A question we'll all be asking ourselves at Body Rock Juniors 2018...
As a resource for both dancers and aspiring dancers all over the world, STEEZY’s inboxes and DMs are always flooded with questions. There are a ton regarding technical dance-stuff, like “Why isn’t my arm doing that thing fast enough.” And then there are the more intimate, revealing questions like, “How do I talk to my parents about dance when they don’t support me?”
This latter category of questions helps us understand who we’re talking to, how they feel, and what they need – as human beings. I like these questions. And among the most revealing of questions is this one: “Is it too late for me to start dancing?” So many people have asked us this; one of them was only 14 years old.
While I’m sitting here, sort of flabberghasted that someone this young would worry that their window for anything has passed… Admittedly, a part of me understands. There are, after all, so many young killers dominating the scene (and our Instagram feeds), that it feels fruitless to even try… Many a times I’ve watched a 12 year old Japanese kid in a battle and (jokingly?) thought to myself, “I quit dancing.”
The trap of time, though, is that we never quite see it objectively. We always kick ourselves for what we could be “If only I started a year ago,” without applying that same logic to the present – getting excited about where we could be a year from now, if we started today. Dancers who are so talented or accomplished at a young age don’t have to be triggers to feel defeated.
They are a source of inspiration, a kind of living time capsule that exemplifies just how little age matters when it comes to achieving anything you want. But the only way to be able to appreciate their journeys, is to understand them. In light of Body Rock Juniors, the biggest Junior dance competition in the choreography scene, I chatted with a few of the younger community’s heavy hitters.
Here is Dezi Del Rosario (21) of 220, Devin Pornel (21) of Choreo Cookies, Sienna Lalau (17) from The Lab, and Isidro Rafael (23) of 220 and Selene Haro of Choreo Cookies (23) – (who co-direct a junior team called Syde FX). They share all things under the tip of the iceberg.
1. When / how did you start dancing?
Sienna: I started dancing at the age of 3. My parents signed me up to take classes at a dance studio in Hawaii.
Dezi: I started dancing at age 3 in a mommy and me type of toddler dance class.
Devin: Like everyone else I started copying dance routines from N’sync when I was like 5 haha, but I started dancing on a junior team called iDK in 2007. I actually joined this team because one of my brother friends knew I was taking hip hop classes and asked me to come to one of the rehearsals.
Selene: I started dancing back in summer of 2010. I was always so drawn to it but never had the courage to actually take a step towards it until one day in August. I put my thoughts and worries aside and took the risk of auditioning for a team with no prior experience. This audition was for the junior team Tru-Definition at Studio 429. I just remember constantly thinking, “Well, the worst I’ll get is a no,” which was completely okay with me because I had no idea what I was doing hahah. The result was very unexpected (my mom was even surprised 😬) because I ended up making it but thanks to that day I’ve been constantly motivated to keep growing. Got nothing to lose.
Isidro: I started show choir in 5th grade, then was introduced to "choreo" in 6th grade. Throughout middle school and high school I started copying Jabbawockeez videos on YouTube but mostly dancing with my friends Chris Banaga, Aj Jimenez, and Mitch Villareal in the garage. Didn't start taking class until about 5 years ago!
2. Who are some of your biggest dance inspirations?
Sienna: I have so many dance inspirations that it’s hard to just select a few. I love watching and learning from everyone because I feel every choreographer has something unique to offer. this helps fuel my passion and inspires me to continue to dance.
Dezi: Shaun Evaristo, Karen Chuang, Tessandra Chavez, Marissa Osato, Pat Cruz, Vinh Nguyen, Chris Martin, Larkin Poynton... And all of my peers who also kill it in the game as well.
Devin: Keone Madrid, Lyle Beniga, Chris Martin, J Blaze, and Pat Cruz. I also look up to artists in general like Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake.
Selene: I feel like it evolves with time as I learn more and become more understanding of who I am as a mover. Two that I’ve always held up high on a pedestal though are Mari and Keone. Beautiful human beings that in addition are innovators who continue to push forward for not only the community but dance as a whole.
