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What Working At A Startup Company Taught Me

Jessie Ma1 Comment

*clink*

The team, past & present (along with respective siggy o's) raised our sake glasses at a fancy tapas-style Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo last friday – "to 3 years!"

3 years with STEEZY. Damn.

I thought out loud,

"This is literally the longest, most steady relationship I've ever been in."

It was received as a joke (my delivery's just inescapably hilarious.. it's a blessing and a curse) – but I was pretty frickin' serious. 

Yeah okay, it's not a currrAYzy amount of time in the grand scheme of things. But the unique way that this love story unfolded (and continues to blossom) has taught me some of the most important lessons in my life. 

Some of these are particular to STEEZY, some of them apply to all start-ups, most apply to everything in everyone's lives. As all good lessons do.

Keep reading to see the ways I've become a better me, every day, for the past 3 years.


1. Google EVERYTHING

(Not sure if this is an insult or a compliment, but) none of us on the team were born especially extraordinary.

But we did, however, Google "how to be especially extraordinary."

At this point, T B Completely H , with an endless supply of information and educational tools at our fingertips, the only people who have any excuse not to be extraordinary are those without internet access. (And even then you could library it up old-school style knaw'msayinnnn.)

Any time I would express that I couldn't do something because I "don't know how" to, Evan and Connor's (summarized) response would be:

"Then... learn it."

This is how I came to see everything in the world as existing in 2 categories:

1. Things I already know
2. Things I have yet to learn

This is the ultimate growth-mindset-"teach-a-man-to-fish"- typa lesson. Evan could easily Wordpress everything up for me. But in 2015, he urged me take a Codecademy course. 

And now, here I am, with a million other things I'd previously told myself I could never do...

doin' em.

TLDR:
Actively search for and utilize resources to help you learn new skills and polish old ones in a focused, directed, and wonder-filled way. And you shall watch the world become your oyster.


2. Treat your LIFE as a start-up

Any good company knows to invest in their employees.

STEEZY Squad is not only aware of this, but we're also all really good friends – so we check in regularly.

During these sessions, I'm free to talk about anything. Work, relationships, health, family, how I'm PMSing and really grumpy today... anything's fair game.

Any time I express a "pain point" I'm experiencing, someone has a helpful tip or possible solution to offer.

"My mind's been so cluttered and I have trouble sleeping."
"Try meditating with Headspace."

Even if I just wanted to bitch about something, they respond with the cold, harsh, hopeful truth that I HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE MY LIFE BETTER.

All start-up companies address a need or problem. Whether it's that of a particular demographic's lifestyle, a community, or society as a whole, they're about fixing it.

Instead of watching the world keep spinning with empty houses and antiquated taxi systems, subscribers of this attitude gave us AirBnB and Lyft. 

And instead of letting me just cry and blog about how my life sux, STEEZY empowered me to ask myself, 

"What can I do about it?"

TLDR:
There's an app for that.


3. i can control the winds

When you work for a start-up company in its early stages,

1. Most everything you're doing is new; operations have no previous template
2. The team's running a tight ass ship; help is always needed & welcome

You can see these 2 things as being incredibly stressful, OR as creating the perfect opportunity to experiment, take initiative, and apply ownership.

For example,

If I need to hold a meeting, I schedule it. 
And then the team has a meeting. 

It's like, common sense, I know. But in a professional setting, team members don't always feel the authority to get the things they need.

We all have our respective domains (coding, video, writing, etc.), so we trust each others' ability to gauge the best interests of the company. 

In life, whatever you do paves the way for whatever's to come – and I'm very, very future-minded.

So now, I am less afraid to take control over a situation (in and out of work) in order to see it take the course that I want. 

TLDR:
Ask, and you shall receive. Do, and you will give to yourself.


4. Pivoting is A-Okay

Pivoting is basically when a company changes what they do.

STEEZY started as a blog, and now we have an entire platform dedicated to helping dancers learn, grow, and connect with each other. 

"Businesses can grow beyond their initial dreams by re-imagining their assets and talents, thinking more broadly about the customer problems they solve, and accessing growth capital to seize the new high ground."

Here are 14 examples of other companies that pivoted for the better.

This is hella dummydum of me, but I used to think "survival of the fittest" meant the most physically fit. Like, the biggest bear or fastest lion.

Clay corrected me and explained that the word "fit" referred to "the most fit" – like Cinderella's shoe type of fit. The most adaptable to be contextually appropriate type of fit. Fit for the situation type of fit.

This taught me not to get so married to an idea. Why hold on to an ideal that no longer serves anyone? 

Companies, people, and relationships only fail when they fail to see other, better opportunities and ways of thought. 

TLDR:
Don't be afraid of change – especially change for the better. 


5. Remove the ego

"It's not about you."

That's one of Connor's top 5 things to say to me, along with "You need Jesus" and just a long, drawn-out sigh. LOL

He's so right, though. Because I pour so much of myself into my work, naturally, I feel an intimate tie between my identity and the things I do.

Yet, the only way to fully let my work take effect is to relinquish some of that entitlement. 

Connor and Evan are actually humble – evident in the fact that they never talk about how humble they are. 

They literally just work. No expectations of fanfare, no "Look at me," not even a desire to claim that they started this whole thing from scratch. 

I, on the other hand, am super needy and generally just love attention, so it's still weird and foreign to observe how little of the stage they take for themselves. 

But, I have a better understanding of it. 

