Erika: professional + mom by day, dancing goddess by night

Happy Thursday San Diego Dancers! This Teacher Thursday, Erika Saw made time for us pre-quarantine, and her fierce and glittering personality is here to show us how limitless we truly can be if we allow it into our lives. As we pulled up to meet Erika filled with excitement, she was in her big SUV mom-vehicle filled with her kids while her husband was inside of the studio helping and working hard to get this new dance home in Carlsbad up and ready for launch.

As Erika holds 35 years of dance experience, she’s here to show the world and San Diego there is so much more than meets the eye. As the artistic director of Voila! Entertainment, owner of the new dance space, FUZE Movement Studio, wife + mom of 2, it’s clear that Erika wears many hats both in performance + life. Erika has found a way to enhance the world of burlesque by bringing tap into the art form, showing San Diego how growing your craft in many genres expands your mind + audience.

Erika on how she got her stage name, Kixxi Galore:

Fun Fact: Erika’s original stage name was supposed to be Ruby Noir (how awesome-sauce is that). The day before she went to perform her big showgirl piece full of kicks, she was told her OG stage name was taken so she had to “chop to it” to change the name by her former dance director. “With my dance background, the one burlesque piece I had choreographed at that point had a lot of high kicks, big showgirl kicks in it. My husband and I are sitting there thinking about ideas like ‘kicks, kicks…’ and came up with all kinds of variations ‘kicks for days, kicks for this and kixxi…’ just stumbled into play and Kixxi Galore was born.”


Erika on becoming the artistic director for Voila! Entertainment:

With burlesque being under her belt for a couple of years, Susan White, owner of The Movement Lab noticed how Erika had something special to bring to the table, telling her, “You are so good, you need to direct a company, use my space, let’s do this.” Although she feels that she couldn’t have done this without the push of her community filled with encouragement + support, she was being asked to fill a void for North County’s dance community. “It just kind of snowballed into what it is today.”

On the future of Voila! Erika sees it “staying steady on this path, continuing to curate shows that bring community together, that cross genres of the performing arts, and now we have a space to rehearse that we don’t have to rent or borrow, I think it’s going to keep growing.”

Erika on Voila’s inspiration behind the performers crafted into each show:

Burlesque is rooted in a golden age of dancing, filled with rich historical roots and Erika is here to put her own spin on it. “I like taking an older song but a modern twist on it.” It’s not just the songs that keep Voila! fans coming back for more — filled with dancers, singers, contortion acts and aerialists, this group is truly something to see. “The more variety you can offer in a one hour or two hour show, the happier your audience is going to be, the bigger your fan base is going to be. That’s what I try to do, curate a little bit of everything.”

Erika on how she incorporates tap into her works of art:

As much as Erika has trained in all forms of dance, with tap, “Musically I was hooked.” And advice for anyone ready to step up their tap game to become a more desirable performer = don’t give up, don’t get bored. “The simple little spanks , you need to find that rhythm and listen to your music and find those drills. To find that beat and REALLY drill those simple movements will improve your dancing, forever.” For beginners, Saw advises “Counting, and keeping it so even. A basic shuffle step, really making sure your movement is right on the beat. Really listening to your music and finding where you’re rushing and where you’re slow and keeping that even. Basic.”

After having her first child, Erika had taken a hiatus but soon found she needed to move her feet. Star Bailey, a tap teacher in Encinitas helped push her out of her “comfort zone to find the beat.”

If Erika had a superpower, it would be to “help everyone find their joy, their inner happiness.”

Erika on juggling dance + motherhood:

“Dance helped me come back to myself. You lose yourself when you’re a new mom, right? You have completely the most selfless experience of your life, keeping this tiny thing alive. And slowly you start to realize, ‘wait who am I? what do I stand for?’ I think if you’ve ever danced before or even if you haven’t, dance helps you physically, mentally, it’s a release. When I first started teaching burlesque again for one hour a week, it was that one hour a week I got to just be me. And I didn’t have to be a mom or any of those other labels. It saved my life a million times over. Dance is the one thing I can always come back to and it makes me happy. Healthy. Stronger. Better.”

