January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
I finally got the chance to sit down with Brookln Rogers to talk about dancing, teaching, overcoming injuries, healthy living, and a healthy spirit. She’s got a lot to say to grow your New Years Resolution into a life style.
The Internet Bachlelorette: Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you get started dancing?
Brooklin Rogers: I started dancing in the womb. I have pictures of me at one or two with big huge headphones. I always wanted music. Performing on our coffee table stage, me and my sister making up dances pretending we were in music videos. We would enter talent shows in, Salt Lake, my hometown. I was serious about it, I wanted my friends to really perform, but they didn’t know how so they just sorta watched me. It was always from a place of creation. I didn’t do a lot of imitation.
TIB: At such a young age who did you look up to?
BR: I would look at Micheal and Janet Jackson and I didn’t say, “I want to do what they are doing.” But, “I can do that, there is something in me that can create.” I did go to dance classes, but it wasn’t until I ended up in Hip Hop class that I felt at home. Then in High School I realized it wasn’t the classes I loved, it was putting on music and doing my own thing. I liked what came out of me, and I surprised myself.
TIB: It was more about the feeling of dancing.
BR: Yeah, having a relationship with the music. What’s the music going to give me next. I used the play a game in my head with the DJ, “give me something I can dance to.” I felt like I could dance to anything. People started giving me complements, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I couldn’t see it, but I just knew how it felt.
TIB: Was it always your aim to choreograph?
BR: Well, I considered myself triple threat. I took acting, singing classes. Still to this day, I just want to be a rock star. I don’t know if that would ever happen, but I not so secretively want to be a rock star. I moved to San Diego because I was too intimidated to go right to LA. I was in Vegas for a while and I quickly realized that to dance in Vegas you are going to be a stripper or a showgirl. Both of those things were too “eye-candy” for me. So I danced with a crew in San Diego accompanying DJs at raves and concerts. Then the time came for me to go to LA and I was enrolled in LA Music Academy.
BR: Yes, I moved here with the intention of concentrating on singing for a year or so, thinking that dance wasn’t going to go anywhere. But I couldn’t stop so I got into the dance scene right away, finding a home with a group of girls who thought the same way as me. I knew I was in the right spot. Everyone was just there to dance, release our souls, we called it church. I became friends with a lot of DJs, one is going to be the DJ at my wedding. I started performing with Hip Hop crews from that.
TIB: Just can’t stop dancing when you are born a dancer. How did that translate to teaching?
BR: I started choreographing for musicals. While I was doing that I was working for a production company and my boss had two daughters who he brought in a lot and I got along with them. I had never taught dance, but I relate really well to kids. He kept asking where they should take dance classes and wanted me to teach them. So I took him up on it. Why don’t I start a class? Basically he enrolled all of my students, telling all the parents he knew, and I had my first class at Your Neighborhood Studio in Culver City. I had been taking class there so I knew the owner a little bit. I had a trial class, and there was a huge turn out of 6-8 year olds.
TIB: So it became a regular class at the studio?
BR: Yeah, and I started subbing for the adult classes whenever I got the chance. When I was first approached to sub, the owner asked me if I had ever taught adults. I hadn’t but I didn’t think I would be any different from kids. Sometimes they listen sometimes better, sometimes worse. [laughs]
TIB: I believe it. That’s a great way to ease into teaching adults.
BR: I really liked it. I started getting approached by other studios, and I got a couple of Hip Hop classes and I started brainstorming other styles I could teach. I subbed for a Burlesque class that was right after on of mine, and I like it. I did some Burlesque in Vegas, but I wasn’t into it then. But this time around, I really got into it, and the characters. Pulling from that choreography I started teaching my own Burlesque class, and really giving the students a cardio workout. I struggled a lot with the name of it.
TIB: Because it’s not really stripping even though a lot of people think it is.
BR: No it’s not. I do more of the musical theater movement, creative Fosse inspired. Women were being empowered to express themselves in a sexy fashion, letting their sultry side come out. It was almost like they didn’t allow themselves to do that anywhere else. I started feeling a real trust with my students, I think that’s because that’s how I treated the class, it’s just fun. We were just there to express ourselves and have a good time.
TIB: Then Burlesque really took off and that movie came out.
BR: That’s when it really blew up. And I love how the movie expressed the fun, dancing side of Burlesque. There’s a lot of controversy. The word really comes from ‘to tease’ at least that’s what I’ve been taught. I really aim to bring that out in my classes, that joking, teasing, cabaret style. They do sexy stuff but there’s comedy. I’ve had some comments on my YouTube videos, probably from guys looking for strippers, asking “where’s the sexy?” If you can’t find it, you got a problem. If you can’t see the beauty, look again.
TIB: Everything I read always says pick a workout you love. If you don’t love running, don’t sign up for a marathon. What about dance as fitness?
BR: I can speak from my own experience, that when I’m not dancing, even just teaching a few days a week, I can feel the difference. The fact that I love to do it, I don’t even realize I’ve started sweating. But when I’m injured and I can’t dance I notice that I’m stiff, sluggish. I spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, I hate the stair master. You won’t even find me in the gym. But I will walk stairs outside or a hard hike, and I get to the top and I’m sweating or my legs will be sore the next day. There are workouts to do outside of the gym. I definitely would recommend doing something you love, whether that be hiking, or running, yoga or dance.
TIB: What about body image? A lot of dancers get a bad rap for being malnourished.