We share messages from STEEZY users and fans with each other – from insecure beginners finally taking their first 2-step, to retired dancers rekindling their passion for dance after starting a family...

These are the moments I see the spark of pride and fulfillment in my coworkers' eyes that stem from somewhere much, much deeper than the ego.

TLDR:
Be about IT, not about yourself.


6. NO job is beneath you

On that note, let's talk about just how far a company's mission can take you.

Connor's a pretty useful dude. He makes a lot of important decisions that affect us like, BIGLY (hahaha).

Yet, he always makes time to walk to the grocery store by the studio to grab snacks for our choreographers and dancers.

Our President regularly does intern work like this and more.

Any time I'm faced with something I don't want to do, I remind myself of the purpose behind it.

Then it becomes something I want to do.

TLDR:
If you can answer "Why am I doing this?" with a reason worthwhile to you, keep doing it (with love).

 


7. can't fuck with non-hustlers

It's human (or just animal) nature to gravitate toward like-minded creatures.

And that idea has never been more pronounced in my life than it is now. 

I've become more and more interested in people who are working on something that they really care about.

Whether it's building a dance studio, getting through grad school, bettering their mental health, or even pursuing a relationship – it turns my mind on to be surrounded by this energy of making, growing, building. 

In the same vein, I get more turned off than ever by those who succumb to complacency.

To me, unfulfilled potential is one of the most heartbreaking and unfortunate things EVER.

Because all you need to do to be especially extraordinary in the ways that you were put on this earth to be, is to just...

start.


From a growing intrigue in 2014, to a long and patient dating phase, to finally being officially cuffed up last year...

My relationship with this company has been full. Just. Full.

It's taken me on so many adventures, armed me with the confidence to do more than I ever thought I was capable of. It's instilled healthy, productive habits that I adopt in all areas of my life. It's shown me that nothing you do is as important as the people you do it for/with.

It's blessed me with love and support from other hustlers around the world –

My favorite 3 among those being my very own coworkers. 


Thanks for all the lessons.
Cheers to many, many more! 
🌼

WHY DOES DANCE GIVE ME ANXIETY????

Jessie MaComment

I initially felt a lot of resistance against writing this. I guess I didn't wanna come off like a salty OG talkin' bout the "good ol' days" of the dance community – BUT FRET NOT OK DON'T U DARE HIT THAT X!!! 

This isn't about how things have changed in dance.

It's about how I've changed as a dancer. 


Watching huge competitions like VIBE and Body Rock always made me feel anxious.

IS THAT CRAZY? Maybe it is.

I definitely felt crazy because everyone else seemed so eager to "be inspired" by the best of the best. Everyone else "couldn't wait" to see how each team upped their game. Everyone else wanted to meet and mingle with as many new dance friends as they could.

Everyone else but me, the insecure and introverted.  

I remember feeling so defeated. So small and insignificant.


And now? 

Now that I'm not competing or even performing at these shows anymore?

The script shoulda flipped to say somethin' like 

"Now I can sit back, get drunk, and appreciate these things without getting caught up in those SILLY FEELINGS HA HA HA."

Sigh.

Watching VIBE this weekend...

WAS FUCKING OVERWHELMING

LIKE,

even worse than before.


WHY THOUGH?!?!

For arounnndddd the past 2 years or so, I've struggled with adjusting to a more adult life.

Searching for a full-time job, starting to work a full-time job, maintaining my health, family, relationships, yadayadaa;sldjfsquanana.

Consequently, the time I have to indulge in dance has dwindled down significantly.

I used to take class (this is extreme; I was an AVID class taker) – around 5 times a week.

And now it's like. Twice a month. If I'm lucky.

I enjoy the class environment so much. You have no idea. More than rehearsals, more than competitions, more than any other dance setting, I LOVE taking classes. My short ass attention span + affinity for quick challenges + hunger to perform = makes learning a piece in 1.5 hours and doing "groups" the perfect dance experience for me.


It was a gradual shift,

but classes of 10-20 grew into giant workshop / convention / coachella – esque events.

A group of friends I could vibe with became a sea of strangers that look half my age.

And choreo got fucking crazy. And continues to get crazier. Shit's so fast and hard and my confidence plummets when I struggle or mess up.


Class was my therapy and escape.

Now the thought of it just kinda

stresses me out /:


Look, I know it may sound DRAMAAAA

But the more I talk to others, the more they affirm that I'M NOT CRAZY for feeling this type of pressure.

The demographic that understands and empathizes with me best are my peers – 

Dancers who have been in the community for a while, paid their dues, performed their share, taught, learnt, etc. etc., and are now... growing up. Y'all feel me. 

Becoming financially stable/independent, living on your own, exploring other hobbies outside of dance – these are all natural and necessary changes in our lives. 

But they, de facto, require us to let go of the dancers we used to be. 

So we clap for the 18 year olds killin' it in class and go to sleep to wake up for our 9-5s. 


Ugh.

The reality of it is that no one cares whether I take class or not. No one cares whether I fall behind and suck. No one cares if I train and get d0pe af.

My identity as a dancer is on me, and "me" is telling me that I need make room for other things.

But "me" is also like

"wah."

:(


I guess having already felt this way for so long, and then being in the dense dance (oooh.. pun possibilities galore here) DE-ANCE environment of VIBE just made me feel more removed from the scene than ever. 