We had to ask if her kids have come to see any of her “teasing” shows… “They’ve seen me dance, they’ve seen me rehearse at home. They’ve not come to shows, it’s usually past their bedtime.” (ROCKSTAR answer Erika!)

Can you guess which one is Erika?

When asked which famous dancer caught her eye the most and why:

“I had the opportunity of dancing with Charles McGowen who was in a Chorus Line, he was my first introduction to rhythm tap. Seeing his energy and passion and his authenticity, he was not afraid of being himself. It opened my eyes like ‘wait, so I don’t have to be one or the other? I can be whatever kind of dancer I want to be.’ That’s true in life. He was incredible.”

Fun Fact: If Erika could be a character from friends it would be Monica!

Erika on Why Burlesque?:

“What a beautiful form of self-expression, and freedom, complete authenticity…this is me. There’s a tease, it’s funny, sometimes it’s political, sometimes there’s a story. I loved that little twist of sexy, confident. The more I saw, the more I wanted to do it.”

Before we go…Erika’s Mission Statement:

” To create a space where everyone is welcome to move, to find the way of moving that makes them feel complete, to find YOUR way of moving that brings you joy.”

Congratulations on opening your new creative space, Erika! We love you + can’t wait to see how your dance space grows our community. Make sure to head over to http://fuzemovement.com to see all of the classes Erika’s new dance studio has to offer. Are you interested in becoming one of her dancers? Erika suggests to “come take class! That’s how I find my dancers. They come to class and we start curating what our best talents are. The opportunity is there.”

-XOXO

đź’‹Xclusively Dance San Diego

Alec, where dance meets scholastics

Press Play 🎧

Happy Thursday San Diego Dancers! We hope you are all doing well + staying healthy and happy during this time. To add to the element of happiness, we are covering SD dancer Alec Rosario’s dance journey, and let us tell you he does not fail to put a smile on your face. From the minute we met Alec, he was dancing with every step he took. He danced while walking up to the restaurant My Yard Live, he danced during the interview, everything he did was dance and you could see that his passion for this art form is so natural to him.

After quitting dance for 2 years once he got into University for a relationship- Alec began to feel the void from dance being absent in his life. As a Kinesiology major, he soon found that his school CSU San Marcos was offering Dance as a minor. He jumped into the program and never looked back in the rearview mirror where he left his ex-girlfriend and life without dance behind. ” I noticed I was dancing at work, I’m dancing at school, so I was like ‘you know what, I might as well get back into it.’ This is what I love to do, this is my side hustle.”

How are you sharing your gift in different spaces?

Alec’s main focus at this current time in his dance journey is to give campus students the experience of fun through dance. “Teaching dance is what I want to do.”

Your style is very smooth but strong in texture, tell us about your main avenue of dance.

Previous to training with The Pact under Kevin and Dea Nguyen, Alec believed his foundation was set in hip-hop until he realized that the musicality part of dance spoke to him, leading him to a strong Urban Dance Choreography background. “Urban Choreography has its own style. There’s contemporary added to it, mixed with hip hop, mixed with ballet, mixed with lyrical. There’s a flow, a better sense of musicality within those movements. I’m letting the music take me.”

What was the very first style of dance class you took + how did it make you feel?

According to Alec, at 14 years old, Break Dancing, one of the pillars of hip-hop was his first stab at this expression of creativity. “It was fun, it made me feel like I wanted to get more into it, explore more of the dancing world. It made me feel more in touch with myself. I have this expressive trait to show what I can do, what I can have fun with.”

You can tell in your face + movements you dance from the heart, when did you first fall in love with dance?

