Not Your Average Dancer: Amy Zhang

It’s me, Vanessa Marian, the founder of Groove Therapy here. Usually Amy Zhang writes the Not Your Average Dancer series but it’s understandably awkward to write about yourself. Have a read and learn more about your Monday night Sydney Groove Therapist.

So It’s a usual phone call with Amy – we say our wassups before launching into a mess of tangents that move fluidly between Groove Therapy spreadsheet logistics and where the best Vietnamese eateries are before launching into our usual socio-political musings for the week. Halfway through this particular conversation though, I decided to hit record and turn our rambling into an interview because, despite all of the online banter, I still don’t think most of you get to see Amy the way I do.

I asked her to start at the beginning. Amy had a late start by dancer standards, taking her first class as a way of combating stress during her year 12 exams “it wasn’t anything profound or life-changing at the time, just getting out of the house and having a dance.” Amy, like most beginners, had her one teacher Lizzie Wicks and refused to try anyone else until Lizzie went to L.A for a 6 month stint of training, Amy had no choice but to diversify and this was the point at which she realised that perhaps she liked the broader spectrum of dance.

So what next? Fast forward just a few years later and Amy is already working professionally as a dancer in Brisbane. On that whim she decides to pack her bags and move to L.A  herself for 6 months. “I didn’t do the dancer tourist thing, I was actually living there and training under people like Dana Foglia, who is one of Beyonce’s choreographers. I mean, as a 19 year old, that shit’s just crazy.” Having said that, Amy realised very early on that the dancer life wasn’t as glittery as it seemed  “You realise just how small you are, how competitive it is to be a dancer and how many of the most prolific dancers actually live low key lives.” Amy elaborates further “I had a friend who was touring with Ariana Grande and would low key tell me how boring and repetitive it was and how little they actually got to see any of the cities they toured.”

However, being naive and young means you’re still keen for that spotlight so, following Dana’s advice to get more technique under her belt, Amy auditioned for Australia’s biggest commercial dance school, Brent Street, got accepted and packed her bags to Sydney in the space of a few weeks. “Brent Street gives you training like no other and I am extremely grateful for that, and they have their own way of ensuring you do well.” What Amy means by that of course, is the culture of competition. “I mean you’re subconsciously competing all the time. Competing for front row, competing for recognition from an agent, competing for that solo. It’s good because I wouldn’t have improved so much, but at the same time I wasn’t happy within myself because that commercial Sydney dancer mould wasn’t really me, yet I was there trying to convince myself to fight for it.”

This is the part where you’d usually expect a downward spiral but luckily Amy has strong character and happened to live in a share house with a legend -me – fun fact! Amy speaks of this shared chapter between us through her lens “You spoke about wanting to start Groove Therapy when I first moved in and you kept talking about how the industry missed the point about dance being about…dancing.” Amy pauses, then elaborates on the effect these conversations had in relation to her experience “I mean, I had it lucky at Brent Street because I had years of experience as a working dancer who had also lived in L.A and I was hanging out with people like you who had no interest in that commercial dance world, so I had this wider perspective on it all.”

As the years moved on Amy literally got a backstage insight into Groove Therapy as I would lie in the living room (we didn’t have a couch) and lay it all out to her whilst downing copious amounts of chocolate. “I mean I was this Brent Street graduate with heaps of free time and no idea what to do next so I figure I might as well help you out.” Though you may see her teaching our regular Monday class and posting the odd insta story, Amy has gone on to become our General Manager and Producer which means she does everything from marketing, event producing and problem solving when shit hits the fan before I even catch wind of it. On the creative front, Amy has also gone on to perform and movement direct a string of campaigns and creative pieces this year under Groove Therapy Agency.

It’s a big shift from the L.A dancer life and I ask what this means for her “I mean I still like performing but I don’t get validation from just being a performer, or winning battles anymore.” She doesn’t quite say it but between the lines it seems as though she simply doesn’t see her identity being limited within such a one-dimensional label “I almost feel like my life and my career is bigger [than just being a dancer] because there’s also this world of working on epic projects from behind the scenes and also just a world outside of dance – friends, family and just having a good time living your life.”