Which feels ridiculous to dwell on... I mean,

I'm not pursuing dance as a career. I never even considered it. So I knew I wasn't going to be able to upkeep the amount of time, energy, (and honestly) money that I directed toward it.

I'm a writer. 

I'm a lucky writer that gets to write about dance. 

I'm a lucky dancer that lives in Los Angeles, surrounded by studios, instructors, opportunities, and resources other dancers would kill for.

I'm well aware that I should have little to complain about.


I guess I just need to find a balance that works for me.

I'm not ready to STOP dancing entirely and just write 24/7.

But I do need to stop stressing out over how much I'm sucking or growing and just do it for the fun of it. 

I need to accept that life is in flux and I am in flux.

I guess I first have to get over the "I'm not good enough" narrative and focus on the "do what makes you happy" one instead.

Then I can step into a class without having all this anxiety 🙃🙃🙃 

CSLA's "For All People" at the Aratani World Series

Jessie MaComment

My first time working with Culture Shock Los Angeles was 2 years ago, when Maker Empire performed in their (our) annual Benefit Show. 

I wrote about the experience here:

HOW CSLA SHOCKED ALL PEOPLE WITH A POWERFUL STORY OF GOOD VS. EVIL

I fell in love with CSLA during our very first joint rehearsal. Every single company member introduced themselves to me, several swatting my handshake away in place of a giant bear hug.

They were like the cool kids in high school whose lunch table you'd daydream of sitting at. Then one fateful day, someone waves for you to come on over, and instantly they're sharing hot cheetos with you like you'd been homies for years.

Less then 4 months after the 2015 benefit show, I auditioned for the team.

And my idols became my family.


This past weekend, my family and I revisited that same show – 4 All People: Tale of the 4 Brothers to kick off the Aratani World Series at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo. 

This time, we were joined by Narrator Tamlyn Tomita (yes, Tamlyn from Joy Luck Club and Karate Kid 2! – she is also one of Culture Shock LA's board members) and again by Serpent of Sin (and spoken word poet) Jon Asperin.

Air Clan was, this time, was performed by a smaller cast of Mischief Makers (led by CSLA Creative Director and Maker Empire founder/director Beau Fournier).

My girl Diana Schoenfield played the most breathtaking Mother Earth I'd eva seen. 

The choreography, and staging was re-vamped – with the artistic direction of David Lee, Beau, Diana, Saaya Anzai, Justin Santiago, Ken Matsutsuru, Leo Matsuyama, Fred Mayor, April Rodriguez, and Noah Henderson.

An original piano score covering Mapei's "Don't Wait" was created by Ryanimay Conferido, a beloved friend of mine and CSLA's. UCLA's Taiko set the mood for the "fight scene" with their powerful beats. 

And the script was re-written by yours truly 😘

 Images courtesy of Jorge Vismara

Images courtesy of Jorge Vismara

There's no better way I could've imagined kicking off the season with the 16-17 CSLA cast than this show.

It was so refreshing to perform for an audience that's not necessarily from "the dance community" – but one that appreciates art, movement, and the stories we tell using them.

In fact, the message that 4 All People delivers is both universal and more relevant now than ever.

When the world seems out of control and it's tempting to paint differences as enemies, it's crucial to stay attune to the thing that binds us together – loooove, love, love.


HUGE thank you to the JACCC staff for having Culture Shock Los Angeles in your home, and shoutout to Versa-Style for delivering an amazing show that night as well!

And thank you to all those who came to watch or have supported CSLA throughout the process 💖


Runnin' Thru The 6ix With My Puggritos

Jessie MaComment

Last year, I went to Canada for the first time to watch Urban Rumble Dance Competition. 

Articles I wrote for the show last year:
Oh, Canada! The Toronto Dance Community Is Uniting
Urban Rumble Reveals The Hidden Talent Of The Toronto Dance Community

This year, I had the pleasure of co-hosting the show, and teaching a workshop during my stay!

 First meal (chicken katsu curry MmMMMM) with Markus + Natasha and Riman!

First meal (chicken katsu curry MmMMMM) with Markus + Natasha and Riman!

 At the venue! Chillin with Hernani + Riman during tech. They're still bullies. Hate you guys.

At the venue! Chillin with Hernani + Riman during tech. They're still bullies. Hate you guys.

 The volunteers for the show! Some of them took a bus for hours to get to the venue. ::praise hands emoji::

The volunteers for the show! Some of them took a bus for hours to get to the venue. ::praise hands emoji::

  Vie Division!  They were SO fun to hang out with last year so I naturally gravitated to their corner again. We shared even more laughs and talks.  EVEN THOUGH I MISSED REBECCA D SLIM DURING THE SHOW WHAT THE HECK WHERE WERE YOU T__T  Great job on your performance, guys!! Thanks for being so encouraging and positive. 

Vie Division! They were SO fun to hang out with last year so I naturally gravitated to their corner again. We shared even more laughs and talks.

EVEN THOUGH I MISSED REBECCA D SLIM DURING THE SHOW WHAT THE HECK WHERE WERE YOU T__T

Great job on your performance, guys!! Thanks for being so encouraging and positive. 

 The man himself! He takes on so much and asks for nothing. Thank you for this opportunity and always finding ways to gas me up lol. #twittercockblock

The man himself! He takes on so much and asks for nothing. Thank you for this opportunity and always finding ways to gas me up lol. #twittercockblock

OK. 

