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THE UNITY OF DANCE

Interviews with professional filmmakers and dancers

INTERVIEW WITH KYLE LAU, FILMMAKER:

Kyle Lau describes himself as a Director, Writer and Producer based in Los Angeles. He shoots everything from music videos to pilots to sketch comedy and more. When He is not shooting, he works for CBS Studios, helping with both current shows and the development of new shows. Overall, whether through films, scripts or his Cold Stones order, he hopes to make the world a better place.

Kyle has made films since he was 12 years old when his little brother and his brother’s friends asked Kyle if he could help them make a home video. He has always been a “tech-nerd,” so it made sense. He could work the camera and edit the video on a computer, etc. But then, Kyle, fell in love with the whole process of making videos. The use of cuts for comedic timing, working with actors, the addition of music – filmmaking became the Kim to his Kanye, the Timberlake to his NSYNC, the Special but Limited Solar Filter Sunglasses to his Solar Eclipse.

In Kyle’s opinion, his biggest accomplishment in filmmaking at this point in time is writing and directing a $16,000 plus indie project called Greener, based on the momentous Vincent Chin murder that sparked a pivotal Asian-American rights movement in the 1980’s. They had a cast of over 50 people plus the crew and their film was featured in film festivals across the nation.

When it comes to challenges he faced as a filmmaker, one story that Kyle likes to tell actually occurred on the set of Greener, where despite the fact that they had the proper paperwork and million dollar insurance, a drunken landlord rolled by their set at 4 a.m. He had his assistant run out of their car to tell Kyle and his team that they could no longer film there because – well, “just because.” This was after they had been setting up and prepping the huge outdoor parking lot location for over 6 hours and after clearing everything with the landlord multiple times leading up to the shoot. So, despite months of prep work and finding the perfect location, they had to find a new location within a matter of minutes, otherwise, the project would be over. Thus, as any indie filmmaker will tell you, the way we got around it was just by bearing down, being as creative as possible and using any and all resources they had around them. Luckily, one of these resources was the Costume Designer . . . who had a boyfriend . . . who had a family business . . . who had a property in Downtown Los Angeles right where they were shooting. Luckily, that property was available for their use. Thus, they transferred locations and miraculously finished the rest of the shoot there. It is in these desperate moments of crisis that you realize how to step up and, by any means necessary, make the impossible possible.

As to the specific topic or type of film that Kyle favors, in general, he tries to create films that feature minority voices, or voices that are not typically featured in mainstream films. Everything from Asian-American stories to female perspectives (and more) inspires Kyle because his main goal in entertainment is to empower these voices. Growing up, he did not have a role model on screen that looked like him (the closest thing was maybe Pikachu). But, by providing a platform for these stories and characters, he hopes to inspire the next generation to be more open, inclusive and well-rounded.

Kyle’s goal in the next five years in the film industry is to be writing for a television series while on his way to selling his own show, while shooting music videos, films and commercials. Kyle says that realistically, however, he will probably just be eating Flaming Hot Cheetos as he is doing right this very second.

His advice to upcoming filmmakers is to keep being the best person and filmmaker you can be, no matter how many times you are told “no.” He says, “Every step you take, someone, in some way, will tell you ‘no.’ Do not listen to the haters (#ShakeItOff #ThanksTSwift #LookWhatYouDone) and prove them wrong. You will have to be creative, adjust on the fly but always keep producing the best content you know how. Trust your heart and be an enjoyable person to work with. That will take you much farther than you would expect in this marathon of a career.’

INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL BROMBERG, FILMMAKER:

Michael Bromberg is a 28 year old filmmaker. He is a Southern California native who loves the beach, tennis, cameras, and the feeling that comes with dreaming something up and then executing that vision. He has been a making films for 10 years.

The first video he made was a documentary about his brother’s high school graduation. Since then Michael has made music videos, commercials, documentaries and short films.

Michael started out as a cameraman on the sidelines of Super Bowl 50, and conducted interviews in the winning team’s locker room afterward. That was pretty surreal.

According to Michael, the main challenge as a filmmaker is to never stop creating. Over the length of his career, people have consistently asked him when he was going to grow up and get a “real job.” Michael has learned to block that noise out.

Because Michael loves the idea of taking a brand and trying to make it “cool,” Michael really enjoys making commercials. It is similar in a lot of ways to a music video where you are trying to make the artist hip, or sexy, or whatever they want to be. In both genres, you are selling something, which Michael considers a fun challenge.

Michael hopes his future will include making videos that he really cares about. He does not care if it is movies, commercials or a web series. He just wants to be creating.

