A Year in Reflection: 2017

At the start of this lunar new year I felt it would be appropriate to revisit my blog to look back on past adventures. And of course I noticed that I've neglected my blog for quite some time (a whole year to be exact).

It's not that I haven't anything to write about, or even that I've stopped writing altogether. I still regularly journal by hand when significant (and insignificant) events occur. My two month journey to Asia in 2016 was transformative and eye-opening, and I definitely wrote pages and pages of self-reflections and breakthroughs (maybe more on that in another post). So I'll just attribute my lack of activity on "Decisively Indecisive" to pure laziness. 

Now two months in to 2018 and a week in to the Year of the Dog, I'd like to reflect on the year prior and highlight some standout memories: 

I brought in 2017 snow camping in the mountains with Kally, her hubsand Brian, and a few other adventurous college friends. Who knew it snowed in San Diego County?

I was honored to perform in the Pepsi Halftime Show at Super Bowl LI with Lady Gaga in Houston, Texas:

The whole cast with choreographer, Richard Jackson
"Born This Way"

Once I got back from Houston, I immediately began my second season with Hollywood Vibe Dance Convention:

The talented Trinity Inay in Burlingame, CA

Be and my best bud, Kent

At the end of the month I filmed and collaborated with long-time pal, Sorah Yang. We choreographed to J. Cole's, "GOMD", a song I wouldn't normally make moves to (WARNING: Explicit lyrics). The process was fun and we invited some of our talented lady friends to dance in the video with us:

MARCH 2017
I celebrated my birthday by visiting Disneyland and the Instagram famous Poppy Preserve with two of my favorite people:

Me and two goofs

APRIL 2017
At the beginning of April, Hollywood Vibe serendipitously was in Burlingame on the same weekend as Urban Paradise. Urban Paradise is an urban dance showcase put on by WSPA and The Company. It's always one of my favorite events to perform at because of how inspired I get from watching other groups from the community. At this particular performance Entity presented an excerpt of "PEEL":

On my first weekend off from Hollywood Vibe, I judged Fusion Hip Hop Dance Competition with four other talented members of the dance community.

At the very end of the month we took a family trip to Disney, where Margaret revealed that she was pregnant again!

MAY 2017
Every Spring for the past few years I've looked forward to attending the Unique CAMP which is hosted by Sonja Rasula and Unique LA. It was announced earlier in the year that the Spring 2017 event would be the last and final CAMP for the foreseeable future, and I was thrilled to be a camp counselor one more time. I spent four memorable days connecting with and learning from other talented creatives and artists:


JUNE 2017
At the beginning of the June, Sorah and I hosted the very first "In Session". In Session is an all day seminar for current college students who are passionate about dance and interested in learning about how to find the right balance between their studies and artistic endeavors. As graduates of USC and UCLA, Sorah and I wanted to create a space in which we could share our experiences as students/dancers: 

During the last few weeks of June I traveled with Entity Contemporary Dance to SF and back to LA to present our second full length show, "PEEL". In addition to the shows we also hosted our summer workshops:

The Kraemers and Goldschens came to support Entity! 

JULY 2017
At the start of 2017 I made it a goal to attend Ate9's open gaga classes at The Sweat Spot every Thursday, and it's since became a consistent part of my weekly training. I was ecstatic to hear that Gaga People was hosting a workshop in Los Angeles, and even more thrilled that I could attend the event. The week long intensive was inspiring and eye-opening. My experience as a professional dancer is predominately commercial/industry based, and it felt nice to be in a space where I was there simply to learn and to further my artistic research.