And though the interview went for over an hour and I could write you a small novel I will end with one last note from Amy. I asked her what she would say to someone who is nervous but toying with the idea of trying a dance class “Just book a spot and lock yourself in before you overthink it” she says “You’ll get there and you’ll feel nervous and you might consider bailing, but then class will start and there’s nowhere for you to run.” She does her signature Amy cackle before finishing “and we’ll do the first warm up and realise it’s really not such a big deal. In fact, you’ll realise it’s actually really fun.”

So what are you waiting for?

Amy teaches a beginner Groove Therapy class every Monday in Redfern, Sydney.

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BYRON NEW TIME
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BYRON: NEW CLASS DEETS

First of all we have a new venue. THE CORNER PALM, and are re-opening our usual Thursday Beginner Grooves starting April 26. Every Thursday, 6:15pm.

Beginner Adult Dance Classes in Byron Bay
Thursdays

6:15 pm – 7:15 pm
The Corner Palm
1/16 Brigantine St, Byron Bay (Industrial Estate)
$20 (online sales only)

BOOK

HOWEVER! Do you ever feel like stepping up your game after weeks of beginner grooves with us? We are slowly introducing intermediate level classes or, should we say, pro-beginner classes. Only three weeks long (all three weeks attendance recommended, but not compulsory)

Pro-Beginner (Intermediate) Adult Dance Classes in Byron Bay
Thursday April 26, May 3 and May 10

7:20 pm – 8:20 pm
The Corner Palm
1/16 Brigantine St, Byron Bay (Industrial Estate)
$20 (online sales only)

BOOK

April Theme: Screens Off

Dang, we know! It’s already April which means we are well and truly into 2018. As we get busier, a lot of the Groove Therapy fam have been talking about the vortex that is our screens and how much it effects not just our physical but our emotional health as well. That’s why April’s Theme is all about turning your screens off. As a challenge for the month of April, the Groove Therapy fam are all making a conscious decision to put our screens down. Here are four tips for how to keep off us all off our screens more.

Embrace Boredem

Take a second and think back to the last time you waited in line for a coffee or sat in an Uber and just embraced the boredom? It’s so instinctual for us to want to pull out our phone and have scroll any second we start to feel a natural silence creeping up.

boredom-gif-9Stay aware. See what happens when you start to clock yourself picking up your phone for no reason.

Social Media with a Purpose

We’ve all been there. You open up your phone to reply to a friend/check the location of a FB event/check the details from an instagram DM and all of a sudden you’re in click-bait hole and now watching videos about the top five cheese restaurants in New York. Consciously think of why you need to open the app and get the task done – because the app will try do everything possible to suck you in once you open it.

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Record It

Get an app that records how much screen time you use. (It’s pretty confronting)

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SCREEN-FREE FUN?

Do a screen free-activity: aside from reading, cooking, gardening, word on the street is there’s Groove Therapy.

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Get off your screen and have some screen-free fun with us this week!brisbane
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Not Your Average Dancer: Clarence Kent

Not Your Average Dancer is a blog series written by our General Manager, Amy Zhang, that features some of our friends of the Groove. The series profiles incredible Industry dancers who have broken the stereotype image of being a ‘dancer’ and carved a career for themselves. If you take our beginner classes, here are some goals to aspire to.

Meet Clarence Kent. You guys already know this dude as the curator of all the Groove Lab playlists that we know you’ve been bumping in your cars, but there’s another reason why we love this dude so much.

For such a talented dude, Clarence’s come up was humble. Whilst we sit here in awe every time Clarence moves, what gives us all hope that we too can be this incredible, is how honest he is about how dance never came naturally to him. “Fuck no. I definitely had to work for it. Whenever I went and danced, there was Ben (GT Therapist), Jack and Alex Morris next to me doing all the crazy shit. I knew I wasn’t nearly as good as my peers.” Clarence laughs, then adds “I was also pretty big. I was pretty chubby.” However, not being naturally talented or ‘fit’ for breaking never seemed to phase him. “In my eyes it’s a good thing because I learnt how to discipline myself when I’m training,” Clarence reflects.

Clarence began entering battles in Brisbane and quickly out grew the Brisbane scene. Wanting a greater challenge, he then began travelling interstate where he struggled to gain the appreciation of his peers. “I was different to all of them. They would all smoke me but I always knew I had a different mentality.” Despite constantly being knocked back, Clarence saw a greater sense of investment that came from travelling and started flying himself overseas to battle. Even then,“whenever I would jam people would be nice and kind enough to give me props but I knew myself I wasn’t on par with the battle scene over there.” Fast forward to present day Clarence and things have definitely changed for this dude. Since returning from LA, Clarence has now danced for the Jabbawockeez winning against the best in the industry and gaining muchos respect for it in the dance world. When I asked Clarence about what changed his response was simple, “Nothing’s changed. I’m just practising. I’m just getting better.”

