For dancers and choreographers looking for inspiration, YouTube videos are like gold. Being a Zumba® instructor, I subscribe to a number of different YouTube channels to keep my creative juices flowing and my dance moves fresh.
Girlish Writings touched base with Emily Sasson, a dance instructor at Cherry Creek Dance in Denver, Colorado. Emily’s YouTube channel, featuring choreography to the hottest songs, is one of my most visited—but I’m not the only one checking out her vids. Any one of Emily’s videos has gotten between 100,000 and 5,000,000 views… and those numbers are rapidly creeping higher.
Emily is originally from Madison, Connecticut, teaches in Colorado, and travels quite frequently back and forth from the East Coast working with various studios, as well as collegiate and professional dance teams.
We asked Emily some questions to learn a little more about her and from where she draws her inspiration.
Girlish Writings: How long have you been a dancer? Describe your process, history and the steps you had to take to get there.
Emily Sasson: I didn’t start taking dance seriously until I was about 15. From there, I studied all forms of dance offered (ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical etc.). My Connecticut studio didn’t really have ‘hip hop,’ so at 17, I started teaching my own hip hop classes at my studio—traveling back and forth from NYC to take classes at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. I went off to college and chose not to study dance, but I continued with my training. Shortly after I graduated I became a teacher for various different studios in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
GW: What is about dance/hip-hop that you love so much?
ES: Hip hop is forever changing. As a choreographer and teacher, one constantly has to keep evolving to create fresh new ideas for students—It keeps me on my toes! For those who aren’t dancers… compare it to fashion. Think of how often clothing styles change… its very similar to the dance industry.
GW: How do you feel when you’re in the middle of performing or dancing in general?
ES: It’s an incredible feeling to perform no matter where you are. I don’t think any dancer ever really loses the nervous, butterfly, excited feeling in your stomach that comes right before you step on stage. It’s an indescribable feeling!
ES: I was incredibly lucky with my YouTube videos. I posted my first video around this time 3 years ago and it was to “Starstruck” by Lady GaGa. This was right before she became famous, so the song was highly searched on YouTube. As a result, my video kept popping up.
At the time, dance videos were just starting to get big on YouTube so my friends told me to start making some videos. I had never even edited a video before so they’re all raw footage. I uploaded them and never looked at it again until about a month later and I had almost 100,000 views! I was so excited! From there I started to gain an incredible fan base and just kept uploading videos.
Dancers come and go throughout my videos, some just drop-ins for my classes, but I do have a few that are still there and they give me such inspiration to keep on choreographing!
First dancer is VQ… She’s my best friend and my roommate. She and I are constantly bouncing choreography ideas off each other & dancing around in our living room. VQ’s a
choreographer too (find her on YouTube… she’s amazing)!
Next is the ever so popular, Valentino. He came to me about 2 1/2 years ago and had never danced before in his life (check out his first video, it’s “Boom Boom Pow”… hilarious)! Regardless, I saw so much potential in him and all he wanted to do was learn… So he started coming to my classes 4 days a week, training in all different styles and now he’s living in LA on the Edge Scholarship pursuing his dream. Paige (tall blonde) and Alyssa (tall brunette) have also been around for about 2 years and are incredibly talented and dedicated dancers! Recently, I’ve started asking some of my younger students to take class.—you’ll notice Chera (12) and Kaylin (14). I’ve been teaching Cher since she was 8. She is the epitome of a driven and talented dancer not to mention the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet. Kaylin joined us about a year ago, and we all just love her energy and style. Sorry to ramble… I love my students!
ES: I would say the first artist to ever inspire me was Janet Jackson. My dream as a child (and still now, haha) is to be her backup dancer. Tina Landon was the first choreographer that made me want to become one myself. Those were my constants throughout the years, but as I said earlier, it’s always inspiring to watch all these incredible choreographers that are on the map. YouTube is an incredible tool to help future dancers and choreographers keep up-to-date with styles. My motivation – hands down – is my students. I teach almost 30 hours a week, give or take, and a majority of my students are under the age of 13. As I watch them grow, they push me to get more creative—otherwise they get bored… and they’re not afraid to tell me (haha)! They’re always coming to class saying things like “Did you see this??” “Can we learn how to do stuff like that??” “I want to do tricks!” They’re the best!
ES: My goal for 2012 is to start expanding and traveling more. I love having my home base here in Denver, but am looking to work with more teams and studios throughout the US.
GW: What’s your biggest dream for yourself?
ES: As cheesy as it is, I am living my dream right now. My life is dedicated to teaching and working with dancers of all ages. I want to continue doing this as long as I walk! Then I’ll probably just teach from a chair (J). But becoming a traveling teacher/choreographer would be pretty awesome!
GW: If a person wants to become a hip/hop dancer what’s the best advice you can give them?
ES: I would say don’t ever give up! Keep taking classes of all different styles (hip hop, jazz, contemporary, ballet). Be the best dancer you can be! It’s always a bonus to be a well-rounded dancer. Also, get yourself out there! Facebook, YouTube, Twitter… the internet is a great tool to keep in constant contact with the world.
Thank you, Emily, for the amazing interview. Also, thank you for being an inspiration to all dancers and choreographers alike!
Author: Emily McLaughlin
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