As far as advice to younger filmmakers, Michael encourages them to never, ever, ever give up. He believes persistence is the key to success.

INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE KIM, BALLET DANCER

Stephanie Kim has been a dancer for 25 years and continues to dance today because she sees no other way to live and express herself. She describes herself as an emotional, curious, impulsive, loving soul searching for different ways to impact and inspire others through art which brings uncomfortable comfort and questions everything.

Kim says that she faces and gets past challengers in her life with grit, never giving up and always believing. Additionally, she points to focusing on confidence as another way that she uses to get past challenges in her life.

If Stephanie was to be offered the opportunity to meet any dancer she chooses, she would chose Mihail Baryshnikov. She points to his longevity, creative openness, and expansive career as some of the reasons she looks up to him.

Stephanie advises young dancers to be themselves and not to worry if they stand out or go against the grain. She believes that the people we look up to are the ones who paved their own path. In her opinion, if it is scary, you should run towards that fear.

INTERVIEW WITH JEN LEE, HIP HOP DANCER

Jen Lee is a Hip Hop dancer and describes herself as a free spirit who finds her anchor in the arts, especially creating in the performing arts. She loves to explore new places and experiences and to constantly grow. She loves her family and friends and would do anything for them.

Jen first started dancing at a local Bay Area studio, Dance Academy USA, when she was in middle school. She started by training in jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and lyrical. In college, she moved on to a hip hop team, NSU Modern, and began to focus more on street style dancing.

Her most memorable dance-related moment occurred when she first moved to Los Angeles for college. She had researched a particular dance teacher whose style she loved. In the process, she had been combing the Internet looking for a way to take her class. Coincidentally, during Jen’s first week taking classes at the Edge this teacher showed up as a sub and ended up getting that teaching slot on a weekly basis. Jen took her class religiously that whole first quarter and was often called out in her class. Before that time, she had always assumed that would never happen to her. Jen grew a lot in that class and always remembers that class as a defining period in her life.

Jen meets any challenges she faces as a dancer with confidence, the willingness to take leaps and not worry about how she will look to others. It is still a battle some days but the desire to grow trumps the self-consciousness.

Given the chance to meet the dancer of her choice, Jen’s choice would probably be Fred Astaire because Jen feels that he defined so much of our aesthetic of dance as storytelling. In Jen’s opinion, he danced with an ease that made the marriage of dance, music, and drama seem so natural that we wonder why it had not always been this way.

It is Jen’s hope that dance will allow her to be able to express herself even more fully, both in her music creation and in everyday life.

Jen’s advice to young dancers would be to do everything with a passion and do not be set on one way to do things if life takes you another direction. You will always find your way back to dance if you follow your heart.

INTERVIEW WITH JENSEN FREEDMAN, TAP DANCER:

According to Jensen Freeman, she has always wanted to be a leader and considers herself a leader in dance classes! In her viewpoint, she sometimes gets a little overly excited causing her already loud inside voice to become disruptive behavior, but it is only because she has to make up in volume for her size. She is only 4’11” and looks very sweet. However, she can be sassy when not taken seriously! If she sees someone feeling left out or uncomfortable in a situation, she will strike up a conversation with them and try to make that person feel at ease. Also, if you ever need someone to start the party on the dance floor, Jensen says she is I am your gal!

Jensen is 23 years old and has been dancing since she was three. She still finds herself inspired to keep dancing as a professional because dancers are perfectionists. They push themselves mentally and physically until the point of no return. Dance taught Jensen how to be an artist that can possess strict guidelines but still make every move or step feel like hers!

Jensen’s biggest advice on being a professional dancer is to put yourself out there! She was very fortunate that she is from Los Angeles and did not have to move as a transition. But, after graduating from the competitive side of dance, it is important that you push yourself to network with whoever inspires you! First, take class and go up to the teacher afterwards. Even if you felt like a hot mess, you must say “thank you” and if you enjoyed the class tell them you will be back! It goes a long way. Second, there are so many avenues for professional dancers. You need to decide what style and venue makes YOU happy! Jensen’s dance style is Tap and Hip Hop. Additionally, she loves teaching and traveling!!

There are many professional dancers that Jensen would like to meet but has narrowed it down to one, Gene Kelly. Jensen wonders if you ever thought about putting a pair of roller skates on and tap dancing in them. Gene Kelly in the movie It’s Always Fair Weather showcases himself tap dancing in a pair of roller skates. If you have not seen it, Jensen encourages you to view it. If you have not seen it, Jensen encourages you to view it on YouTube as soon as possible. She has tried and tried to dance while wearing roller skates. In her opinion, it is one of the hardest balancing acts and he looks as graceful as a beauty queen. Oh, it gets better because back then the huge dance scenes in films had to be shot in one take! She believes her choice needs no more explanation and suggests you check out that clip!