It’s not all about self-improvement with this dude. Clarence is constantly pushing to build his community alongside his crew, Golden Coastline. Together they’re fostering within this baby freestyle community a sense of staying true to the ‘hip-hop’ culture, yet still being unapologetically Australian instead of falling into the trendy trap of cultural appropriation. Moving forward, Clarence feels pretty confident in the growth of this community, “It’s pretty obvious it is growing and still is. There’s definitely so many more freestylers which is sick. I remember battles and there would only be eight of us. Now, when they put ‘Test Your Might’ on they had over 100 people for all styles which is crazy!” Clarence says proudly. So when asked about what advice he gives to his growing community his only gripe was the lack of connection. “Honestly I reckon, that’s the culture of hip hop you know. We all meet up and dance and say we’re into hip hop culture but none of us smoke up or drink together and get down when we’re drunk or fucken faded. Honestly that’s my answer”.

We love the honesty, Clarence.

If you’re loving this dude’s style, follow his dance journey here on instagram: @clarencekunta

Main image photographed by Sean Carbs

If you’re in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Byron come put Clarence’s advice into practise and come party with us. No cash on the door so book your tix here!

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March Theme: One Love

With March being the month of International Women’s Day, the International Day of Happiness and Zero Discrimination Day, we thought we’d pick the theme ‘One Love’ this month.

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Meet a new person
If you’ve moved to a new city or you’ve perhaps fallen into a cycle of seeing the same (wonderful) familiar faces, maybe it’s time to meet someone new this March? If you’re already a regular, we urge you to rock up 10 mins early (you already do of course because you’re legit keen) and walk up to someone you don’t know and strike up a chat. If you’ve never taken a Groove Therapy class, then expect someone to walk up to you 10 mins before class and say hi.
Book me in for class so I can make friends please.

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Screens Off

A big focus for us is the idea of internet trolls and all that triggering that our tiny palm -screens give us. We’re pushing for more effective phone time usage, which is not a detox or a cleanse from phones, but is instead the idea of balance. We don’t eat 4 x blocks of chocolate and feel good about it but a little choccie cake every now and then is a plain good time. The same sort of thinking goes for screen time. It’s not bad for you if it’s not in excess.
Less screens, more dancing for me. Book me in.

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Cross Cultural Understanding

With knowledge comes the death of ignorance. did you know that one of Groove Therapy’s core values is to do our little bit to lessen ignorance in this world by teaching dance moves, origins and historical contexts of it all in class? When you understand the ‘why’ behind something, you’re far less likely to feel prejudice to those people.
OK I want to learn some street dance moves ASAP.

 

 

 

Not Your Average Dancer: Sela Vai

Sorry for the hiatus, but ‘Not Your Average Dancer’ is back and I promise this one’s a banger. Meet Sela Vai. A woman who is leading by example and creating the scaffold for other dancer’s to just be themselves. We’re lucky to have Sela Vai teach a one-off class on Monday Feb 19 in Sydney which you can book here.

Sela started dancing in primary school, but only started to take it seriously once she found the hip-hop crew life as a teenager. “Even at that age, I still didn’t quite grasp what it would take to get there,” Sela says, speaking on the idea of dance careers. When Sela started working she faced the realities of being a female dancer in the industry. Sela found herself in gigs where she had to fit into one of two moulds. “Being female…but also being a hip-hop dancer… I mean I train so hard in hip hop to do certain styles but then [I’m] asked to ‘pop-lock’ and [I’m] like ‘I’m sorry what? Can you look that up in the dictionary and tell me what that is?’…You’re the token hip-hop dancer, the hip-hop chick” Sela says. The other option is to be the hyper-sexualised “token female dancer” Sela says with disappointment. “[I have done] so many gigs where I felt like I didn’t even utilise any of the skill that I worked for. With all those little gigs that had no thought put into them, [I thought] is this what it’s gonna be as a dancer?”

