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.”

FAST FACTS:

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.”

Latest Posts


Viktorina Kapitonova in "Swan Lake Bath Ballet" (photo by Ryan Capstick, courtesy Corey Baker Dance)

Please Enjoy the Quarantine Genius of “Swan Lake Bath Ballet”

That old saying about limitations breeding creativity—hat tip to Orson Welles—has never felt more relevant than in these lockdown days. Here's the latest brilliant dance project born (hatched?) of quarantine restrictions: "Swan Lake Bath Ballet," a contemporary take on the classic featuring 27 A-list ballet dancers performing from their own bathtubs.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search