Hosts for shows do NOT get enough credit.

It's one thing to be able to hold a conversation one-on-one or with a group, but being in front of literal hundreds with a mic is nothing short of terrifying. 

I honestly didn't know how it would feel – and I wish this uncertainty had prompted me to be more prepared, but I (foolishly) placed too much faith in my puns and conversational skills. 

Sigh.

Honestly, I felt mad awkward for the entire first half. Not only was I unfamiliar with the performing teams, I was unfamiliar with the dance community in general. I got paranoid and self-conscious, which definitely read. 

During intermission, I went to the back room where the judges were chillin'.

Here is what saved me –

Markus: "You all right Jess?"

Me: "Yeah I'm good I think I don't know wai omg wat"

Markus: "You just seem a bit nervous is all"

Me: "Yeah dude this is freaking scary!!"

Markus: "Just be yourself dude, you're charming and funny! Don't sweat it."

I felt a bit more comfortable after that. The show ran more smoothly and I found myself enjoying being on stage rather than trying to read a bio as quickly as possible then scurrying off. 

It was fun 😊

A learning experience, but definitely a fun one.

Thanks for getting me out of my head, Markus 💚

 Catching up post-show with  Paulo , my talented and hard-working friend!  So nice to see him and hear of all the cool sh*t he's up to. Check him out!!! He's amazing. #umamiburger

Catching up post-show with Paulo, my talented and hard-working friend!

So nice to see him and hear of all the cool sh*t he's up to. Check him out!!! He's amazing. #umamiburger

As someone who LOVES taking classes (and works for a company that pretty much dedicates itself to that), I do not take teaching lightly. 

Any time I get an opportunity to do so, I find myself second-guessing what I have to offer.

"I write about dance all the time, but can I physically teach it?"

I know not the most versatile dancer – which sounds self-deprecating but it's true! There is so much I'm not good at / not qualified to teach.

But my comfort zone has always been flow/control. I like music that's dreamy with strong hits and basses, so that's what I danced to.

With the awareness of my strengths and the amount respect I have for class-takers, I put a lot of thought into this piece and the way I taught it. 

And it was SO MUCH FREAKING FUN. Probably the best hour and a half of my entire trip. I especially loved watching everyone kill it in their own way. 😍😍😍

Cleanliness is cool and all, but it's really everyone's individual style that kept me mesmerized. Forget this piece lol, I loved watching y'all move.

As much virality that intricate combos and unique pictures carry, I still believe in dancing that feels good.

This was simple and easy, but felt good. Teehee.

 Getting boba with ma girl from Peg City after class!

Getting boba with ma girl from Peg City after class!

 STEEZKER GANG

STEEZKER GANG

 We rolled DEEP to this Vietnamese restaurant. As evident in my use of  BOTH  A SELFIE STICK AND A WIDE-ANGLE LENS  As hungry as I was, I couldn't help but hop from table to table, asking as many questions and getting to know as many dancers as possible.  I freaking hate small talk anyway, and with such limited time, I definitely did not want to waste any on the shallow or safe.  I found myself talking about my insecurities, my love life, my stresses with work, and receiving responses just as genuine.  It was quite the  pho filling meal.

We rolled DEEP to this Vietnamese restaurant. As evident in my use of BOTH A SELFIE STICK AND A WIDE-ANGLE LENS

As hungry as I was, I couldn't help but hop from table to table, asking as many questions and getting to know as many dancers as possible.

I freaking hate small talk anyway, and with such limited time, I definitely did not want to waste any on the shallow or safe.

I found myself talking about my insecurities, my love life, my stresses with work, and receiving responses just as genuine.

It was quite the phofilling meal.

 Our last day together – Riman, Shaq (YOU BEAST ASS MOFO, DAMMIT TOO GOOD), Hernani, Natasha, and Markus! 

Our last day together – Riman, Shaq (YOU BEAST ASS MOFO, DAMMIT TOO GOOD), Hernani, Natasha, and Markus! 

Once in a while, you meet someone, and it's "click at first sight." 

Hernani is one of those souls. 

The way he understands creativity, business, entrepreneurship, balance, intimacy, relationships, loyalty, collaboration, encouragement, and just.. love – he gives the best feeling you could give to a friend:

the feeling that they're not so alone.

Strolling through Kensington Market, driving through the city, getting kicked out of parking structures, and shivering by the pier together – thank you for the most picturesque of moments that I don't need a camera to remember.

Those 4 days felt like a dream – being back in Toronto almost exactly 1 year later, feeling like a completely different person in the same skin.

I have so much love for Toronto and the GTA dance community because I experienced them at such pivotal parts of my life – last year, when I was the most unhappy I've ever been, and recently, when I can feel myself blossoming.

Thank you for your infectious positivity, hunger, and love that's stuck with me all year. 

TO (hopefully), many more memories in TO 😌❤️

Far East (Coast) Movement

Jessie MaComment

A lot of people ask me what exactly it is I do. Like, with my life.

Their confusion stems from the narrow and biased peek that social media offers – according to which, I'm dancing or doing something dance-related alldayeveryday. 

But I'm sure you know (at least, I hope you do) – not all that glitters is gold. 

I work full-time as a writer. Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. People forget that, as fun and casual as STEEZY seems, it is a company. And everyone on our small team puts in mad work to keep it running. For extra income, I take on dance gigs (not with an agency, but through friends / networks) that sometimes require for me to travel. 

