Groove Crew: How Dance Shaped My Life
Many of our Groove Crew members were dancers themselves! Read how their dance experience led them to work with Groove.
One of the (many) awesome things about being a dancer is that you garner some handy traits that can last a lifetime. Dancers are committed, motivated, interesting, passionate, creative, strong and are team players. Even if you don’t spend your whole life dancing or you change careers, these traits will carry with you and help you in all you do.
Here, some employees at Groove Dance Competition share their dance throwback stories and explain how dance has gotten them to where they are today.
What is your past experience as a dancer?
Ryotaro Alen Motoki (Alen Mo), Score Keeper/Emcee for Groove
“I started dancing in fifth grade, when I was about 11 years old. How I got started was all due to my tutor, Kenji. He was supposed to help me learn Japanese literature, history and whatnot, and he did. What he also taught me was the robot – specifically, how to move my arms up and down inversely and twist my body side-to-side. Evidently, that led me to take my first dance class. I remember my first day at hip hop class very clearly. I thought my teacher was going to fit the male archetype, but what I got, and what I am thankful for now, was Marinda Davis. If it were not for her, I couldn’t say I would still be dancing. She left that key first impression of the dance world on me. Soon after, I started dancing competitively. From lyrical and jazz to contemporary and musical theatre, it became a new chapter in my life.”
Photo Courtesy of Alen Mo
Saya Hishikawa, Photographer for Groove
“My dance training started when I was around five, at a small dance school in my neighborhood in Queens, NY. Dance was mostly a hobby for me until I was around 13, when I decided to attend dance schools in Manhattan. Since then, I've studied at what is now Manhattan Youth Ballet under the direction of Francois Perron, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Earl Mosley Institute of the Arts. In 2010, I graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and Performing Arts as a dance major, and I received my BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College. Throughout my dance career, I've worked with renowned artists such as Al Blackstone, Larry Keigwin, Sidra Bell, Earl Mosley, Matthew Rushing and Pascal Rioult.”
Alexandra DeTrolio, Score Keeper for Groove
“I started dancing at only two-and-a-half years old. After a couple years, I auditioned and became a competition student in East Hanover, NJ at a local dance studio. I took ballet at New Jersey Ballet and performed in their productions of The Nutcracker at Paper Mill Playhouse. I performed at Madison Square Garden with the New York Knicks and New York Liberty basketball teams. I was a member of the New Jersey Tap Ensemble under the direction of Deborah Mitchell. And in 2012, while studying ballet and modern under Terence Duncan at County College of Morris, I was awarded the Performing Arts Award for Outstanding Choreography.”
Kendall Saunders, Runner and Assistant Stage Manager for Groove
“I have been dancing for 16 years and grew up as a competitive dancer. I am trained in tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet, lyrical and contemporary. Along with competing, I have also been a part of two pre-professional companies. When I was 15, Groove invited me to audition for their pre-professional company, G-Rock. I performed at their nationals and also danced alongside their convention teachers as an assistant until I was 18. My senior year of high school, I joined another pre-professional company called Capitol Movement, which was based out of D.C. I was also featured in Dance Spirit Magazine's 2011 ‘Future Star’ article.
What was your favorite part about attending competitions as a dancer?
“Dancing itself is the most notable part of any competition. Sure, people will have their good days and bad days, but for the three minutes you’re on stage, it’s complete ecstasy. There are very few feelings like dancing in front of a crowd cheering your name and your team as you showcase months of practice and rehearsal in real time. Whether you falter or drop your partner, like I once did, you get up and endure, but most importantly you’re not alone. It isn’t just you dancing in a group. You carry everyone’s weight as much as they carry yours. It’s teamwork. All of you have trained to this point, to get that top place, and it pays off when it happens.”
“My favorite part of attending competitions was simply getting to be on stage. There's no better feeling in the world than those nervous knots, warm stage lights, smooth Marley and those three minutes of clarity on stage!”
Photo Courtesy of Kendall Saunders
“My favorite part about attending dance competitions as a kid were the long weekends with my friends and the early mornings with my mom. I remember having to get up so early so she could ‘dippity do’ my hair and put on my fake eyelashes! At the time, it was probably the worst part of the weekend, but looking back now I actually miss it!”
How do you think your past experience as a dancer, including participating in competitions, has gotten you to where you are today?
“Growing up as a dancer in the competition world has been a huge part of getting me to where I am today. This past year, touring with Groove was great because I was able to use my experience as a dancer and teacher but then also learn everything that goes on behind the scenes before they even open the doors! Besides working for Groove, I am a full-time dance teacher at a competitive studio, and I work with the competition team on daily basis. I also think being a part of such a competitive sport taught me a lot of discipline, and it showed me how to take constructive criticism at a young age.”
“Being a dancer isn't the only career option in dance. You can definitely be a part of the dance field by doing other things. Open your mind to other opportunities, because sometimes those opportunities can even make you a better dancer or choreographer. You'll acquire knowledge in things you can't learn in just a dance class.”
Photo Courtesy of Saya Hishikawa
“My life today and how I see it is all due to dance. The act itself gave me a structure that I could input into any form, school and professionally. It brought up in me a sense of determination and knowing one’s place in any situation. My teachers respected me as much as I respected them, and I gave them the upmost respect a student can give. Although the classes I took required me to lose my time after school, and in many cases the weekends, in turn it conditioned me to fill my time productively.”
“Being a dancer has made me an artist. As artists, we are creative, passionate and determined. Dance has given me those qualities and shaped me into who I am today. Because of dance and competitions, I would say that I am driven to achieve whatever goals I set for myself. However, with goals and accomplishments also comes failure. I've learned that it is okay to fail, but it is never okay to give up. I am now a Fashion Merchandising student at FIDM LA, and I see creativity, passion and determination every day in my work and classes. I owe that all to dance.”
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.