How To Thrive In A New Dance Community

Dance Culture

How To Thrive In A New Dance Community

Jessie Ma
January 23, 2024
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Transitions aren't just the ninja runs between pieces! They are things you'll experience... in LIFE :O A HUGE one is relocation. Whether it's because of school, a job, family, quarter-life crisis (~sigh~), several of us have, or will have to move....Which inevitably requires you to adjust your dance life. The community and comfort we've built around certain places is not easy to let go of.

It can be stressful and intimidating to think about building a new "family" all over again. But with a new dance-mosphere comes SO MANY lessons to be learned, opportunities to grow and be challenged, new people to meet and share with! With the right mindset and willingness to get out there, you will thrive in no time. To help with your move, here are some tips and bits of wisdom I've gathered from fellow "immigrant dancers." Ready to embrace all the potential your new dance-home can bring? Keep reading.

New Dance Community, New Style

Embrace the "style" of the area, while bringing things fro your hometown to the table!

When Jacki Lewis, who had trained in San Diego for the majority of her life, moved to the Bay Area, she experienced a significant "style shock".

"I was pretty insecure...  the styles between APT/The Company were so different from Studio 429. I had to learn new lingo and technique and textures.  I went from being so "choreography based" to getting down to the most minute details of the techniques behind each movement. I found if you adjust as best as you can while still staying true to your roots, you can offer something great to the team!"

Luis Cervantes, who had similar experiences as Jacki (429 to The Company), learned to take the adaptation as a challenge.

"Wherever you go, there will always be a slight differences in styles, but that's the beauty of dance. You are always being challenged by different styles and the growth that results from that as a dancer is extremely rewarding."

See Related Article: Origin Stories Of The NorCal And SoCal Dance Communities

Eric Torres sees his commute from the OC to SD, as enabling him to "get the best of both worlds."

"The OC community taught me to be my own dancer and "live" through movement, and training in SD felt like learning to walk again. J Vaughn spent countless hours training us (SGBM) in basic grooves that I even forgot how how to do."

New Dance Community, New Training Schedules

Take classes at the local studios

If the dance community was high school, our local studios would be the quad where the c00l k1dz hang out at lunch.

For me, places are laced with emotional significance. I grew comfortable with the studios I used to train at, regularly walking in and out, hanging out in the lobby, loitering in the parking lot like it was my second home.

So naturally, starting to take more classes at a different place was slightly anxiety-provoking. I don't know the owners, the regular class-takers, the rules, the nuances behind this new place..

See Related Article: The Top 8 Dance Studios In Los Angeles

Surprisingly, there is a quick and relatively painless learning curve.

The more I focused on dance itself, (I mean, that's what I was taking class there for in the first place), the more the routines surrounding it came naturally.

I went from Culture Shock SD and Cotixan's to Focus and Cha, but dancing is dancing.

The feelings of excitement, challenge, and pleasure I get from dance itself are 99.9% of the experience, anyway. Now, I find it less daunting to drive to new studios and try new workshops.

So don't be afraid to go to a new studio! Learn their culture. And just freakin' DANCE.

See Related Article: How To Get The Most Out Of Dance Class (Video)

What's happening? Be in the know

But to be able to take these workshops and classes, you have to.. know that they're happening.

A quick list of resources to help you keep track of the training opportunities near you:

1. Studio Schedules

If you're interested in a specific style or instructor, or have limited time in your schedule for class, most studios have pretty reliable class schedules.

2. Follow the Instagram accounts of teams and organizations!

I've noticed that, FAR beyond Twitter or Facebook, Instagram has been the main source of marketing for dance classes.

I usually take a screenshot of the flyer (especially if they are for the week / entire month) and save it in my phone. Then I refer back to it for more details on the who/what/where/when.

3. Word of mouth!

Even with all of the advances in technology, there is no better way to spread news than by talking about it.

Be attentive to what's going on, not just class-wise, but also for events in the community!

Then you can do your social media research later to see what the fuss is about.

New Dance Community, New Friends

Vibe with those around you

"What I usually do when I'm new to a place is joke to myself and to whoever hears it. Those who laugh or joke back will be my friend."

Jerould "Jerould Jorge" Jorge (Temecula)

Simple and straightforward, but so very true.

Jerould actually lives in Temecula, which is right around the middle of San Diego and Orange County.

While it requires a lot of driving, his geographic location enabled him to "migrate" to FORMALity, Urban FX, and SGBM in SD, and Breed and The Good Project up north.

See Related Article: How To Cultivate Positive Relationships In The Dance Community

Yet immersing himself in a lot of different sub-communities within our dance community hasn't affected how he acts in each environment. Preserving your personality and your brand of humor, will not only attract the right people, it will mean that you never have to "fake" or "adjust" according to where you are.

This is something we should note in everything we do! Be yourself – your genuine, unapologetic self; not a chameleon intent on pleasing those around you.

"If you be yourself you'll definitely find your niche."

Janelle Wen

Establish yourself by focusing on yourself

On a similar note but in an artistic sense, Brandon Yang (Bay Area -> OC) comments on focusing on your craft by using his notorious video ventures.

"In my case, making videos opened a lot of doors. I made a lot of friendships based on mutual respect for each others work. And eventually my projects grew bigger as people started to notice."

Staying true to your artistry, in dance, videography, what-have-you, will not only re-focus your attention on what YOU are capable of, but it will garner the right attention.

The people I respect most as artists are those who are motivated and unafraid to work on the truest form of their work, according to their own prerogative.