BR: You know I used to spend hours at the gym, wanting that bikini body you see in the health magazines. I wanted my abs to be rock hard and all that, but I didn’t like doing it. I interviewed a lot of men, friends and realized they don’t really like that so much. As women we are striving for that perfect Barbie body. There is only a small percentage of guys that want that. Most guys want the combination of firm and soft. They say, Women are supposed to be soft. I think that these kinds of exercises, dancing, yoga, hiking, even aerobics, something that keeps your heart rate up is good for you and keeps you soft and firm in the right places. And everyone can do it. Everyone loves to dance, I’m sure there are people who say they don’t, but it’s because they think they aren’t a dancer.
TIB: Right, like I’ll sing in my car, but not at karaoke night.
BR: Everyone is a dancer. Music is the universal language and you relate to music intimately by dancing. That’s one way the music and you become one. It’s spiritual thing too. There’s no way that you can’t benefit from dancing. If you can get over that you aren’t supposed to dance like everyone else, you are supposed to dance like you, you’ll be fine. I taught Groove and that class is a really good way to learn that.
TIB: What’s Groove?
BR: Groove is a class that gives you simple moves, like a step touch, that you take and express that step touch however you want to. Then you aren’t pigeon holed into doing one thing with the movement. What I really like about it, is the flow of it. I even incorporate yoga movements, going through the whole body, stretching and strength depending on the music. This is a place where you can dance and get a good workout, sweat, no one is judging you. I always try to establish a level of trust in the class. No one is looking at just you they are too worried about themselves. Hopefully that makes people realize it’s no big deal. Listen to the music and see where it takes you. It’s a way of teaching people how to explore what the music is telling them to do and to evoke the dancer in all of us.
TIB: Probably great for people who sit at a desk all day. Get you exploring how your body moves, probably aids in preventing injury. Which is what I want to talk about next, getting over an injury. How do you bounce back into an active lifestyle?
BR: We were just talking about it being a mental practice. Life, faith and destiny. When I’m injured this is what I question. I made an agreement with myself and I said, “I’m going to do this professionally.” I started going to auditions, I had an agent, dancing at the top studio in town everyday, choreographing. One day I was in Hip Hop class and I felt something in my hamstring. I kept dancing, like everyone does, which is the wrong thing. The teacher started putting me in the front of the class, so I was under pressure in the spot light. It was a two-week period of this hard dancing and then everything locked up. I had sciatica, my back was killing me. I was bed ridden.
TIB: Just when things were taking off.
BR: I know. I was just getting there. Getting good auditions and music videos. I had to think a lot about what I was doing, what was my destiny, was I supposed to be a dancer? I was out for two years. That’s when I started doing more healing stuff, more yoga and I realized I had a lot of stuff inside of me mentally and emotionally that I believe I created as a block, because I couldn’t believe in myself the way I wanted to. I was living more out of fear. I was on the train, like a lot of people, where I had to put other people down. I was in the mindset that you have to work hard and push your way through. That, “I’m gonna make it” mentality is so big in LA. It seemed, at the time, anyone was willing to put someone on the street just to get what they wanted, fame and fortune. I had a lot of time to think about that when I was injured to see what my motive was. What I fell in love with when I was young, the community of dancing was no longer my motive, I had started doing it for the money and recognition. Everyone wants to get acknowledged and have their hard work pay off, but I struggled with this. It wasn’t until I started teaching did I start dancing again. Finally my motive changed back to doing for the love of it.
TIB: You had to be injured to become a teacher. You became a teacher and found your love for it again.
BR: I’m not a teacher because I think I know more than other people, I teach because I know I can express something to a class and make people feel comfortable. You hear it all the time if you want to get better at something teach it. I wanted to get better at choreographing, so teaching really helped me define my movement. It has only been in recent years where I realized, I’m giving back. I was given this gift of dance. We talked about non-dancers and now I’m giving them the gift of dance through a class. I discovered this side of me through this injury.
TIB: Is it better than music videos?
BR: [laughs] It keeps me going. There are a lot of dancers out there and we don’t get recognized as athletes and it’s really hard to make a living at it when you are in your top shape and that window doesn’t last very long. So when you are injured, you don’t have a job.
TIB: It’s really important to take care of your body and be healthy. For everyone. You only get one body.
BR: I know! Sometimes I think my unhealthy is most people’s healthy, but there were a lot of years I wasn’t taking care of my body. Going out, drinking, eating poorly. Getting older, I want to be able to dance into my grave. You take care of yourself, and honor your body.
TIB: When you are ill or injured you really assess how you live.
BR: Exactly. You really have to assess how your living. There is something in us, that drive. But you have to calm the voice and ask for help. Accept help, and put self-care first. That will help you heal faster and completely.
TIB: What do you want to do as a teacher?
BR: I want to be an inspiration. I want to show other women, you don’t have to be this Hollywood image in order to have the experience that these women are having. Brittney, Xtina, you don’t have to be a pop star to feel like that when you’re dancing. At the end of the day we are all just looking for an experience of ourselves that creates joy and love and laughter. That’s all I’m looking for and have my life be about that, being a leader or a guide to achieve that. Well, not even a leader, we’ll all go together to a safe place where women can enjoy their bodies.
TIB: A Dance Ambassador.
BR: [laughs] Yeah.
Facebook for updates and class times and flirty fun.
YouTube for instructional videos and eye candy.
Website for more information.
Check out Your Neighborhood Studio for class details.
Selected photographs by Anela Bence-Selkowitz.