No Limits: How Janelle Ginestra Is Building a Dance Empire
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
Becoming a Beast
Ginestra's desire to dance sparked at age 2, and she took classes at a local studio in her hometown of Santa Clara, CA, until she was 7. At that point, she moved to L.A. with her mom so Ginestra could pursue another dream: an acting career. Though she landed some commercials and jobs on TV shows, she and her mom decided to head back to Northern California once Ginestra entered high school. "My mom wanted me to have a normal high school experience, so she moved us to Modesto," says Ginestra.
Photos by Toreno
The only problem? Modesto wasn't exactly a dance destination. "The dance schools there weren't serious enough for me," Ginestra says. Instead, she got into competitive cheerleading, which was popular in the area. She trained at Starstruck Cheer & Dance, and also joined a local pom team, whose precision helped her dance technique become "clean and polished," she says. And she connected with a local rap artist named Jiggy, who enlisted her as a choreographer and backup dancer for various events and concerts.
But the magnetic pull of Hollywood was strong, and Ginestra returned to L.A. soon after finishing high school. In those early days, she auditioned for "anything and everything," she says, training at Millennium Dance Complex and EDGE Performing Arts Center. Her cheer cred soon paid off, earning her roles in Fired Up! and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish. But her true focus was on becoming a working hip-hop dancer.
Unleashing the Beast
Though Ginestra says it took her "a while to get in the groove" professionally, the work came fast and furious once she found that groove. Movies like Alvin & The Chipmunks and Honey 2 and TV shows like "Glee," "The X Factor," and "Bunheads" gave her the chance to dance on camera, as did Nicki Minaj's music video for "Anaconda." She also toured with P!nk and Jennifer Lopez, and danced with Beyoncé during a Billboard Music Awards performance.
Photo by Toreno
Ginestra realized early on that creating a YouTube presence could help her get noticed in an even bigger way. She posted the first video on her channel in March 2010 (a solo to "My Chick Bad," by Ludacris). Around that time, she also met Adams at a rehearsal for L.A.'s monthly Choreographers Carnival event. Soon enough, the two were attending each other's classes at IDA Hollywood and posting joint class videos.
Adams was immediately drawn to Ginestra's larger-than-life personality and hard-hitting dance style. "I love that she'll try anything, whether people approve of it or not—her attitude is, 'This is me. Take it or leave it,' " Adams says. "That type of mentality can be very rare in Los Angeles, where everyone is trying to fit into the industry."
As the two began working together, Ginestra's style began to evolve. "Will has been my biggest hip-hop trainer," Ginestra says. "He took me from corny white girl to decent hip-hop dancer. Dancing next to such a strong man allowed me to mimic and take in that kind of energy."
Photo by Toreno
In 2013, Adams and Ginestra co-founded their dance company, ImmaBEAST. "Once you fulfill your dreams of being a backup dancer, you end up back at square one," Ginestra says. "Will told me, 'We can build something bigger than this. If we do this together, that's better than doing it alone. Let's create a brand and make it blow up.'" That's exactly what they did. The duo assembled a killer group of young dancers, including Larsen Thompson, Taylor Hatala, Jade Chynoweth, Kaycee Rice, Josh Killacky, and Gabe de Guzman. Ginestra let her choreographic imagination run wild, crafting super-creative concept videos and short films for YouTube. She struck viral gold with "IDFWU" (4.2-plus million views) and "Run the World" (7.8-plus million views), featuring Larsen and Taylor.
Feeding the Beast
Seven years after meeting, Ginestra and Adams are still going strong, both personally and professionally. In May, the couple got engaged at a surprise party Adams threw for Ginestra's 28th birthday. (True to form, the proposal can be seen on YouTube.) They've also grown ImmaBEAST into a full-fledged brand that includes apparel, the Beast Network (an online collection of videos and tutorials), and IMMA SPACE (a dance studio in North Hollywood).