Toward the end of the month, a friend who works for Nike Women Los Angeles invited me to speak at their "Believe in More" event at The Grove. It was a carefully curated event including an entrepreneur, an athlete, an innovator, and an artist. We each spoke about our experiences and how the "invisible makes us invincible". I was really nervous, but felt really proud and confident of what I shared that evening:

Me with badass women Sally McRae, Sonja Rasula, and Caroline Beckman

In middle of July I booked a music video for P!NK with choreography by Nick Florez and RJ Durrell with Katie Schaar for her single, "What About Us". The video celebrated individuality and the idea that if the strong supported the weak the voiceless could be heard. And in these turbulent political and cultural conditions, it was a cry out to those in power for equality and respect:

At the beginning of the month, I performed with Entity at the 2017 Capezio ACE Awards held in Long Beach, CA. As a founding member of the company I've seen it evolve into its current form: An engine of creativity bridging concert and commercial forms. Our piece at the ACE Awards was a departure from Entity's debut performance at Maxt Out in November 2009, and it was an example of the power of community, dedication, and friendship. To top it all off, Artistic Directors Marissa Osato and Will Johnston with Entity took home the grand prize! So mark your calendars for Summer 2018, when Entity will be debuting brand new full-length work.

The last weekend of August was a big one, because that was the weekend that Marissa married Jeffrey AND when I got to perform at the 2017 MTV VMA's with P!NK:

September was a hodgepodge month during which I did a little bit of everything from commercial jobs to studio teaching:

With a few senior dancers from DAU
On the red carpet for XQ Super School: Live! choreographed by
Nick Florez, RJ Durell, and Mandy Moore
I even collaborated with some of my community favorites, including Chris Martin and Larkin Poynton:

Class with Chris at the CookiesxEntity Workshop

In October, I did a few small projects and performed with Entity at the Cookies Showcase in San Diego, CA.

November was a busy month as I was deep in rehearsals for "A Christmas Story: Live!", but I still found time to hustle on the side. One of my all time favorites, Nina McNeely, asked me to be part of a music video for Japanese Pop Star, Ryuji Imaichi. Of course, I said yes:

"Angel" by Ryuji debut February 2018

On December 1, 2017, the Chuang Family welcomed a new baby boy, Oliver. Sweet, strong, and three weeks early, our Ollie is a healthy little guy with 10 fingers and 10 toes:

Oliver and Carter Chuang

After nearly two months of rehearsals, the cast and crew of Fox's "A Christmas Story: Live!" was pleased to present our three-hour rendition of a beloved movie and Broadway musical:

Me with Maya Rudolph and Chris Diamantopoulos

The Adult Ensemble

Sprinkle in additional studio teaching trips, rehearsals, training, side projects, friend time, family time, and the occasional Mood Mondays and that just about sums up my year. 

Banks concert at the Theater at the Ace Hotel
Celebrating Mother's Day with Margie and family

Fun new photos with Nadine 

One of our very first rehearsals with the new members of Entity
One of our many frequent roommate Disney trips
Below are two additional videos: The first is my favorite class I taught in 2017 and the second is my favorite Mood Mondays of 2017:

"Redbone" by Childish Gambino

"Doomed" by Moses Sumney

Here's to hoping that 2018 is filled with more surprises and revelations, but with greater intention and thoughtful risk taking! 

The Return of #AdventureswithKaren

As a freelance dancer/choreographer/teacher, I often get asked: 

"What does your day to day look like?"

It's a very simple question and most people have an answer. Perhaps it's a gym session in the morning, work from 9-5, dinner at home, and then Netflix on the couch with the boyfriend. 

I, however, have noticed that nearly every year since I've lived in Los Angeles (including the ones at UCLA) has been distinct and unique. I recognize some consistent elements (running, yoga, etc.), but even those activities change based on the type and amount of work I do in that particular year. Very few days are scheduled identically, and I would hardly call myself a creature of habit. 

And this year is no exception. Since last November I've been busy teaching and choreographing all across the country and internationally with Hollywood Vibe, Elite Dance Productions, and by invitation from independently owned dance studios. In the 8 years that I've been in LA I have never devoted so much time to creating or teaching. 

Kent and I at Hollywood Vibe Nationals

I've failed miserably at documenting these new experiences on my blog, but they have been incredibly fulfilling and eye-opening for me. I've noticed how much I enjoy creating my own material, how much I value connecting with the students, and how empowered I feel when offering advice to soon-to-be professional dancers or college-goers. The dance education world has shown me a whole new side of dance/choreography that I have never seen before.

