Culture Magazine

Q & A with Maria Yu

By Ballerinablogger
Here’s a little Q & A with the lovely Maria Yu. We conducted our interview by Facebook messaging, oh the beauties of today’s technology! Maria is an independent dancer living in California with quite an interesting dance life.

Ballerinablogger: What city/country are you originally from and where are you living now?
Maria: I live and am from La Crescenta, CA...About 20 minutes away from North Hollywood. I am really happy to live at this distance because I don't have to travel far to go to auditions or dance at the Millennium or the Edge!
Ballerinablogger: That must be very convenient! How many classes would you say that you take at the Millennium/Edge and how often? Could you describe what taking a class there is like?
Maria: When I began taking classes at the Edge at age 12, it was pretty intimidating to see all these professional adult dancers living their life through dance. However, as I've gotten older, taking a class at the Edge or the Millennium is like stepping into another world, filled with passionate (and sweaty) people. It truly is an amazing experience every time I step into their dance studios. At Millennium, I love to take Tokyo's Contemporary class and Nico's jazz funk class. Tokyo uses amazing songs his friend Drehz creates, so it is a sort of compendium of music and dance melding together at the same time. Nico's class is always so fun, with flirty choreography to upbeat music.
Ballerinablogger: So how old are you?
Maria: I am 18 years old... up next....audition for So You Think You Can Dance!
Ballerinablogger: Haha good luck! I'll keep an eye out for you next year! So, what styles of dance do you do? Do you have a particular favorite?
Maria: I do jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern/ contemporary/ lyrical, latin international ballroom (cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble, and the jive. I love to do Fosse-like Broadway/ musical theater. I love that it shows off your lines and has such fun, quirky and energetic music that makes you want to perform!
Ballerinablogger: Wow, so you train in many different styles. Has it ever been difficult focusing on so many different things at once? Have you ever felt the need to just focus on one thing?
Maria: Although it is great to be a versatile dancer, I definitely wish I focused more on ballet. I used to just take ballet as a foundation for my other dancing, but I recently realized just how beautiful and ethereal ballet really is. So even though I am really happy that I have trained in many different styles, I do think that it is also good to take time to really hone your skills in one type of dance.
Ballerinablogger: Where are you currently dancing and at what age did you begin dancing?
Maria: I began dancing and competing at age 8 at a studio called the Dance House (doesn't exist anymore). After 12 years old, I broke off from my studio and began competing and dancing independently. I went to different classes around the area and hired teachers such as Mark Meismer and Melody Lacayanga to choreograph my solos. This took a lot more work and dedication than simply attending a studio, because it really forced me to search for different teachers and stay on top of my training. I also did a lot of different dance conventions. Now, I don't compete anymore, but still take a variety of classes around my area. Next up, I will be attending Princeton University this fall! I am super excited to join the Princeton University Ballet and another dance group that does a variety of styles called diSiac. I haven't performed with a group in a while so this will be a refreshing change for me!
Ballerinablogger: What was it like working with Mark Meismer and Melody Lacayanga? It must be very beneficial to have access to such experienced teachers and dancers. What would you say are the pros and cons of being an independent dancer? (For example, would you say dancing independently is more expensive?)
Maria: Being an independent dancer takes a lot of dedication. I'm not sure on the money quotient, but it was sometimes difficult to get studios to allow me to take only a few open classes without joining the studio/ company. Another con is that I got lonely quite a bit at dance competitions and conventions, since I wasn't there with a big studio. However, this forced me to break out of my shell and meet people from other studios. I often hung out with Bobbie's Studio, which adopted me like one of their own! So, I made a lot of new friends from different studios, despite lacking my own. It is also difficult to stay on top of your training because there is no director or teacher forcing you to attend classes. I was my own director and made myself go to different classes, so it took more motivation. Also, when I practiced my solos, I would ask the local YMCA to borrow their yoga room. I never had a teacher, so my mom would video tape me, and I would take notes on the videos to help improve myself. Although this took a little more effort than having a teacher and a studio at hand, I learned to self-critique and be more self-aware when dancing since I acted as my own teacher.
Ballerinablogger: Wow, I don't think I know anyone who is an independent dancer quite like you. It's clearly worked out well for you, I saw the video reel of you on YouTube and it's quite amazing. (I posted the video at the end of this article) Thanks for participating, Maria!

Hope you guys enjoyed this! If you did or have any comments/questions/requests then leave a comment below and put a check in the little boxes! Thanks for reading everybody! I'll see you all soon!
Ballerinablogger ~

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