The more centered and dedicated you are to your art, the better established you'll be to yourself – and being better established in the community is just a side perk, really.

See Related Article: How To Set And Achieve Your Dance Goals

Join or support a collegiate team!

(Of course, this applies only if you've moved for school.)

Jin Lee's move from San Diego to Irvine pushed her out of her comfort zone- finding a family in CADC snowballed into other opportunities:

"I never considered myself as a leader or a choreographer, because I had always been comfortable just learning from others. But after joining CADC, I was given numerous chances to choreograph and even teach. And this year, I was blessed with an opportunity to lead the team."

Janelle Wen, also from San Diego, had heard about Chaotic 3 at a dance event years before she moved to LA for USC.

"You never know who you'll meet and where that will lead you. Even if you don't know the slightest idea of where you're dance future might be, it never hurts to be open and meet other dancers wherever you go!"

In addition to being an active member on C3, Janelle recognizes the benefits in branching out. "Go to workshops, especially outside your team's, whenever you have the chance. Not only are you exposed to another style, you can meet a gripload of people."

See Related Article: How To Make Your Dream Dance Team

Dance communities within universities are like their own little sub-communities. I'd encourage you to capitalize on that, while you can.Not only is it convenient (practices and workshops on/near campus,) you can find more study buddies or opportunities for collaboration.

For example, organizing mixers with other teams is something Janelle swears by!

"[Being in a place where] dance is a common denominator for a lot of us, I’ve been able to meet and learn from a lot of different dancers and choreographers who not only helped me grow as a dancer but also as a person."

Jin Lee

Join a team, in general!

Michelle Nakayoshi, who moved from San Francisco to San Diego, was initially intimidated by the fact that she didn't know very many people in her new environment.

But Ill-Ite became her new family and soon the rest of the dance community felt more comfortable.

"Joining a team really helped me by giving me a new dance family, while giving me constant training."

When Jessie Levine moved to LA, the *~industry~* scene was of course, harsh upon first look.

"Taking classes from big time choreographers, and going to cattle-call auditions was VERY intimidating. It wasn't until I integrated myself in the community both industry and otherwise (Culture Shock LA helped immensely) that I was able to see the true beauty that comes from being in a place where everyone is after a dream."

Find The Silver Lining, Even In Less Than Ideal Situations

Krystle Bueno, who commutes to San Diego from OC several times a week for SGBM rehearsals, learned to make the most of the tedious car rides.

"I wouldn't trade my teammates for the world. They make every drop of gas, late night, and "I don't wanna get out of bed" mornings worth it. Everyone always asks if we needed a place to stay overnight, or checks to make sure we got home okay. Commuting actually let me experience a type of teammate love that's really unique and special. Further, the long car rides gave me a chance to bond with my carpool buddies from here, then our destination allowed us to bond with dancers that weren't from here."

New Dance Community, New Mindset

Embrace the change and all it may bring

See Related Article: 5 Ways Your MINDSET Is Holding You Back As A Dancer (And How To Change It!)"One of the best things is being surrounded be people who motivate you in a new capacity. Hearing different insights/experiences and gaining new friends is such a reward in itself."Jacki Lewis (SD -> Bay)

"I've been blessed to be around such open people who are kind and welcoming since I've moved to LA, so I definitely strive to be like that for others, whether it be at auditions, workshops or competitions. Building the dance community starts with each individual."

Janelle Wen (SD -> LA)

"Don't be afraid to make sacrifices or take risks, whether it's dance or in life. It's impossible to predict how your future will play out, so just take that leap of faith and prepare yourself for change. Great things will happen, with the right mindset."

Susan Shao (Bay -> SD -> Bay)

Growth only takes place outside of your comfort zone

"When you live away from home you start to expand your knowledge of the world and begin to delve into areas of life that you're curious about, and this is how we, as humans, are able to find what really drives us and what really forms our true passions.

Adapting to a new environment means that you get to start fresh. Essentially, nobody knows who you are so you feel the freedom to mold yourself into something better than you were before and not be held back by certain comfort zones or tendencies that you would have from being in a familiar setting.

With dancing, I made a huge step by training with The Company (Training Ground) and eventually making the team a few months after, even though my prior dance experience was very minimal. It allowed me to push my boundaries as a new face in the community and forced me not to settle - just because I was new to dancing didn't mean I was allowed to use that as an excuse not to work as hard as everyone else around me."

See Related Article: 5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself As A Dancer

Another great benefit from moving to another community in the dance world is that you are able to learn so much more from the people in places you are not used to venturing in.

It's easy to feel "stuck" when you are set in one place for so long.

Moving to other places or even traveling to them and experiencing different cultures within the dance community allows you to see dance in so many different ways.

All in all, moving to the Bay was such a great move for myself not just in dancing but in all aspects of my life. The independence forced me to start doing things for myself which, in turn, allowed me to find this amazing passion of dance which I may not have found otherwise."

Chris Banaga

ANY transition in life can be scary – but it's important to approach the unknown ahead with more curiosity and excitement rather than fear.

Be a hungry explorer of your new area, as a dancer, as a student, as an open book ready to soak in all the knowledge and experience that come with a fresh setting.

Good luck to you all, and happy moving! (Location-moving, and dancing-moving!)

What are some of the things that helped YOU transition? Comment below and share with us!One resource that is accessible no matter where you are is STEEZY Studio – sign up today to start learning for free! This article was originally posted on January 14, 2015.