Jensen’s personal focus for dance is to become a tap teacher on a traveling convention circuit! She has been an assistant to one of her mentors, Ryan Lohoff at Hollywood Vibe Dance Convention for the past five years and is now starting to travel on her own. She also teaches on faculty for Tap into the Network which is an exclusive tap intensive where she gets to teach Hip Hop to give their dancers a little break which is super fun! She feels exhilarated when helping dancers take tap class even if they do not own a pair of tap shoes and are wearing sneakers. She has learned that she can inspire dancers when they are out of their comfort zone and that is what she is running with! She loves traveling to new cities and connecting with new dancers and studios that she would have never met before. She says she probably needs improvement on using a microphone while teaching. However, she is not afraid to use it!

When Jensen dances, she does not think about anything else and for her that is a huge accomplishment! She has a strong case of A.D.D. and since she was a small child, dance has taught her how to focus her energy and feel at peace.

Her advice to young dancers is very simple, trust the process! Trust your dance teachers, they love you unconditionally and want you to succeed as a human being, not just a dancer. Also, Every BODY is different; do not compare what you can do to a freak of nature five year old! Trust that you might not be able to do a trick right away, but when you finally nail it, the reward will be much greater. Learn to be okay with not being perfect. Stay committed to your goals and accomplishments!

INTERVIEW WITH SHIVANI THAKKAR, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF MKM BOLLYSTARS DANCE COMPANY www.instagram.com/mkmbollystars

Shivani Thakkar is not only the Artistic Director of MKM Bollystars Dance Company but is also a Dancer and Choreographer for the Company. MKM Bollystars Dance Company is a dance company specializing in classical Indian, Bollywood, fusion and Western dance styles for artistry, entertainment and education. Their dancers are either trained extensively in Western dance (Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, and Ballroom) or Classical Indian dance (Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, etc). The dancers are selected through an audition process. They are encouraged to continually grow and expand their dance knowledge, experience, and skills to be versatile and able to perform multiple styles across the board.

Shivani is trained in Bharata Natyam (Indian classical dance), Bollywood, Tap, Jazz, and Ballet. She initially learned Bharata Natyam when she trained in Canada and from her mother who is a dance teacher. She then trained in India under traditional gurus. She performed her Arangetram (dance graduation) under her guru’s guidance and then continued further training with him and other well-respected teachers/choreographers in South India. For all of her other styles, her most significant training has been in Los Angeles as an adult. While she had an introduction and flirtation with Western dance as a child, it was in Los Angeles as a college graduate that she really underwent a thorough training in Western dance. She has continued enhancing her skill through intensive workshops and one-on-one coaching as the opportunities have arisen.

The Company’s most memorable dance-related moment occurred when they presented a classical fusion piece at Club Jete showcase in Los Angeles and the whole process from conception to performance was memorable and fulfilling. The piece was a brand new creation that was challenging in technique, with exciting innovative music, and gorgeous costumes. The best feeling as they approached the end of the show performing at about 1 a.m. and received not just loud cheers and a standing ovation, but comments from spectators in the audience that it was beautiful and unlike anything they had seen before. It felt like an inspired piece right from the get go and the energy everyone brought to the piece (the dancers, Club Jete organizer Tiffany Billings and team, and the audience) was off the walls!

As far as her personal most memorable dance-related moment related to dance, it is a difficult choice for her. But, three stand out. 1) Creating and touring successfully across Canada with her own production, Dvaya, 2) Going to Japan with belly dance superstars, and 3) Receiving a professional development grant to attend Tap Motif Rhythm Summit in Greece. Being immersed in Tap dance and music was a phenomenal and life-altering experience. She is still in touch with many fellow artists from that experience and still cherishes those memories. •

While hosting and assisting Bollywood legend Saroj Khan last year during Saroj’s Los Angeles and San Diego workshops, Shivrani was fortunate enough to take some private coaching with her as well. It was an extremely enriching experience spending time and learning from a master choreographer like Saroj. Saroj spent quality time taking an interest in Shivrani’s choreography and growth as a dancer. The experience was invigorating and inspiring for Shivrani.