Before becoming captain shortly after his dance journey began (Go Alec!), making the Advanced Dance Team his junior year gave him a space to fall in love and grow with his craft. “There’s more to the movement; there’s facial expression, there’s the energy with it, and when I expressed that in my face, I just knew I was having more fun in that space that was provided.”

Going back to Urban Choreography, tell us a little bit more about this genre of dance and why it speaks to you?

Although Urban Choreography has hip-hop derived moves, Alec loves that it is not necessarily hip-hop, allowing one to show more of themselves through expression, not being held down by a specific focus of genre. He looks to dance artists Phil Wright, Keone Madrid, Trisha Miranda, and Parris Goebel for inspiration. “There’s a lot of people that look up to them, inspire and pull moves from their choreography and make it their own. It’s more of an expressive, matched with the song. When you hear the song, you get to feel like you’re a part of it. You’re actually that character singing it, you listen to the lyrics and it’s like you’re captivated.”

How do you feel about dancing scholastically?

Seeing his scholastic life as a time to learn and explore new methods of learning, Alec is tying his Pre-Physical Therapy major in with his Dance minor. After he took a Choreography class, he saw dance in a different light. He soon learned that not having a structured score of a piece would leave it meaningless, and without body awareness, balance and form are lost. “There are some moves that you do not realize what you’re doing in life that help you every day. And you realize like hey, every movement is a form of dance. When you wake up in the morning, that’s dancing. You’re walking to class, that’s dancing. When you put that into a performance aspect, you’re repeating what you’ve done before. You already know these movements and you want to express it. Approaching that scholastically, dance is always a study.”

How are you hoping to influence your campus with dance?

Noticing that not a lot of students are dancing with him out on the floor at social events, Alec wants to put a stop to this and get his peers moving to the beat. “Because of that, I want to start teaching dance classes with fitness, to get them into the groove. I feel that it’s important that everyone know how to at least move.”

We love your formation changes and artistic perspective. How do you tap into your creative inspiration?

Surprisingly, the car is where Alec finds his most creative inspiration! “The constant noise of the car moving and then hearing the music, you have all of the arm movements already! Then when you get out the car, you have to figure out what the feet are going to be.”

Alec voices dancing on camera is a creative expression, but if you aren’t learning, there’s no reason to continue.

You are where dance meets scholastics, tell us about your Physical Therapy dream!

“I plan to be a Physical Therapist by day, and a dancer by night. I want to be a Physical Therapist for athletes and dancers to prevent injuries, teach them the right movement like moving to the floor with ease and safety. A lot of movement can damage your body and prevent you from doing what you love most.”

If someone narrated Alec’s life, he would pick Morgan Freeman. “I want that voice, his voice is amazing.”

Before we go… Alec’s Mission Statement for the SD dance community

“I want to bring out the expressive side in dance. I have this relentless energy I put out on the floor with my choreography and I like to challenge students with new movement. A movement that ties in with facials, melting, hard hitting, emphasis, and structures. I want students to take their time and hear the choreography and listen heavily to the music that cohorts with the choreography. Landing steps is not the main goal, but I am here to have fun and enjoy the pleasant vibe around me.” -Alec Rosario


-XOXO

đź’‹Xclusively Dance San Diego

Photography by Joel Duran

Make sure to subscribe to Alec’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-lu5bE3vmt6hHehuD8POww

Dancing with Donny

Dancing with Donny

Happy Thursday San Diego Dancers! We are so excited to get back up and running with the launch of our new website through WordPress. With everything that has been happening not only in our community but in the world, we hope to give you a break from the unknown and are ecstatic to be able to introduce you to Donny Gersonde, a San Diego native tap and theater dancer!

Donny hated tap dance at first, his teachers and fellow peers influenced his love for this genre- it wasn’t until Colleen Kollar Smith became his tap teacher that the game was changed for him. His original tap teacher wasn’t very interested in this genre, which led him to check out in the beginning of his dance journey. Smith got him “up on his toes” and got him his first professional job! The rest is history.