Although disheartened, Sela knew there was potential for more. “It clicked for me when I felt validation as a dancer and choreographer.” Sela explains, “I wrote down a goal: I want to choreograph live shows for an Australian artist. By the end of the year I was on stage with Ngaiire performing my own choreography and in that moment I was like ‘this is crazy this actually happened! I wrote it down and it actually happened.’” It was a moment of realisation for Sela. She had booked a job where she could own the stage and showcase her own choreography to music she liked, whilst wearing costumes she felt comfortable in. “[I felt] so valued as an artist. I just loved everything about it” Sela says beaming. “That gig with Ngaiire…I was treated with so much respect. I wasn’t just a dancer they understood how imperative we were to their show.” From then on, Sela knew she would always work from this place of “Mutual respect. Not compensating or negotiating on who I am or what I have to do in order to just get the job.”

Furthermore Sela often found herself being identified as a Pacific Islander woman. Inspired by a specific encounter with two Tongan sisters who didn’t see Sela as ‘too Pacific Islander’, she decided it was time to visit Tonga for the first time in 2017. The trip came out of “want[ing] to understand where I come from and why that makes me who I am.” Since that experience, Sela adopted her current name. “Sela just means Sarah in Tongan. My name sake actually. My dad named me after his sister and it’s a no-brainer [because] ’r’ doesn’t exist in their alphabet.” Sela beams with pride and continues to explain “I think going to Tonga and being called Sela by everyone there made me want to wear my name with pride and make sure that people know my heritage.”

We aren’t the only ones who have noticed the path Sela has been carving. Aside from teaching nationally, Sela has been on the lineup for camps and intensives all around the world and her classes have sold out time and time again. Irrespective of her accolades she remains humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the platform she has been given. “Last year I felt like I was just holding on. [I’d think], ‘why am I on this panel, I think they just needed a female to make it look balanced’ but I use it. Even if I feel out of my depth, I use it.” When asked specifically about the things she wants people to take away, it’s clear Sela is all about empowering other artists, especially fellow Pacific Islanders. “Being a person with a platform is not about just existing [there]. It’s about a responsibility to strengthen and widen that platform…making space for more Pacific Islander artists [so] they can strive for more and take my place…[so they can] hopefully surpass me.”

To us here at Groove Therapy, Sela is such a beacon of light for young dancers. It’s hard to stay true to your gut and make decisions based on what feels right when it goes against the status quo. So we asked Sela to give us one last piece of advice, “Instead of writing down goals I just write down about the person I want to become, the morals I want to uphold and the type of people I want to inspire. That motivates me more than anything. Like, that literally makes me wanna do push ups. I see the path ahead and it’s not clear. It’s hazy and it’s foggy but I trust it because I know it’s my path. People can cross it and walk with me on it but no one else can own that path. It’s me, it’s mine.”

We could not have said it better ourselves.

Big love to you, Sela.

Sela is covering our Sydney class this Monday.  Book your tix and catch your chance to learn from this legend. 

Written by Amy Zhang

February’s Theme: Luv Yuhself

When the Groove Therapy team sat down to think about February our calendar jumped out with Valentines Day emojis and we groaned at the foreseeable spam of love, relationships and undermining of self-confidence that so many brands were gearing up to cash in on. In defiance we decided to flip the script on love this Feb and ask you to channel another mindset for the month: loving your OWN self. It applies to all of us, irrespective of relationship status and it’s a question that we’d like to get y’all thinking about via some of the following ways

Social Media
People love to bitch about it but it can be good for your headspace if you use it well. A mantra we’re trying this month is not checking our phones for the first hour of our day, following interesting, thought-provoking and genuinely ethical accounts and checking ourselves when we get into click-bait holes (even if it’s a bomb dance video). Want to know a really good phone-free activity? Groove Therapy. Whoa mind-blown.

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Internal Monologues
We’re going to check ourselves on what our inner voice is saying as we scan magazines, beach babes, social media and most of all ourselves. Vanessa, Groove Therapy founder, says she needs to probably get more humble as she has been loving herself sick in the mirror these days but that’s entirely because she’s learnt a few new dance moves and she’s feeling proud. We think you’re allowed in those instances.

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Enjoy Yuhself
Once we took a dancehall class and the teacher said to us in that thick epic Jamaican accent ‘ENJOY YUHSELF’ which literally meant ‘use yuh hands and enjoy your own body’. It sounds stupid but you should see how much class freaks out when we ask you to touch your own body and hair. There is such shame culture around this and we honestly think y’all are doomed if you can’t touch your own body in appreciation. Get around it.