That's the gist of what I do – summed up in a few run-on sentences. Dance, and write about dance.

I'm aware that my "jobs," as difficult as they are to manage at times, are unique blessings. Not a lot of people get to say that their two passions merge to create a career where they feed each other's growth. 

In fact, whenever I talk to dancers about their struggles, I notice a universal, repeating motif:
– Loving dance so much, but not necessarily seeing a sustainable, lucrative career that can come out of it as a dancer alone. Everyone's looking for ways to serve the community using a talent that complements (videography, event planning, running a studio, etc.) that will allow them to keep dance in their lives without making it their life. I hate the cheesiness of this word, but what we're all seeking.. is synergy.

In this sense, I'm aware of how fortunate I am. And in the same breath, I'm thankful that I can also create opportunities for others who have similar goals as I do. Our dance community is in an awkward pubescent phase of development where all the talent and potential – the ammo – is there. But it's niche. Still slightly underground. And we all wanna pull the trigger to make something of it while preserving its authenticity. 

The best part of anything I do is the people. That was, is, and will always remain true for anything in my life. And when I meet dancers with this burning passion to create, share, serve, and grow – damn. I fall in love with them, their energy, and our entire community as a whole. It drives me to do everything I can to help their mission come to life.

So yeah. I'm blessed. There's a shit ton of behind-the-scenes work and sacrifice that only I see in my own life. But this is exactly why I don't advertise those harder times – How could I complain about my lack of sleep or creative roadblocks when everyone around me is so hungry? Working towards something unimaginably huge and rewarding together? I'm just humbled to share the appetite. 

Not to mention, who wants to see the ugly fine-print of someone's life on Instagram? 

That's what blogs are for :)


I was in the East Coast for 10 days in September – the first 4 days were for a gig (in Connecticut, like wtf lol) then my friends and I used the rest of the time as a vacation. 

Here's a media-rich recap of my trip! 

 First rehearsal with Lilian, Cindy, Kimiko, and Aron at IDA Hollywood

First rehearsal with Lilian, Cindy, Kimiko, and Aron at IDA Hollywood

 Mohegan Sun, the casino where we performed, offers a limo-ride service :O

Mohegan Sun, the casino where we performed, offers a limo-ride service :O

 And being the classy ass ladies we are, ate/stole ALL the snacks!!

And being the classy ass ladies we are, ate/stole ALL the snacks!!

On show day, we were killing time waiting for the band to do their sound check...

And we got bored. So we danced to the sound check. Badly.

 Pre-show and pre-makeup

Pre-show and pre-makeup

If you didn't know, another big passion of mine is makeup!

Any chance I get to do my own or my friends', I freakin take.

Follow my makeup Insta if you don't hate my face <333

 Ok, this singer was the cutest thing ever. I forgot her name. I'm so sorry. But she wanted to learn the combo so she can match her movements on stage – and she learned it in like 10 minutes!&nbsp;

Ok, this singer was the cutest thing ever. I forgot her name. I'm so sorry. But she wanted to learn the combo so she can match her movements on stage – and she learned it in like 10 minutes! 

 Post-show dinner at the casino, being classy af

Post-show dinner at the casino, being classy af

After being glammed up and pampered, I went to bed and woke up the next morning with a reality check:

You Ain't Shit, Jessie.

Since all of us were splitting to different lodging plans for the rest of the week, we used our first day free / last day together to explore Times Square! 

 Acting natural on the subway

Acting natural on the subway

No matter what trendy new food places NY has, Halal Guys will always be my first stop. 

times SQUARE UP 💪🏼

A photo posted by J E S S I E M A (@jessayeee) on


The next night (?) I don't know. What are days. Time isn't real; it doesn't matter.

Some night after that, Noe wanted to go to a club. Badly.

Now, Idk/Idc what people perceive me as, but I'm reeeeally not a club/bar/party-kinda girl. I hate drinking and find most of those environments unstimulating and unsanitary. 

But somehow... I was the most turnt that night.

The most sober, yet most turnt. Jeez.

We all split ways, but I was staying with Noe at an AirBnB in Queens. 

Instead of sightseeing and fooding around, our itinerary consisted of dance classes we wanted to take. Of course.

Our first stop was Ken's class at Peridance

FIRST West Coast / East Coast discrepancy note: The class prices.

As we were registering, the front lady said "That's $20."

My spoiled LA-class-taking-brain assumed that was for both of us.

I said "Oh, I got a 20. Noe, you wanna Venmo me?" 

"No, thats $20.. each."

"Oh."

So yeah. We opted out of the 3 classes we were gonna take the next day in order to not be broke. But the class we took from Ken that night was worth every dime. 

We went out to eat, drink, and be merry afterwards at a nearby restaurant whose name I do not remember but burrito I definitely do. Worth the $20, though? Debatable. I coulda taken another class!

This is the prime example of what I love about dance and the dancers in the community.

I knew maybe like 2 people in here to start, and we end up laughing and sharing stories by the end of the night. 

My heart. 

Hope to see you soon, too! Make a trip to LA and I'll be sure to reciprocate the same warm welcome :)


Since we weren't taking classes the next day, I decided to dress like a girl. 

In .00003 seconds I was hit with the realization that I shoulda sized up on the romper. Darnit. 

!!! NOTE !!!

During our first outing in Times Square, I dropped my phone while attaching my fish-eye lens to the camera. TYPICAL.

