina: the sweetest and most talented wardrobe lady
So whether it was mere happenstance or my strong will, the improbable happened. This special project was a reminder that even when the odds are stacked heavily against me, with a little push and a lot of luck, I can turn a desire into reality. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Tour-cation Stop in Vancouver

One of the most useful skills I have learned (and still continue to hone) is the ability to remain positive and calm in moments of potential chaos and frustration.

Such a moment presented itself when I learned that the Yeezus Tour would be indefinitely postponed. A crucial part of the set was damaged in transit to Vancouver, and instead of compromising the quality of the show West opted to halt future performances until the part could be fixed. You can read more about it here.

But rather than sitting in my hotel room and sulking about our misfortunes I decided to consider my trip to Vancouver a vacation. And thus, the adventuring began.

Those of you who have followed my journeys over the years might have notice that they always include at least one of the following: yoga, vegan food, thrift shops, or jogs through town. My exploration of Vancouver was no exception.

My favorite jog route through the pristine city was along the water into Stanley Park, a 1,001 acre green oasis:

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Chinatown was also not too far away:

Hanging with the man himself
I searched around for a vegan restaurant, and the only one that was walking distance from our hotel was Gorilla Food on Richmond Street:

Coconut Curry Bowl
After chatting with the waitress about my love for vegan fare and thrifting she suggested I check out Commercial Drive. So I did.

The unique neighborhood is easily accessible via the Skytrain, and is overflowing with natural food stores and quaint cafes. The walls are covered in street art, and it reminded me of a street in San Francisco or Silverlake:

I spent a majority of my time at Mintage, and ate a delicious raw sandwich at Eternal Abundance:

I was initially very upset about the Vancouver show cancellation and the tour postponement; there were many unanswered questions and I felt uneasy about the future of the tour. But even though I didn't get a chance to perform in Vancouver, the trip was still very fruitful. Seeing new sights, tasting new foods, and exploring new places fed my heart and nourished my soul.

So in the words of Bobby McFerrin, "Don't worry, be happy."