One of the challenges the Company faces is educating audiences that here is more than Indian dance than just Bollywood and that there is more to Bollywood than just twisting light bulbs and hip shakes. Indian dance goes back over 2,000 years and encompasses a rich technique that includes intricate hand gestures, facial expressions, story-telling and rhythmic footwork. They meet this challenge by staying committed to presenting high-quality work in both Bollywood and Indian classical dance forms, and whenever possible, sharing with our audience a little bit about the history, influences, or details in the art form. We also meet this challenge through our education program where we have stage shows and workshops geared towards K-12 education, museums, and organizations like Girl Scouts, etc., where at a young age we can share the depth and breadth of Indian dance.

As far as Shivrani’s personal challenge, balancing the commercial dance scene and the artistic dance scene has been an interesting challenge. The audiences, demands, and material created for both environments are very different and she is constantly striving to have a successful career in both scenes. Another challenge is dealing with the politics in dance. She is not a fan of it, and yet has seen it in the dance world from a very young age. Sadly, it exists and is so unnecessary to be successful and create effectively. Shivani knows that with her own company she tries very hard to create a positive and supportive work environment but with a team mindset. She understands that we all want to get ahead and be known for our work and credits, but she has found that being collaborative and cheering on your peers on their successes is so much healthier and beneficial to the dance community as a whole than only looking out for your own interests and successes.

The dancer that Shivani would like to meet is Debbie Allen. In Shivani’s opinion, Debbie is a phenomenal woman who has created a very powerful dance community and following. She would also like to meet Misty Copeland, Gregory Hines, and Pina Bausch (choreographer). Misty Copeland, just to hear her feelings about her journey in achieving her dreams, Gregory Hines to discuss and shoot the breeze about tap, rhythm and music, and Pina Bausch because she is a. brilliant choreographer who Shivani would love to talk to about her approach to choreography and expression.

Shivani and the Company would love to continue creating innovative work for a range of audiences and eventually grow to be a company that tours with leading artists, creates their own shows, and performs at venues like Jacob’s Pillow.

Personally, Shivani is currently in the process of re-defining her work as a dancer and choreographer. She knows it feeds her soul and makes her the best possible version of herself. She just hopes that she can keep growing as a dancer and choreographer and go deeper in her work as a creative artist. She is currently looking at getting back to her roots and re-focusing on her classical work as a performer and creator.

Shivani’s advice to young dancers is to always be open to learning,-even if it’s not their main style. Do not ever stop learning or think that the process is done. There is so much to discover and create and learn. The ability to learn movement in all forms will help you become a stronger, better dancer in your chosen style. Also, do not give up. With a field like dance, you are bound to have your ups and downs, successes and failures. You need to recognize that everything is just a step forward towards the next thing and that if you feel like you are struggling or not where you were the previous year or not where you want to be, there is nothing stopping you from reaching the reality you dream and want. So, stay calm, focus, and get moving on toward your goals. In this world, your current state is never permanent but rather fluid like water – it keeps flowing, so we have to keep adapting and getting better with each experience. Additionally, she suggests they stay humble, be supportive of their fellow dancers, and always know that their work as an artist is in service of the art. Finally, she advises them to let their soul shine through in their work. The energy, passion, and love they bring to the dance is what will make it live on stage and in people’s memories and what will ultimately fulfill them as an artist.

Shivani’s advice to young dancers is to always be open to learning,-even if it’s not their main style. Do not ever stop learning or think that the process is done. There is so much to discover and create and learn. The ability to learn movement in all forms will help you become a stronger, better dancer in your chosen style. Also, do not give up. With a field like dance, you are bound to have your ups and downs, successes and failures. You need to recognize that everything is just a step forward towards the next thing and that if you feel like you are struggling or not where you were the previous year or not where you want to be, there is nothing stopping you from reaching the reality you dream and want. So, stay calm, focus, and get moving on toward your goals. In this world, your current state is never permanent but rather fluid like water – it keeps flowing, so we have to keep adapting and getting better with each experience. Additionally, she suggests they stay humble, be supportive of their fellow dancers, and always know that their work as an artist is in service of the art. Finally, she advises them to let their soul shine through in their work. The energy, passion, and love they bring to the dance is what will make it live on stage and in people’s memories and what will ultimately fulfill them as an artist.

To learn more about MKM Bolystars Dance Company, check them out at www.mkmbollystars.com, https://triartsp.com/mkm-bollystars-dance-company, and www.instagram.com/mkmbollystars. To learn more about Shivani and MKM Bollystars Dance Company, check out her website at www.shivanithakkar.com, and follow her at www.facebook.com/shivanithakkar and www.instagram.com/shivdance .

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