Thursday, April 12, 2012

Isaac Olvera: I Just Wana Dance

A DECADE ago, you would have found Isaac Olvera trying to mimic the dance
moves he saw in music videos in the living room of his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park. Crosses and pictures of family
members  hung on the walls would watch as he moved up and down, left to right, and all over the
floor. After he was done with school, he would tirelessly come home and mimic
what he saw the professionals doing on television. Someday in the future, it will
be other children coming home from school and trying to imitate Isaac, and move
the way he does across the screen.

Ten years later, Isaac is studying dance at Loyola Marymount Unviersity in
Los Angeles. He hasn’t stopped practicing nearly every day, and still is always
smiling about something. He’s the leader of the school’s Hip Hop dance group,
Radix, and has choreographed a number of pieces for performances both for the
University and other audiences.

“It’s just what I love to do,” says Olvera. “Everyone has a passion, whether they
know it or not. I was just lucky enough to discover mine at an early age,” he says
with a grin. “Luckily for me, being from Los Angeles has given me opportunities that I think a lot of people in different areas don’t have.” Indeed, many of the other dancers in his programs came to the city from places like Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida among other states. The fact is dance, along with many other art forms, are more accessible in a city of Los Angeles’ size. Isaac was lucky in this regard, and used it to his advantage.

“I remember one of the first times I went to Venice with some friends in high school. I saw some guy on the Boardwalk ‘popping’ and I watched him for a few minutes. I asked him if he could show me how he was doing it, and I ended up getting a lesson from him right there. I can’t imagine something like that happening in the Midwest.”
It is likely experiences of this nature crafted his perception of the city in a favorable manner. Experiences like this, indeed, are indicative of a Los Angeles experience. This would not be his only experience of the kind, however.

This aspiring young talent has taken many different elements from his life and
surroundings and incorporated them into his dance. The result is attention-
grabbing, creative, inspired dance that fuses many of its different forms including
Hip Hop, ballet and modern dance. After watching Isaac dance, it is clear
that he is from the city of Los Angeles. Much like the city in which he grew up
is composed of many different cultures, languages and areas, his dance is
composed of many different elements and styles, borrowing from movements in
everyday life.

“I draw inspiration from everything,” he states. “I try to set myself apart from other
dancers by trying to see the movement in everyday things, not just people, and
incorporate that into my pieces. Seeing the leaves of the palm trees undulate, or waves rippling into the beach, things where people normally wouldn't associate with human movement I try to imitate.” 

The most surprising thing about Isaac is that he did not have any formal training
in dance until he started college at Loyola Marymount. It was not until he became
friends with a few other dancers at the university that he decided to take things to
the next level.

"[Another time] after I had just joined the dance program at LMU, I didn't know too many people in the program and was feeling kind of discouraged after seeing how much better the other dancers in the program were. Well, after class one time, a few of the other dancers met up with me outside the classroom and invited me over to help me out with some technique work. We ended up dancing outside in the sun for a couple of hours. With people like this supporting me, it was no wonder I felt like I could succeed."

“Next level” is a tame way of expressing the hours of work and dedication Olvera
has put into his dancing. “Most of the other dancers in the program have been
taking lessons since they were like ten years old” he says. “I was only dancing in
my living room at that age, everyone else had a real leg up over me.”

That experience handicap didn’t discourage him though. In fact, it is the thing that
pushed him so hard to succeed. He would often dance for “eight, nine hours a
day,” until his body “felt like it was going to give out on me any minute.” Then the
next day he would do it over again.

His hard work did not go unnoticed, especially by his instructors. At the end of his
junior year of college, he was selected to attend the American Dance Festival at
Duke University in North Carolina.

“After I got accepted into [the American Dance Festival] I felt like I could make it
as a dancer. Some of the top upcoming dancers, not even from the U.S. but the
world go to ADF and I was going to be going too. It was surreal.”

Attending this program was the best thing he could have done. He
choreographed a piece that was viewed by hundreds of audience members, and
build connections that will propel him into the world of dance after he graduates. At the end of the program, he was told by a number of instructors to contact them
after he graduates for potential dance opportunities.

“There were other dancers that were better technically than me, but I guess I did something right that impressed them. Maybe it’s the L.A. flair coming out. I always try to incorporate some 'swagger' into my dancing. I was definitely a bit louder and sillier than a lot of the other people there too, and a lot of them got a kick out of me speaking Spanish."

After graduating, he hopes to stay in Los Angeles and continue to use the city to his benefit.
“I thought about moving just for a change of pace, but to be honest I can’t picture myself living anywhere else. I’ve grown up here, made my connections here, I don’t want to uproot myself like that. Plus the dance community is thriving right now and I think it would be like shooting myself in the foot to leave.”

Isaac is a person that was meant to live in Los Angeles. He was lucky enough to be born and raised in a city of vibrant culture and rich experience, and tried to take advantage of that to the fullest extent.

Ten years from now, Isaac, “hope[s] to still be dancing. Hopefully still here in Los Angeles.”

--Derek Dellovo
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