It shattered the screen – which I honestly don't mind, but it also caused a lot of internal damage.

My phone basically kept turning off randomly, and needed to be jump-started with a charger. Then it'd die. I had like a 1 minute window of use each time it was on, if that at all. 

So,

I couldn't take as many photos as I wanted to. Which is why I'm stealing / linking to a lot of my friends' :) 

As anxious as the phone situation made me, it also forced me to be more present in my company & environment. 

Yeah. That's what I'll keep telling myself to assuage the pain of -$500 in my bank account from buying a new phone..

(This is also why I'm phoneless 'til Thursday. Boo.)

Anyways!

The most chilling yet beautiful thing I've ever seen 🙏🏼

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That day, we visited Ground Zero.

It was breathtaking. When we saw the memorial for the first time, we all instinctually fell silent. 

We walked around some more and ended up in Central Park.

My Jesus-sandal clad feet were not happy, but I asked my new friend Justin (who was on GRaVy Babies in SoCal and is just starting his first semester at NYU!!) to do some dangerous parkour moves around the park. Why? So I can Snapchat "CENTRAL PARK-OUR" to entertain myself.

TYBG for making my phone hold out long enough to post that, and TYJustin for doing random crap for me. 


My friend Rob, whom I'd met at Prelude East Coast the previous year, was generous enough to let me teach at House of Movement during my trip.

Can't wait to boogie with you East Coast dancers soon!!! 😁💕 #anotherflyeributcheredwithstickers

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Like, I'm not even try and play it cool. This is one of the dopest opportunities, by far, that I've ever had. 

I love teaching. Yet the last time I taught was over a year ago. 

After I moved to LA from San Diego, I discovered how easy - er, - doable it was to get teaching gigs up here. Which is good and bad. 

(I sound more and more like a salty OG with each day that passes. But this, I stand by.)

I believe that teaching a class is a huge responsibility. People are paying money and have the expectation to walk away with something of value. Something more than a set of moves.

Taking classes in OC/LA, I feel like choreographers often teach a set of moves.*** And students walk away with a set of moves. And both parties are fine with it. Not only does the possibility of learning more not occur, it seems that that's what people want. For students: A cool video. New vocab of moves to imitate. For teachers: The self-gratifying feeling of saying "Come to my class." The applause after their solo. The delusion of being a semi-celebrity for 1.5 hours.

When did dance become about all these things.. that are not dance???

Like, I get it. it's glamorous. It strokes your ego. We all want our.. egos.. stroked. 

But that's why I didn't want to partake in it. If I was going to teach, I really wanted to be able to give something more than choreography. I love dancing so much that I refused to water it down by claiming I'm an instructor but showing up more or less empty-handed with only a combo of moves that everyone would forget the next week.

That's why this class was so special to me. After a long ass hiatus from teaching and using my time and energy to learn, I felt so excited to share those things – and hoped that these dancers could learn from them as well. 

Compound that with the fact that it's a different community with different nuances in intention:

The communities I've visited outside of Southern California have their unique culture and idiosyncrasies, but one thing always resonates the same – their hunger. 

It felt so refreshing to have a group of people so eager to take in everything. Even through my nervousness, I felt comfortable knowing that we all wanted to grow, and grow together. 

***There are several exceptions, of course! I'm not bad-mouthing everyone who teaches in LA lol.

 Photo courtesy of  Samuel Liu

Photo courtesy of Samuel Liu

Every single dancer had this genuine hunger. A hunger that is hard to exist when resources are plentiful and everything is easy. 

It's humbling, really. To know that I ain't shit. To see how much greatness there is in all these individual dancers across the country. To say to myself, "Damn, you need work harder."

People work their asses off and jump through hoops in order to dance. And their talent, drive, and positivity through it all is nothing short of infectious.

Thank you, East Coast dancers, for the kind of fire that I'd been yearning for.

I guess you could say it was...

lit.

 Killing 6 hours at the airport on this cool JetBlue thingy that vaguely resembles the Potato Chip Rock that everyone hikes in San Diego

Killing 6 hours at the airport on this cool JetBlue thingy that vaguely resembles the Potato Chip Rock that everyone hikes in San Diego

STEEZYversary, Year 2

Jessie MaComment

Chris Guillebeau – entrepreneur, speaker, writer, and all-around champion for finding/designing a career that fulfills you, *takes breath*

– he talks about "joy, money, and flow" in his latest book, "Born For This."

The idea is simple: the intersection of what makes you happy / what can sustain you financially / what you're good at and can continue to grown in.. that's where you will find your life purpose, and ultimately, satisfaction and contentment. 


READ ABOUT THE POST-GRAD STRUGGLE HERE but later, cuz it's long af. 

Long story short, 

Upon begrudgingly entering the real world, I was lucky to find a job that had even one of those things.

I'd jokingly remark "F*ck it, I'm just gonna be a stripper," like, every day, and it became less and less of a joke each time. Uh oh. 


2 years ago, when STEEZY first started, simply as a blog / social platform, I actually wasn't a part of it at all. I didn't reeeally personally know Evan or Connor (the co-founders), but I reeeeally wanted in on it. 

Cuz at that point in my life, I knew almost nothing, except that 

1. I love dance.
2. I love writing. 

Naturally, writing about dance was like the unicorn of all opportunities. 

I wrote my first article on my first dance love – 220. 