In 2015, Adams and Ginestra mounted the first BuildaBeast Experience (BABE), expanding their annual company audition into a five-day immersive dance event. Seven hundred and fifty dancers came from 22 countries to learn from dance notables like Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Blake McGrath, Nick Demoura, and Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer. In the two years since, the event has continued to grow. This summer's BABE featured everything from inspirational speakers to pop-up performances to krump battles. "We eventually want to turn BABE into the dance and entertainment version of Coachella," Ginestra says. "We have very high goals for it."
Photos by Toreno
Ginestra also has her sights set on creative direction. In 2016, she and Adams directed a Delta commercial starring Serena Williams (as well as some familiar faces from ImmaBEAST), and Ginestra has also created a fashion-minded look-book video featuring rapper Cardi B's music. She's hoping to get back into acting, too.
No matter what, Ginestra will always keep mentoring young dancers. "Being a positive influence gives you a sense of purpose in a different way," she says. "When I see Kaycee doing an amazing job in class and know that I've helped guide her life in some way, it's such a rewarding feeling. I have lots of big plans, but I'll never stop teaching, because it's the most beautiful way to give back and inspire."
A version of this story appeared in the November 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "No Limits."
Last week Disney Channel star Sofia Wylie released a behind-the-scenes look at the making of her YouTube dance series. Along with some stellar dancing, the video shows the dance community featured in her "4k Dance Series" and the things they've learned from being a part of the dance project. And though the project features dance, we love that it also emphasizes supporting and building up fellow dancers.
Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.
Sometimes, you hear talk about an upcoming class video and it sounds too good to be real. Wait: Todrick Hall made a track featuring RuPaul, and then Todrick personally asked Brian Friedman to choreograph it, and then Brian got Maddie and Charlize and Jade and Kaycee and Sean and Gabe and Larsen and Bailey to come out for the class? I just...that can't be right. Can it?
It is right, friends. It is SO RIGHT.
Team USA is totally taking over "Dancing with the Stars" this season! Casting for the upcoming athletes-only "DWTS" cycle, which kicks off April 30, was just announced. And the roster includes a whole bunch of Olympic favorites—including not one, not two, but three figure-skating standouts.
Winter is drawing to a close and you know what that means -- It's time to really kick this year into gear! Move U has done the research so you can find your best match, look good, and feel great this season with a twist unique to your team! Here are five looks to put your performance on the map in 2018.
With several Shaping Sound tours and TV credits like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and "Boardwalk Empire" to her name, you wouldn't expect Kate Harpootlian to be refreshingly down-to-earth. But that's exactly how she is: As soon as you start talking to the gifted dancer and choreographer, it becomes clear that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's happy to tell hilarious stories to prove it. (Ask her about the time she did a Mr. Peanut impression when Mia Michaels asked her to improvise, or the time she starred in a Japanese makeup commercial and had to do grand pliés wearing one pointe shoe and one flat shoe.)
That mixture of humor and grace is evident in Harpootlian's growing body of choreographic work. Her one-act show Better Late Than Never, for example, which premiered last summer, has a jazzy, West Side Story vibe, offsetting heavier moments with touches of whimsy. "There's always a balance in my work," Harpootlian says. "I want to use humor to balance out the darker aspects. It's like one of my friends once said: 'You make me laugh, and then you make me feel bad for laughing.' "
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I grip my quads, and I don't know how to stop. I'm totally overdeveloping my quad muscles. How can I retrain myself so I use my legs correctly? Help!
You know that pirouette dream, when your placement is so perfect you can keep turning forever? That dream is the reality for highly technical tappers, who benefit from the decreased friction of their shoes. Get the placement right and, with a strong spot, they can pirouette for days.
But turning in tap shoes isn't all easy. In fact, those delightfully friction-free shoes bring their own set of challenges, and dancers can easily fall into the spinning-top trap by letting the turn control them, rather than the other way around. Here's how to harness your tap-turning potential.
Given that we're still processing our own sadness about the recent dissolution of the couple formerly known as #TeamTatum, we can only imagine how many feelings Jenna Dewan must be feeling. But like all dancers, Dewan knows the best way to deal with big emotions is to dance through them.