Im just getting home, and now I lay here at 5am, 2 hours away from my alarm clock and all I can do is smile.
I love my team. And not because of how talented they are, but because of who they are. When I think of them, I remember why I love my job, and why I can never complain about 2 hours of sleep before a 14 hour day.
The road to Body Rock has been great.. And while things are definitely going to get more intense, I’ll think back on nights like tonight and remember that we genuinely care for and support each other - and that we do this for each other as much as we do it for ourselves.
something i’ve thought about doing since i first started with tumblr.
I’ve always wanted to start a blog about everything dance. Share my experiences and history in the last 10 years, express more of my thoughts behind directing SGBM, and maybe be a voice the dance community may want to listen to.
In any case, this will be that blog from now on.
If you give a rats-butt about the rest of me.. you know, the personal, crazy stuff, then you can follow me at www.thatjcray.tumblr.com
My day-in, day-outs have been pretty normal, but a lot of my emotions have been heightened lately. I’ve been overly expressive (though I’m dealing with most of it internally) and I’ve really had to hold back to ensure I don’t outwardly make a fool of myself or say something I’m going to regret.
Lot’s of scenarios playing in my head, lots of things I want to say but shouldn’t. I’m at a point now where I kind of want to explode - not in a negative way.. just release everything I’m feeling and just.. boom.
disclaimer: these statements are not aimed at one particular person, but rather a number of individuals on a number of occasions from this past year. now that the competition season is over, I decided to reflect.
When I see your faces when you win, “less than first place”, or when I read your status updates about how you and your team are “taking over”, I’m reminded that there exists a poison in our dance community.
It’s true, there are directors and choreographers that believe that a first place trophy defines you. And I think that’s sad. I personally don’t see the correlation between the “love of dance”, and being the “best”. It’s one thing to help your dancers reach their potential, and to push them to be their personal best, but to teach them that winning a first place trophy is that definitive moment? Teaching your dancers that ‘second place isn’t good enough’?
Are you kidding me?
Do we realize the kind of animosity that can create between teams and their respective leaders? The kind of division that our community will suffer from? The kind of negativity that can generate?
It sucks to think that there are leaders who don’t see it that way, and it especially concerns me that some of the next generation is influenced by these teachings.
Good talent can be truly effective when raised with good values. I wholeheartedly believe that the future of our community depends on how well we raise them.
So let’s place our values in more than a trophy.
Know that as long as I am a figure of influence in this community, I will stand against this.
I’ve let things slip, I’m being more forgetful, and I’ve really felt the weight of a lot of my responsibilities.
I rarely feel overwhelmed, and it’s important for me to take some time to relax, re-focus, and put thought into how to approach ‘what’s next’, before I get to that point.
Usually, I get a day or two to force that process… but this time?
I’m going to New York City.
Though this trip has been planned for months, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. With the way I’ve been feeling lately, I’m grateful to take some real time to get away from the familiar, and realign myself with God, my priorities, and what’s really important.
My best friend and his wife are along for the trip, and I couldn’t have asked for better companions.
No work. No dance. No directing. No business. No worries.
I’m excited for this.. and I can’t wait to come back stronger.
I’ve been thinking about starting a separate tumblr page dedicated to my dance life only. There’s a lot of history I’d like to start talking about, and a lot of personal perspective to share. I’ve always been an advocate for dance history and education, and I figure I can use one of these thingys to take to the next level.
I reread a bunch of posts from the last couple months and I feel like it all doesn’t mesh well. I bet you guys think I’m bipolar or something. =)
A couple months ago I blogged about an opportunity to teach again. In my blog I talk about being undecided, as I felt like I wanted purpose in my reasoning. If that sounds vague, feel free to read the post..
But here I am, and.. I’ve decided to take the offer to teach. It’s a small workshop in Orange County.. which I feel is the perfect setting for me right now. I’ve picked a dope song, and I’m actually excited about it!
Thursday, July 28th I come out of “choreography retirement”, heh.
2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
I realized how easy it is to ignore the real things in life when I’m consumed with work and dance. In fact, I’ve clouded myself in these things so much that I’m even a little scared to deal with what’s real right now.