Isidro: Keone Madrid, Selene Haro, Mike Song, Anthony Lee, Lyle Beniga and Sherwin Salonga
3. Tell me about any leadership position you've had on a team.
Sienna: When I was living in Hawaii, at my dance studio (Hypersquad) I was the captain and choreographer for our Junior and Teen competition teams - Rascals and Bandits. Now that I’m living in LA, at my High School (West Covina) I was co-captain and choreographer for our High School Hip Hop Team - WestCo Hip Hop. I am also part of the Creative Team at The Lab!!
Dezi: Since joining 220, I’ve had opportunities to lead creatively through blocking and choreographing for sections of our medleys and this year I’ve had the opportunity to co-direct the team with Christian Lumba, Julian Sena, Caitlin Davis and Marvin Ocampo.
Devin: I became a leader on iDK around the same time that my cousin and I created an All Male in high school. I also started up another junior team, ill Habits, with Daniel Orena and Kiko James. I was just very passionate about what I was doing and was really inspired by the fact that I was able to help people grow and be the best versions of themselves.
Selene: Isidro and I took a jump at risk by starting up our own project Meraki (pronounced May-Rock-ee). We’ve had it for a little over a year now but this has been one of the greatest push in leadership for both of us in all aspects. Experienced a lot of moments where I just wanted to hide from everyone, especially in the beginning. Thinking back on that though and last night’s rehearsal (we’re currently prepping for Ultimate Brawl) the confidence level from both Isidro and I has struck up. We are always learning about how to be an effective leader because at this point it isn’t just about you anymore. It isn’t about what makes just you or one person happy. We’ve been lucky enough to have people guide us through this and teach us what it is to be a great leader and as a result we follow and lead from their example they set to us. We definitely still have hiccups (always learning) so in moments like these it’s important to use our resources and reach out to others seeking advice. Also, the internet is a great help in this! Hahah keywords: leading vs. bossing.
Isidro: I started co-directing w/ Selene this past year for Syde FX. And we recently started a project called Meraki and we're co-directing that as well!
4. When did you start teaching?
Sienna: I started teaching at the age of 10. It was for my church hip hop team that consisted of just High School and College Students.
Dezi: Started teaching around age 14/15.
Devin: I started teaching my team when I was around 13 and then at around 16 I was starting to teach other people in classes, workshops, etc.
Selene: In 2013, Amor Ledesma and I taught a collab, and I want to say it was both of our first times teaching, but 2015 is when it officially began to pick up.
Isidro: About 4 years ago!
5. What are some challenges you experience being a young dancer/teacher in the community?
Sienna: On the teacher side, some challenges would be people hesitant on taking my class because I’m either too young or they feel like I have nothing new to offer that they could learn. On the dancer side, one challenge is trying to juggle school and dance especially since I’m graduating from High School really soon.
Dezi: Guiding the even younger generations is a big role. The older generations have done so much for my generation/dance in general, and being in between generations, we have that role to uphold and continue the work that has already been put in.
Devin: I think one of the most difficult things about being a young dancer/teacher is living up to my own expectations. I think it’s hard because I want to compare myself to my inspirations, but I just have to remind myself that it’s a work in progress and that I’m still young. There’s a lot to improve on and I think sometimes I try to rush the process rather than being patient and just doing me.
Selene: This topic is so important to me, and I owe it to the people that led me when I was a teen and engraved into my brain the value of it. A lesson I learned was the importance of being on time. So simple, but says so much about someone. From different mentors I’ve been told, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” How you carry and represent yourself through social media was (and still is) another one. With social media being extremely huge, sometimes people only have that to understand who you are and (if applicable) the team you rep.
Isidro: The challenge is trying to keep with my friends to be honest. I look to most of my teammates and friends for inspiration so when I see them killin' it, it only motivates me to do better and be better.