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Take Class With Us
I mean we preach enough why this is important right? But you know why it’s important to loving yourself? It shows initiative, that you’ve proactively taken the time out to create a habit, try something new, get out of the house and do something you love.

Also who doesn’t want to pocket a few new dance moves for their cousin’s wedding dance floor next week?
Defs take class with us.

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Did your resolutions all go to plan? Have you made new habits, kicked goals and closed toxic chapters…or is that all still a work in progress? Let’s not beat ourselves up for all this. February’s theme is ‘Luv Yuhself’ and it’s about learning to chill out and accept that life isn’t perfect and that maybe there’s some cool stuff to appreciate. Grab a friend or stroll in through our doors for some solo ‘me time’ and try your hand at one of our beginner street dance classes

BOOK

 

MELBOURNE CANCELLED JAN 17 (We’re back after that)

MELBOURNE CANCELLED JAN 17 (We’re back after that)

Nothing to stress about bebes but due to the influx of panic and enquiries re: Melbourne being cancelled for next week we thought we’d address it formally here.

Class is cancelled Weds Jan 17 due to the venue booking out already for another gig. Aside from that we have classes back on for the following week on Jan 24 and onwards.

You can book a Melbourne beginners adult hip hop class for Jan 24  here.

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Another common request we get is for more Melbourne classes! We’re keen to launch some, but where do y’all suggest? If you know of any good venues let us know. We need a venue that has its own sound system and is easy to access via transport and parking. We also prefer a grounded community vibe. If ya know a place then holla at hello@groovetherapy101.com

See ya at our next Groove session lovers.

JANUARY’S THEME: RESTART

RESTART YOUR YEAR WITH DANCE

Dance class at Groove Therapy starts on the week of Jan 8 2018 (which you can book here). Amongst the hype of new year reinvention, bucket lists, goals and resolutions the Groove Therapy fam over here has a few words for you.

  1. You’ve always said you’ll come to class…one day.
    We meet hundreds of you every week. People who recognise us as teachers from Instagram and stop us to tell us how much they have been meaning to come to class but…you know.
    Nah fam, we’re going to call you out on your procrastination here. Since dance classes foster community, boosted mental health, fitness and self-expression we think that it should become a priority in 2018. Once you get over the mental hurdle of being intimidated to try a class we promise you’ll wish you had signed up sooner.

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  2. You’ve been busy, stressed and overworked
    Here’s the deal, when you dance you release endorphins and your overactive brain tends to go into a meditative state of concentration and ‘in-the-moment’ focus and enjoyment. It’s incredible catharsis for people who need to shake off a crap day/week/life chapter/year.
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  3. You’ve wanted a new way of catching up with peeps
    Take a dance class together. If you’re serious about getting good, then you can hype each other up to stay regular and not fall off the bandwagon. If you want something new for date night then challenge your babe to a living room dance-off post class. A lot of peeps also bring their fam along, and one of our favourite moments is seeing someone bring in their rad parent to class and watching them get low to Kendrick Lamar.
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  4. You’ve fallen off the exercise bandwagon
    Groove Therapy classes leave you sweating head to toe with your heart hammering and the best bit is you often don’t even realise that you’ve exercised for an hour. We’re not sure why so many people have this idea that exercise has to be an ordeal. If you’re keen on exercising but not quite ready for that gym junkie life, then a dance class is a good start. Also know that being fit is about what your body can do, not what your body looks like. So leave the body bashing internal monologue at the door.
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  5. You’re intimidated
    It’s incredible the stories our minds can weave. It’s a nego spiral but it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t mean to be harsh when we say this but dance class isn’t about you. We’re not all looking at you and we don’t care what threads you’re wearing. We’re just having a dance here, calm down and take yourself a little less seriously.
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Groove Therapy classes start again on the week of Jan 8. You can view our schedule and book a class across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Byron Bay by clicking here.

 

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Sydney: Step Into The New Year Like

New Year New Classes Sydney!

Ok baby steps, we have now added a second beginner adult dance class to our Sydney rotation for those of you who need a double fix or an option if you can’t make it to our regular Tuesday class (6pm 107 projects every Tuesday).

Classes are now added every Monday 6pm at 107 Projects and you’ll be taught by the incredible Amy Zhang.

Our first class of the year is Jan 8 2018, book your spots ASAP!

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