But yesterday I learned there are people in my life who really need my attention.. who need love, support, and even tough love. I’m kind of disappointed in myself for not addressing things sooner. When it comes to people, I’m not usually the neglectful type.
He always has. He’s always been about getting things done as soon as possible, and nothing stops him in his tracks. The same qualities I’m sure, contribute to his close-mindedness and his stubbornness - but he wouldn’t be my dad if I couldn’t mention those things.
We spent so many years fighting, he and I. It started when I was young and lasted well into my twenties. I can easily draw a direct line from the walls I put up now, to the feelings I felt as we exchanged words of malcontent all those years.
I think I’ve only recently come to terms with the path our relationship has taken. Not to say I’ve completely dealt with it on the number of levels that exist.. but I’m in my late twenties now - more aware of how my adulthood has been shaped by relationships like the one we’ve had. And I ultimately believe that somehow God has made me stronger because of everything.
Though I’ll admit I only say that now because he and I are in a much better place. Moving out does wonders for a bad relationship!
But I’d like to think I’m always going to feel this way - letting, “everything happens for a reason” be the words I cling to. No matter those reasons, I enjoy time with my dad now, and I’m thankful for him now. Words I didn’t know how to say back then.
He likes to ask about when I’m going to meet someone, get married, and have kids.
I like the idea of my dad being a grandpa. I know he’s going to be a great one.
I tell this story now, because I realize how much time has passed, and how many generations of dancers have come and gone - not knowing this little piece of the past. Yes, it’s about a dancer, but more importantly - it’s about a good friend of mine - someone I’ve had the chance to reconnect with again..
Before there was Vinh or Keone, there was Ryan Ellis.
His parents were divorced when he was a kid, and is the older brother of two. He had a knack for trouble, carried a smart mouth, but was one talented kid. He had this ‘thing’ for music, coupled with a great singing voice and an interest in the guitar. Early on, he found a love for dance at the YMCA in Mission Valley (home of Culture Shock at the time) and found himself connected to the beginnings of our dance community. Ryan joined Future Shock its very first year - he was nine years old, and stayed a part the Culture Shock family until he was fifteen.
I met Ryan at one of my first CS dance classes at the YMCA. I was eighteen. I found out we had a good mutual friend - Anna Sarao, who was like a big sister to him. A few months later I would meet Ryan again at a Bible study that a few of us dancers formed while we attended The Rock Church. Anna, Kevin Brewer, KJ Gonzales, Kristina Euperio, Erik Saradpon, to name a few.. but that’s a whole different story. Our group ultimately formed one of the first ‘projects’, in SD and performed a couple times in early ‘03 in SD and LA. During that time, Ryan spent a few months on FORMALity too, but his relentless knack for trouble resulted in a short stay. =)
Ryan’s time in the study established his relationship with Kevin Brewer - who had just moved to SD from Sacramento. Ryan’s training shifted, and quickly he adapted to KB’s flow and musicality. In true Kevin Brewer style, he took Ryan under his wing, and the kid soared. He was sixteen.
By the end of the Summer of 2003, The few guys from Mindtricks and the few from Culture Shock SD, with an invitation to the young guy from Future Shock, formed the JabbaWockeeZ. Ryan performed with them during their debut - Culture Shock Showcase ‘03.
To cope with financial troubles, his mom decided to move in with her long-distance boyfriend who lived in Visalia, CA, near Fresno. By early ‘04 - the middle of his Junior year, Ryan and his brother were forced to move. The move was sudden, and he didn’t have the time or the means to communicate. The Jabba’s, and a few of us still close to him from the study were the only one’s who knew. A lot of people questioned what happened to the teen prodigy from Future Shock. And because the JabbaWockeeZ hid behind masks, some people never knew he was a part of the crew at all.
He tried to keep dancing in Visalia, but a dance community was non-existent, and there was little or no interest at his school. After high school Ryan joined the Navy and never quite attempted dance again. He was stationed in Boston for a couple years, and spent a tour in Afghanistan. He’s currently stationed in Port Hueneme, CA near Oxnard, and after eight years will be finishing his service in the Navy this August.
We ran into each other two years ago at the Del Mar Fair - five years after he left SD. We reconnected then, and have been keeping in touch ever since.
