Olivia "Chachi" Gonzales
Olivia’s family nicknamed her “Chachi” when she was young. It’s short for “muchachita,” which means “little girl” in Spanish (she’s the youngest in her family). (Shauna Hundeby)
Olivia “Chachi” Gonzales is the perfect mix of sweetness and spice. Whether her hip-hop moves are hard-hitting or smooth, you can tell the 16-year-old beauty isn’t trying to look “cool.” She’s just being herself. “Hip hop is how I feel like me,” she says. “It’s who I am.”
Chachi first lit up the hip-hop scene as the youngest member of the crew I.aM.mE, winners of “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 6 last year. But surprisingly, her first love was ballet. Growing up in Houston, TX, Chachi started
ballet at 6, before discovering hip hop at 9 and falling hard for its freedom. At her performing arts school, she took several dance classes during the school day. Then she spent all evening honing her hip-hop technique at Marvelous Motion’s studios. At home, she experimented with her own hip-hop choreography, which she’s taught since she was 12. Though she’s changed her focus to hip hop, she continues to train in all styles of dance, including ballet. “Ballet helps a lot with my hip-hop technique,” she says. “And it’s good to have in your back pocket. You never know what you’ll be asked to do at an audition or on a job.”
When Chachi’s Houston-based hip-hop crew was selected to compete on “ABDC” in 2011, she transferred to an online school. Each day, she and the other students would wake up early for “school” hours on set, before joining their older crew members to train until the early hours of the morning. Her work paid off: I.aM.mE gained international recognition, and Chachi suddenly had a devoted fan base. After “ABDC,” she and her family moved to L.A., and invitations poured in for her to travel and teach all over the world—from New Jersey to the Philippines.
Chachi with I.aM.mE on “America’s Best Dance Crew” (Sthanlee B. Mirador/PRPP)
Chachi recently performed in the Britney Spears tribute at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, on Disney’s “Shake It Up” and in an episode of The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers’ (LXD) web series. She also teaches and judges with World of Dance urban dance competitions (she’s their 2012 Teen Choreographer of the Year!). But busy as she is, Chachi is taking her newfound fame one step at a time. “I’m 16—I still have a lot to learn,” she says. “I think nobody, not even older dancers, can ever learn enough.”
Birthday: January 23, 1996
Dance idol: Michael Jackson
Favorite food: “I’m a meat girl. I have to have it in every meal.”
Most-played on her iPod: “I could go from Lil Wayne to Michael Bublé to Justin Bieber to Beyoncé.”
Favorite thing to do on a day off: Swim
How she winds down: Ice cream and movies. “It’s always good to relax, let your guard down and just have fun.”
Her dance style in three words: “A unique swag.”
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.