Do you specialize in rhythm tap or show tap and why is this your preferred category?

Donny learned tapping at CoSA (Coronado School of the Arts) where he got the lay of the land with basics, but it’s the shows he performs in that really teaches him more about his craft. “Musical Theater (Show Tap) speaks to me,” states Gersonde “There’s such an energy to it. I like to move and get flowing. That’s where I make a lot of my money with SDMT (San Diego Musical Theater). It’s so in your feet with Rhythm Tap. It’s the one that makes me wants to cry,” Gersonde tells us with humor. “My friend Jeffrey helps remind me that tap class is humbling for everyone.”

How did you discover the San Diego dance scene?

Donny was born and raised in San Diego, and before he moved to the East Coast for 6 years, he went to CoSA, a performing arts program. After he lived in New York City for 2 years, he knew he was ready to head back to the West Coast. “It’s so saturated and there’s so many people trying to do the same thing,” Gersonde informs us on what he learned about being in Theater in NYC. “The crazy thing I had to think about that a lot of peoples first experience with theater is not in NYC. Think about it, the number of people that have seen theater and the number that have seen a Broadway show, the numbers are drastically different. I love being able to be here and being able to teach 26 classes a week.” He’s also in shows on top of the classes he teaches, busy guy!

” When performing in groups, it’s more about timing + cleanliness vs. awesome moves. The advanced moves sound bad as a collective.” -Gersonde

Fave Performance? The monster in Young Frankenstein: “I got to put so many of my skills that I have into one character.”

Famous tapper who gave him inspiration?

Donny remembers watching Singing in the Rain, the movie, when he was younger and thinking he wanted to dance like Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. “It’s a two-for-one, seeing a man dance with such masculinity and grace and so much love and energy and knowing that I love watching the Gene Kelly Style, it’s a look of cleanliness. Donald O’Connor was someone comedic with dance. I find myself wanting to emulate that even in the things I create without even thinking about it.”

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire got men tapping in America, this is huge and another reason why tap is so important for us to remember and keep alive. From your perspective, how do you think they influenced the male presence in dance?

Donny feels that ballet is the most masculine dance form, being that it is all muscle: “These girls are hurting and working.” With tap, it is seen as more of a male accepted dance form because “it is percussion, an instrument. It’s like drums with your feet. I try to tell anyone, male or female to be honest with an interest in tap STICK WITH IT because if you’re good at it, people will know and will use you, and use you, and use you. It’s a hard find, tappers are a hard find. People STOP and they listen, it’s incredible. I love tap.”

“I can actually show you a lot without words, which is funny because I talk so much.”
– Gersonde

Fave Tapper?

Vera Ellen in White Christmas inspired Gersonde for this dance session he is teaching currently, adding turns and claps that help to add more energy as Vera Ellen exudes. “She’s incredible. She’s just so energetic, you can’t help but watch her. That’s what she’s known for, the nerve tap. She’s extra.”

Where are some unusual places you’ve been?

Gersonde is a proclaimed Californian so when he was in New York, he “felt like a fish out of water.” He worked down in Times Square on 49th and Broadway- “taught me a lot, the WORLD wants to go to that spot. You learn a lot about people.”

Want some inspiration? Gersonde tunes to Big Band music, looks at art pieces, and takes from people that he works with, asking them their favorite phrase and modifying from there. “I think there is so much knowledge in watching, and not just doing.”

What is your Mission Statement for the San Diego Dance Community?

“Everyone can dance and everyone should dance, and I didn’t say dance well (slight laugh). Just dance, don’t care about it and have fun with it, it will release more than you think it will.”

He may look out of this world in this photo, but Donny is just like the rest of us on his days off of dancing where he likes to cook pasta, eat bread, and play with new soup recipes.

-XOXO

đź’‹Xclusively Dance San Diego