Fast forward to this week. I get a call from him telling me he’s in San Diego - and finally wants to take a dance class. We had been joking about it for a long time because he’s convinced that he’d forgotten how to dance, and I can’t help but remember how AMAZING he was as a sixteen year old. (No joke people, he was dope!)
So I got to see my old friend again after all these years - all grown up, bigger than me - looking like a true military man. He’s still got the same lady-killer looks and charm, and still makes me laugh with that smart mouth of his. As for his first class in seven years.. I took him to Sean Memije’s class at the Culture Shock Dance Center. I thought it would be a style closest to what he remembers. =)
The verdict? He’s definitely still got rhythm and an ear for music.. but we kept laughing at how he thought the movements were so fast. I told him it’s like he’s trapped in ‘03 when we danced bigger and groovier. It was definitely a lot of fun. I think he plans on wiping down the rust and slowly easing his way back into dance again.
I can tell he still loves it.
His story always makes me ask, “what if he never left?”.
I can’t imagine the influence he would have become in this community. But everything happens for a reason.
Ryan believes that too.
My mestiso bro is back! I thank God he’s safe, and I appreciate all of our years together and our years apart.
Most of my everyday friends don’t know, or haven’t met Danny.. but if were any good at using the label, then he’d be my ‘best friend’.
Yesterday it was grown-up talk over burgers. Psycho-analyzing each other’s situations and people involved.. and always providing a level of insight beyond what we see on our own. … I haven’t seen him in a couple months, but it’s always the same every time, and I love every minute of it.
He’s the closest thing I have to a “kuya”, though I would never say that to him, heh. He’s a solid reminder of who I used to be and how much I needed friends like him to help me grow, and help me get me through some really tough times. God has definitely molded me through Danny, and because of that he knows me better than anyone.
It’s a fact that a lot of who I am is reflected in the things he taught me, and I would not be the man I am today if it wasn’t for him. The kind of friend I try to be is the kind of friend he was and has been to me.
I cannot express how blessed I feel, and how thankful I am.
The people in our lives serve so many different purposes. Some suck the life out of you, some give a little and then their time with you is up. Sometimes you do all the taking, and give nothing. … and from each, we learn.
But every now and again you’ll find people who are truly life-giving. They help breathe purpose into the things you do, and they teach you what it means to be a real friend.
Invest in those relationships, and hold onto them.
Those are the people who will truly impact your lives..
and in turn, you’ll learn how to return the favor.
I’ve been going back and forth about whether I should teach again.
Nothing steady like a weekly class.. but a couple one-time opportunities have popped-up, and it’s got me thinking.
It’s been so long since I’ve really pushed myself to produce something that I wanted to teach. Something with a purpose beyond training others.
I have to admit that the Youtube generation seems to be more interested in hype - which I am the ‘anti’. That fact has got me focused on wondering whether doing this would breathe life back into my purpose for teaching. But at the same time, I don’t know if I want to know the answer. I’ve been a ‘retired’ teacher for over three years now, and I’m quite comfortable being a coach and a director.
So is it time I get uncomfortable again?
I’m thankful that opportunities have presented themselves - it’s flattering really.. but I need more time to decide whether I’m ready to dive back in.
And you know what? If I end up deciding not to, I’d be just as happy to pass the opportunity over to someone else who deserves it.
I feel like that helps me stay in line with my other purpose in this community.
i see the idea of friendship under a very specific microscope.
when i want to know it’s real?
we’ll survive a fight.
we’ll overcome foundational differences.
we’ll apologize for being wrong.
we’ll express tough love.
we’ll talk sh*t to each other’s faces, and not behind our backs.
we’ll show each other our very worst.
and we’ll learn to be stronger, and more understanding because of these things.
And like in most things, I believe that growth is important. Friendships, too require this quality in order to survive. I just don’t see how they can otherwise.
When it comes down to it, unless you’ve experienced adversity in a friendship, you really can’t say too much about someone’s character. And if you don’t know who they are, should you even call them your friend?
No offense, but “fun times” don’t build friendships.
It’s the cynic, the realist, and the hopeful in me that sees things this way.
I’ve just seen too many ‘friends’ come and go in my life.
I guess my walls are taller than I realize sometimes.