Now, after a whirl wind convention season and a stacked summer filled with teaching/choreographing I am embarking on two new adventures: 1) Performing and teaching for the first time as a company with Entity Contemporary Dance in Hong Kong and Singapore and 2) participating in a month long yoga training in Bali. Sandwiched in between those two events will be a two week trip to Japan and Taiwan with my good friend Will. 

The return of extended international travels means more opportunities to experience new sights, tastes, and sounds. It also means the return of #AdventureswithKaren, which started as a silly hashtag/photo idea two years ago that turned into a consistent way for me to share my explorations with friends back home in the U.S (click here for the full story). 

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
I've now been in Singapore for one and a half days and have been lucky to explore:

Marina Bay Sands
Glutton Bay
Mount Faber Park
Gardens by the Bay - Cloud Forest
Bugis Junction

And that is just the beginning of what will be an event-filled two months. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride with me as I traverse through Asia! 

Mood Mondays - Episode 17: "Wilinout" by Iyves

Back in September 2015, my friend Joya contacted me to be a part of a video for the up and coming artist Iyves. After a meeting with the director, Christine Yuan, and after listening to Iyves' music I was convinced that it was fate for me to be a part of this project. 

The creative team spent a weekend in Coachella Valley filming in some of California's most interesting natural and manmade landscapes: 

The final product was beautiful: 

Even after the project was finished I felt compelled to dance to the song and decided to dedicate a Mood Mondays to it: 

Episode 17: "Wilinout" by Iyves
Mood: At ease
Location: LA River
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

Mood Mondays - Episode 16: "Holocene" by Bon Iver

As I sat down to write this blog entry, I couldn't remember what had happened back in September 2015 that inspired the mood for Episode 16. Luckily I have a pretty detailed Google Calendar that tracks all the events in my life, from major dance projects to yoga classes. 

I found that around the time this video was made and published was also the audition for Grease: Live (more on that experience in a later post). I remember that process being so intense yet inspiring. After the call was the call back, after the call back was the final call back, and after the final call back was the final final call back. I remember thinking to myself, "Man, everyone in this room is so dang talented." The caliber of dancers in the room was such that Zach Woodlee, the choreographer, could've closed his eyes, spun in a circle, chosen 10 dancers at random, and there still would've been some darn good dancing in the show. 

Really. Everyone was that awesome. 

But in the end, the dancers were likely cast based on a whole host of other factors outside of skill alone. Dancing is an art, and casting is an art too. It takes a very discerning eye to understand how specific individuals can mesh together to create a larger whole. After all good ingredients combined together don't always make a good dish. And while I may be biased, the dish our Grease: Live creative team whipped up was worthy of a Michelin star rating: 
Actors and dancers with director (Tommy) and choreographer (Zach)
The Grease: Live Cast
And that was the reason why I felt (and still feel) so humbled. LA is a competitive city filled with some of the nation's most talented professional dancers. My livelihood as a commercial dancer is booking jobs and beating out the sometimes hundreds of other dancers in the room. As a result, I generally forget to take a moment to simply marvel at how incredibly skilled my peers are. It's easy in this kind of environment to feel envy over admiration. 

But last year was also a year of great personal growth for me. I finally felt ready to face a few demons that I had shoved to the back of the closet when I first moved to LA 7 years ago. In so doing, my perception of LA and of commercial dance shifted. I began seeing it as one (but not the only one) outlet for me to find purpose and build identity. All of that trickled down into my every day life, so instead of feeling hyper-competitive (though I still felt anxious) in that final final call back I felt humbled. 

Now that you understand the intention and reasoning behind the video, I invite you to enjoy Episode 16 of my Mood Mondays series:

Episode 16: "Holocene" by Bon Iver 
Mood: Humbled
Location: Griffith Park, CA
Videographer: Selina Ruthe

You can find the rest of the series up to Episode 27 of Mood Mondays on my YouTube channel and website