After that, I kept submitting more articles, sending Evan long, draw-out emails about how much I wanted to write for the site, in a more official capacity.

[Life lesson here: if you want something from someone, bug the shit outta them. You know, nicely.]

Fastforward >>

In the past 2 years, I've written over 120 articles, ranging from Buzzfeed-y gif-filled Lifestyle posts, to in-depth editorial-like posts. I've interviewed people I've only ever admired from afar and become good friends with them. I traveled to Canada, New York, the Bay, and more. I've e-met and formed relationships with dancers from different communities all over the world, despite language barriers or time zone differences. I've not only found a network of passion and support, but helped form it. 

Oh, and I'm the "Editor In Chief" now. Full time. Whaaaaat.

There are so many things I'm proud of, not just centering around myself (lol), but of my team, our members, our community, our growth, etc. 

But I would never want anyone to think that any of this was (or is) easy, for anyone.

I watch our small, superhuman team of 4 people work day and night, forgoing sleep and forgetting to eat. There are so many things I've learned (and am still learning) – lots of technical skills that I didn't have before. *Might be helpful to note here that I don't just write articles.. Anyway – 

The biggest thing I've observed and internalized, was that 

Sacrifice will never feel like sacrifice when it's for something you love.

Before, I was self conscious about even calling myself a "writer" because I had no portfolio, no experience, and most importantly, no confidence in my abilities. 

I'm a lot more comfortable as a writer, and as an editor, not because I know I've mastered anything, but because I'm still learning. Daily. Voraciously. Gladly. 

I've said before that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego, and this is the only way I was able to progress as a writer at all. In a similar way, I dedicated myself to STEEZY's mission so fiercely and without reservation, that the sacrifices I made along the way, things I'd otherwise complain-tweet about all day for any other job, weren't even things I noticed. 


I am literally the laziest, most useless person alive. But what makes me doubly dangerous is my ability to sweet-talk my way into, or out of, most situations.

Basically, I never had to work for anything. (Yay!)

But on the flipside, I never truly felt like I earned anything. (Aw..)

And the worst part about it, is that this allowed for me to never be consistent with anything. I just temporarily dabbled in this/that, and made a quick getaway once I was over it. 

2 years may not seem like a long time to a lot of people, but for someone who is just being introduced to the idea of "commitment," it is. Like dang. 


So, thank you. 

For your readership, your follow-ship, your "likes" and "shares" and "subscribes" or whatever else constitutes cyber-support for our company.

But really, we appreciate any and all dancers around the world who have somehow been transformed by dance. Who get why we do what we do, whether they know of us or not. 

Thank you for loving what we love, and taking care of it too. 


Last thing!:

Follow us on Snapchat! It's a more BTS-y way of staying in the loop with what we're up to. For you voyeurism loving freaks. Jk.

Me-Dia-ries: Stories From The (B)east Coast

Jessie MaComment

Media Diaries? No? Okay :(

Anyways.

STEEZY recently partnered with Urban Rumble Dance Competition for their first-ever show in Toronto. I flew out, for the first time, to our northern neighbor to experience the night first-hand. If you take a look at the pieces I wrote before vs. after, you can sense the shift from being a curious investigator, to being one with a familiar tie to the subject matter. 

Pre-Event Article

Post-Event Article

Riman, mi man, was such an amazing host, lodging me at the nicest hotel, with an Uber at my command, supplying me with Vietnamese food and pizza and 2 trips back to the airport (I missed my flight back home >.<) 

Thank you to you my friend! And to Diamond, Carlo, Erin, Trisha, and everyone involved that made this trip so memorable. Check out a more in-depth account, in the post-event article!

my roomie for the weekend 😘 #urbanrumble

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In 2015, STEEZY was fortunate enough to partner with the Prelude Dance Competition Series - yup, series - a nation-wide one, which means nation-wide media coverage. 

Which means, traveling to different parts of the country and dancers with all kinds of backgrounds, styles, and personalities. It gave us a chance to share their stories with a world-wide audience through STEEZY's blog. 

I hadn't personally gone to any of the other ones (was busy during Chicago, Vegas, NorCal, unfortunately..), but I did hop on the chance to go back to the East Coast, just 1 week after my Toronto trip. 

Call me Ishmael. 🐋

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The comp was held in New Jersey, but I did have one free day to explore New York. My friend Diamond Osoteo (who I'd met when he was, by coincidence, judging Urban Rumble the week prior), and I spent the evening walking alllll around NY, ending our trek at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks game.

As you can see, I'm not a big sports person. But it was quite the experience, being in a sea of people, in a place I don't know, celebrities just feet away, drunk off my ass on Stella from the concession stand. 'Twas a ball. A basketball. 

When you leave us in a hotel room together... 😇

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My lovely and talented friend, Tiffanie Marie, is all about the camera - whether it be in front of, or behind it. Her photography skills are A1 af - which is why she was traveling with me in the first place. I don't know the first thing about a DSLR (ermmm. Aperture?), so not only does she take action shots and BTS photos, she babysits me intermittently as I run the photo-booth. 

But after a long night of shooting, mingling, runnin' around interviewing people, we need to have some fun, too. So here are our shenanigans in the hotel room.

I hate us LOL

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I'm so blessed to be able to meet as many dancers as I do - especially when they're gems like this one. 

Alyssa and I have e-met a while back, but p-met (physically) that weekend. See capsh for deets. Amidst the flurry of introductions, loud music, and new connections, getting to sit down and talk to her IRL was probably the most memorable part of the entire trip. Tru story.