6. What are some lessons in professionalism you had to learn?
Sienna: As a choreographer, it’s my responsibility to create an atmosphere in class where dancers don’t feel intimidated, or afraid to ask questions, or express themselves. Class is a place where we all can learn from each other.
Dezi: I’m learning the line between too willing to share and my worth.
Devin: Some things that I had to learn was be professional in general haha. I think when you’re a teacher it’s important to be very aware of your actions because people look up to you, so I think I had to learn to be professional in how I act in public or what I say on social media.
Isidro: Words are everything. What you say to people really matters and I strongly advise anyone diving into the community to just be very careful with how you approach any conversation regarding dance!
7. Are you pursuing dance full-time?
Sienna: At this moment no because I’m still in high school, but I graduate June 7. Once I graduate I will be pursuing dance FULL FULL TIME!
Devin: I’m currently in school, but I would like to say that I am pursuing dance full time!
Selene: Currently yes and it’s weird to say because taking it back a few years I was striving to become a flight nurse in the Air Force. Life happened along the way to my original plan and during that moment in time dance ended up becoming one of the greatest outlets. With putting more attention towards it, unexpectedly ended up falling more and more onto this path. As this is happening though, I’m currently also a student at CSUSM studying business!
Isidro: To be honest, I have no clue. All I know is I'm trying to my best, ride the wave of life and just see where it takes me.
8. What is one goal you have for yourself in your career right now?
Sienna: One goal I have is to choreograph for a big artist.
Devin: My goal right now is just to share myself and my craft with as many people as I can in the world. I think it’s awesome to see so many people that I look up to doing that right now and it would be cool it be able to do the same thing. Also, just bettering myself as a dancer in general. There are so many things left that I have to learn and improve on.
Selene: To give back to the community. In addition, to help encourage, show more support, and push the women I am surrounded by (in person or not) in this dance community.
Isidro: Release my work for myself. I tend to catch myself thinking about what other people will think about certain pieces I post but I truly want to not care about that. As an artist I feel like it's important, you know?
9. What would you tell younger dancers who want to pursue dance, like you?
Sienna: I would tell them to always go after their dreams but in pursuing their dreams it won’t happen over night or fall into their lap. They need to work hard for it and make it happen for themselves. However, if it doesn’t happen right away, keep working harder. Always find ways to be inspired so that you can fuel your dream.
Dezi: Pursue for the right reasons.
Devin: I would tell the younger generation to be patient!! I think dancing as a career is something that a lot of dancers dream of. I know I have always dreamed about dancing as a job, but I think being patient is key. It’s not going to come over night and you can’t force anything that’s not in your control. The only thing you can control is the amount of work you put into your craft and your time will come! I think even now I tell myself to be patient and to just keep working and hopefully the opportunities will continue to come.
Selene: I’d say exactly what Frank Ocean has said, “Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.” With that being said, I’d advise to not fear failure as well! We have to go through those scrapes and bruises in order to learn from it. A lot of the time the most difficult part of this job is not the physical but the mental side of it. We have to be strong to overcome those battles and not let it beat us down completely to the point where we fall out of love with dance. And last thing, which is something both Isidro and I are HUGE on, always surround yourself by great human beings. People that support you. People that are amazing vibes. and always push to bring your friends forward with you. Oh man, I’ll keep it at that because this can open up a whole other topic hahaha!
Isidro: Keep your head down, work hard, surround yourself with people you are inspired by and care about, and most of all, avoid negative/toxic energy that would hinder your growth.
10. What's your favorite part of your job?
Sienna: My favorite part of teaching is connecting and meeting new people as I share my love and passion for dance with them.
Dezi: Exchanging through dance, traveling and experiencing new communities, and meeting so many amazing people!!!!!
Devin: My favorite part of doing this is the experience! I think one of the best parts is when I’m traveling somewhere and I’m meeting up with someone I haven’t seen in so long. It’s awesome to see friends you don’t normally see and catch up with them, or even just traveling with friends in general is awesome. The relationships that you build is definitely one of the best parts about this job besides the traveling. Dancing is awesome, but even better when you get to share it with people.
