Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Return of #AdventureswithKaren

As a freelance dancer/choreographer/teacher, I often get asked: 

"What does your day to day look like?"

It's a very simple question and most people have an answer. Perhaps it's a gym session in the morning, work from 9-5, dinner at home, and then Netflix on the couch with the boyfriend. 

I, however, have noticed that nearly every year since I've lived in Los Angeles (including the ones at UCLA) has been distinct and unique. I recognize some consistent elements (running, yoga, etc.), but even those activities change based on the type and amount of work I do in that particular year. Very few days are scheduled identically, and I would hardly call myself a creature of habit. 

And this year is no exception. Since last November I've been busy teaching and choreographing all across the country and internationally with Hollywood Vibe, Elite Dance Productions, and by invitation from independently owned dance studios. In the 8 years that I've been in LA I have never devoted so much time to creating or teaching. 

Kent and I at Hollywood Vibe Nationals

I've failed miserably at documenting these new experiences on my blog, but they have been incredibly fulfilling and eye-opening for me. I've noticed how much I enjoy creating my own material, how much I value connecting with the students, and how empowered I feel when offering advice to soon-to-be professional dancers or college-goers. The dance education world has shown me a whole new side of dance/choreography that I have never seen before.

Now, after a whirl wind convention season and a stacked summer filled with teaching/choreographing I am embarking on two new adventures: 1) Performing and teaching for the first time as a company with Entity Contemporary Dance in Hong Kong and Singapore and 2) participating in a month long yoga training in Bali. Sandwiched in between those two events will be a two week trip to Japan and Taiwan with my good friend Will. 

The return of extended international travels means more opportunities to experience new sights, tastes, and sounds. It also means the return of #AdventureswithKaren, which started as a silly hashtag/photo idea two years ago that turned into a consistent way for me to share my explorations with friends back home in the U.S (click here for the full story). 

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
I've now been in Singapore for one and a half days and have been lucky to explore:

Marina Bay Sands
Glutton Bay
Mount Faber Park
Gardens by the Bay - Cloud Forest
Bugis Junction

And that is just the beginning of what will be an event-filled two months. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride with me as I traverse through Asia! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 17: "Wilinout" by Iyves

Back in September 2015, my friend Joya contacted me to be a part of a video for the up and coming artist Iyves. After a meeting with the director, Christine Yuan, and after listening to Iyves' music I was convinced that it was fate for me to be a part of this project. 

The creative team spent a weekend in Coachella Valley filming in some of California's most interesting natural and manmade landscapes: 

The final product was beautiful: 

Even after the project was finished I felt compelled to dance to the song and decided to dedicate a Mood Mondays to it: 

Episode 17: "Wilinout" by Iyves
Mood: At ease
Location: LA River
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 16: "Holocene" by Bon Iver

As I sat down to write this blog entry, I couldn't remember what had happened back in September 2015 that inspired the mood for Episode 16. Luckily I have a pretty detailed Google Calendar that tracks all the events in my life, from major dance projects to yoga classes. 

I found that around the time this video was made and published was also the audition for Grease: Live (more on that experience in a later post). I remember that process being so intense yet inspiring. After the call was the call back, after the call back was the final call back, and after the final call back was the final final call back. I remember thinking to myself, "Man, everyone in this room is so dang talented." The caliber of dancers in the room was such that Zach Woodlee, the choreographer, could've closed his eyes, spun in a circle, chosen 10 dancers at random, and there still would've been some darn good dancing in the show. 

Really. Everyone was that awesome. 

But in the end, the dancers were likely cast based on a whole host of other factors outside of skill alone. Dancing is an art, and casting is an art too. It takes a very discerning eye to understand how specific individuals can mesh together to create a larger whole. After all good ingredients combined together don't always make a good dish. And while I may be biased, the dish our Grease: Live creative team whipped up was worthy of a Michelin star rating: 
Actors and dancers with director (Tommy) and choreographer (Zach)
The Grease: Live Cast
And that was the reason why I felt (and still feel) so humbled. LA is a competitive city filled with some of the nation's most talented professional dancers. My livelihood as a commercial dancer is booking jobs and beating out the sometimes hundreds of other dancers in the room. As a result, I generally forget to take a moment to simply marvel at how incredibly skilled my peers are. It's easy in this kind of environment to feel envy over admiration. 

But last year was also a year of great personal growth for me. I finally felt ready to face a few demons that I had shoved to the back of the closet when I first moved to LA 7 years ago. In so doing, my perception of LA and of commercial dance shifted. I began seeing it as one (but not the only one) outlet for me to find purpose and build identity. All of that trickled down into my every day life, so instead of feeling hyper-competitive (though I still felt anxious) in that final final call back I felt humbled. 

Now that you understand the intention and reasoning behind the video, I invite you to enjoy Episode 16 of my Mood Mondays series:

Episode 16: "Holocene" by Bon Iver 
Mood: Humbled
Location: Griffith Park, CA
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

You can find the rest of the series up to Episode 27 of Mood Mondays on my YouTube channel and website

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 15: "Pure" by Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Mirah Yom Tom Zeitlyst

I've always been in love with the song, "Pure" by Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Mirah Yom Tom Zeitlyst. There is something very soothing and grounding about the way the beat intertwines with the singer's voice. I didn't have a clear concept videography wise for this episode, but Selina and I collaborated on creating the space once we figured out what I would be doing movement wise. We deliberately started off in darkness, and I thought it'd be interesting to direct my movement to the light ball since it was such had such a strong visual presence in the shot: 

Episode 15: "Pure" by Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Mirah Yom Tom Zeitlyst
Mood: Mellow
Location: Koreatown
Videographer: @selinaruthe

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 14: " Open" by Rhye

For this episode Selina and I wanted to film in a different part of Griffith Park, and wound up on top of a hill right as the sun was setting. It was the perfect example of how being curious and experimental can lead to some beautiful results:

Episode 14: "Open" by Rhye
Mood: Letting go
Location: Griffith Park
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 13: "Apply" by Glasser

Sometimes in moments of intense anger or frustration, dance is the only thing that can keep me calm: 

Episode 13: "Apply: by Glasser
Mood: Frustrated
Location: Los Feliz, CA
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 12: "Bill Murray" by Phantogram

This mood wasn't inspired by a deep psychological state of confusion, but a reaction to the strange weather in Los Angeles. That got me thinking about the range of intensity of all emotions, and how different events can leave you feeling different levels of one emotion (a hurtful confusion versus a curious confusion). Then I thought about how living in the unknown can be very powerful. Being dazed and confused can be unsettling, but when I find myself in that state I remind myself that as long as I persevere there is clarity at the other side:

Episode 12: "Bill Murray" by Phantogram
Mood: Dazed and confused
Location: Vista Hermosa Natural Park
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mood Mondays - Episode 11: "Champion" by Cayucas

Sometimes, you just have to be a little silly:

Episode 11: "Champion" by Cayucas
Mood: Silly
Location: Barnsdall Art Park
Videographer: Selina Ruthe