Thank you to both Toronto and the NY/NJ community for being such gracious, welcoming hosts. Your communities both have notable stories that deserve to be told!- I can only hope that I did them justice. 

POST-EVENT ARTICLE

 

STEEZY @ ABDC Season 8 Tapings

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After a 3-year hiatus, ABDC came back and took the nation by a storm stronger than ever. America’s Best Dance Crew All-Stars: Road to the VMAs is like the 2nd Hunger Games- where all the survivors of the past Games come back to compete in this extra-intense battle against the best of the best.

Except ABDC is far less morbid and all the contestants aren't caught up in this hyper-competitive spirit; they're all friends who share the same passion for dance, who support each other, and respect what every other crew has worked for to get to share the stage.

Each episode was comprised of an opening number, performed by all the remaining teams, followed by each teams' set to a Video Music Award- themed song. Hosted by Jason Dundas and judged by T-Pain, Teyana Taylor, and Frankie Grande, the show has, in the past few weeks, delivered arguably the most epic and impressive performances that ABDC has had on the show.

When STEEZY visited behind-the-scenes a few weeks ago (Week 3), we got up close and personal with each crew- asking some interesting and borderline-intrusive questions about their members, and what makes each team unique. Although the content we gathered wasn't published, I did snag some nice photos with the crews!

 SuperCr3w! Hilarious and playful guys who didn't let me stop laughing.&nbsp;

SuperCr3w! Hilarious and playful guys who didn't let me stop laughing. 

 These artistic geniuses were so fun and easy to talk to! I love dancers who remain down to earth no matter where they go. I.aM.mE. is always a favorite.&nbsp;

These artistic geniuses were so fun and easy to talk to! I love dancers who remain down to earth no matter where they go. I.aM.mE. is always a favorite. 

 These guys... No need to talk about how proud our community is. Kinjaz are true inspirations to all dancers.&nbsp;

These guys... No need to talk about how proud our community is. Kinjaz are true inspirations to all dancers. 

 The Elektrolytes were so charming and funny! Bonus points for a few of them giving shoutouts to their girlfriends and wives during our interview.&nbsp;

The Elektrolytes were so charming and funny! Bonus points for a few of them giving shoutouts to their girlfriends and wives during our interview. 

 Where do I begin.. I actually STARTED dancing at Quest Studio in Artesia, and would catch these guys rehearsing late at night. That's how I met Aris (not pictured) and became good friends with him. 10 years later,&nbsp;visiting the tapings, I went from knowing OF the rest of the crew, to actually knowing them. Each with such unique and unforgettable personalities, the Quest guys are special beyond their talent. They're grounded and kind, light-hearted and sweet. Your second championship is well-deserved; the world is celebrating with y'all.&nbsp;Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! A fan forever. &lt;3

Where do I begin.. I actually STARTED dancing at Quest Studio in Artesia, and would catch these guys rehearsing late at night. That's how I met Aris (not pictured) and became good friends with him. 10 years later, visiting the tapings, I went from knowing OF the rest of the crew, to actually knowing them. Each with such unique and unforgettable personalities, the Quest guys are special beyond their talent. They're grounded and kind, light-hearted and sweet. Your second championship is well-deserved; the world is celebrating with y'all. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! A fan forever. <3

What It's Like At Building Block Private Dance Studio

Jessie Ma1 Comment

Since this post came out, I've gotten a lot of questions about my experience. "What was it really like? What else did they have you do? Tell me! TELL ME!!" 

But beyond questions, I've gotten more comments expressing envy. Copping a training session at Building Block  is like getting to see Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory- an exclusive experience dense with value.

I am aware that I am very, very lucky to have had my "work" take me there. But the opportunity didn't come easy, the session wasn't easy, and post-production was anything but easy. But hey, that's the whole tenant that Building Block is built (haha) on. 

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To write about my experience from a less polished (than published) angle, I would say very similar things. Keone and Mari, as anyone who has worked with them would agree, are professional, warm, and extreeemely helpful. 

Impressive for an extremely busy man, Keone was very communicative and responsive to my ideas via e-mail as we were planning the logistics of the shoot. I sent him a template/ shot list of what I had in mind, and our objectives for the collaboration, and he replied with excitement and constructive suggestions. 

Come shoot day, Mari (to no surprise), greeted me with the biggest, warmest hug that instantly put me at ease. We entered the space (a beautiful, intimate environment. The minimalist vibe made it feel very humble, in a way.) and proceeded to warm up. 

Nothing in the video is contrived. We conducted the session as they would a normal session- Mari fixing my poses and Keone explaining drills to me (and my tired expressions) are all very candid. 

And the most candid part of the entire session was our post-training discussion. We talked for over an hour and half, about everything from body kinesthetics to Cookies to the atmosphere and future of our current community. I appreciated so much how transparent they were, about their work and goals and motivations. 

Building Block equips dancers with some solid training, as expected. But if you ever book a session, know that the instructors are there to be mentors, beyond the physical. My word of advice? Don't limit yourself to learning just about dance. You're a whole person, and they're whole people. Share thoughts and experiences to get the most out of your time there. I know I did, and walked (danced) away with a lot to think (and write) about. 

Thank you, Keone, Mari, and Building Block! And thank you to Peter, Robin, and STEEZY for supporting this project.