Selene: My absolute favorite part are the connections we make with people and the new friends we gain along the way. Dance is so special!
Isidro: Being inspired by all the amazing dancers/people I've had the blessing to meet thought my journey.
11. Something you enjoy doing that's not dance.
Sienna: I like to sing. I also like to watch KDRAMA and listen to KPOP music.
Dezi: Coffee/Barista-ing! S/o @ loftycoffee :) :) :)
Devin: Something I enjoy is playing basketball and messing around with clothes/fashion and what not!! Follow @localsonly.sd on instagram and head to localsonlysd.com! Shameless plug haha!
Selene: I love researching and reading! Some of my favorite things to research about are women’s studies and crystal healing. Super random hahah
Isidro: I cook! I actually go to culinary school hahaha
12. Your favorite country you've traveled to for dance, and why.
Sienna: I’ve loved every country I’ve been to so far because each of them hold priceless moments and memories for me. But what makes each country unique and special for me has been the loving and supportive people I’ve met along the way.
Devin: My favorite country I’ve traveled to... I think it would have to be Japan! The food is super good, the people are nice, the dancers are freakin insane, and the shopping is crazy too haha. Japan definitely or maybe Singapore? I don’t know
Selene: As of lately, without hesitation New Zealand! Met some of the most beautiful (and crazily talented) people. Came back from that trip super fired up and motivated, which carried into Isidro and I’s process (and inspiration) for Meraki’s Ultimate Brawl set.
Isidro: Dang. New Zealand. Hands down. The greatest of people and one of the most invigorating atmospheres to be around. Shout out to Camp Heights and Ken and Nolz!
13. If you could collab with anyone, who'd it be and why?
Sienna: Parris Goebel - because I love her style and I feel like I could learn a lot from her especially seeing how she creates when she choreographs.
Devin: If I could collaborate with anyone... that’s hard to say haha. I think it would have to be with Lyle. Or maybe Keone. Lyle because I feel like there’s a certain way he goes about choices in the music and because the way he just dances in general. Super smooth or easy going, but hard hitting. And Keone because I just always wanted to collab with Keone haha! He’s like my big brother and I’ve always look up to him as a kid. That’d be awesome not to mention he’s crazy as hell so...
Selene: Oh gosh! This is so difficult because there are so many. For now, I’d have to say either Momo Koyama, Diana Matos, or Laurence Kaiwai. I absolutely love how big they move and the flow that they carry through their movement by utilizing their spine and neck. Just love love love!
Isidro: Alfred Remulla, Dylan Mayoral and Joseph Tsosh (If you guys are reading this, let's do it brothas!)
14. One thing you have in your fridge at all times.
Sienna: Milk - Because I love to eat cereal anytime of the day!
Devin: One thing I have in my fridge are eggs. I like eggs and it’s the only thing I know how to cook lol
Selene: Limes! I LOVE limes.
Isidro: I'ma consider freezer part of a whole fridge so, ice cream. Chocolate ice cream.
Hope you enjoyed learning about our friends Sienna Lalau, Dezi Del Rosario, Devin Pornel, Selene Haro, and Isidro Rafeal! Get to know more of the younger dance community at Body Rock Juniors.
The competing junior teams are:
Apes Crew (Moscow)
Chibi Unity (Niigata)
GRaVy Babies (Walnut)
iLL Habits (San Diego)
Izumi Company Junior (Tokyo)
Kaba Kids (Irvine)
Playground (Las Vegas)R
AW Dance Co. (Portland)
Rebellious (New Zealand)
Syde FX (San Diego)
Supremacy Dance Fam (San Diego)
Team Millennia Juniors (Anaheim)
Young Skull Club (SF/LA)
And exhibition acts are:
110 (San Diego)
Future Shock (San Diego)
Mighty Shock (San Diego)
The competition will be judged by:
Join us this month at Body Rock Juniors in celebrating all the young talent in the community!
Tickets are available for presale at $22 here, or for $25 at the door. See you there!