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Meet Alexandra Bender

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alexandra Bender.

Alexandra, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Anaheim, California and currently reside in Chino. I started dance classes at the age of three in a combo class which was a half-hour of ballet followed by a half-hour of tap. Later, I expanded into other styles such as ribbon, lyrical, jazz, hip hop, ballroom, musical theater, contemporary, and modern. At the age of eight, I told my parents that I wanted to make dance my career and from that point forward with my parent’s support every choice I made surrounded that goal. I enrolled in competition studios which strengthened both my technique and performance capability and attended Orange County School of The Arts in the Commercial Dance Conservatory. I was part of Francisco Gella’s “Collabo Youth Dance Collective”, a preprofessional dance company whilst in high school which introduced me to “Concert Dance”, and received my BFA in Dance & Choreography from CALARTS where I discovered my love for collaborating and creating pieces of my own. Every weekend and summer was spent rehearsing and training at conventions such as Nuvo, The Collective, Jump, and with companies such as Backhaus, The Joffrey Ballet School, LA Contemporary Dance Company, and The Jose Limón Dance Company.

Teaching dance has always been a part of my life and I have found it to sometimes be the most rewarding. When I was twelve years old I was enrolled in a student teacher training course at Dellos Dance and Performing Arts Studio in Chino. In high school, I was a student teacher and assisted group ballroom classes for an hour as payment for private lessons afterwards. While in college, I also taught dance classes at Ekata Training Center. The past couple of years, I have put more focus on teaching and creating and I have had the opportunity to travel performing for others and sharing my own work in places such as Springboard in Montreal. I also attended the Seoul International Dance Competition in Korea representing CALARTS in a choreographed solo of my own and the New Century Dance Project in Utah presenting my first piece as a professional choreographer.

Last year, I was the Dance Team Director at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, California where I also taught their Dance History course and was the head choreographer for their school musical. Later that year I worked in New York with Dorrance Dance in preparation for their “Joyce” run of “The Nutcracker Suite” as their rehearsal assistant. Currently, I work at Westminster Arts Academy where I teach Hip Hop to students of all ages and am a Songleader Coach for the Damien High School Spartan Spirit Squad in La Verne.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been easy for me. In order to be a professional dancer you must be incredibly strong both mentally and physically as we are constantly breaking down our bodies and being judged daily by instructors or directors. As a young girl, teachers would say “Alexandra, get you and your womanly body over here.” At a young age, this didn’t affect me too much but made me aware that something about me was different from the other girls I was dancing with. In college, concert dancing was the path I chose to take. In that realm, the desired body type is a tall ruler shaped body with longer limbs which I was not blessed with. Teachers would always comment on my body shape and tell me, “that if I really wanted to work in the concert world that I would need to work on slimming down my hips and thighs.”

For years, I researched and implemented exercises to reshape my legs. Sometimes before or after classes I would be called over by the teacher to be given advice on how to slim down my legs or the right muscles to focus on throughout class. I became obsessed about my body image and concentrating on my muscles rather than focusing on my artistry. Every time I was given advice or a review it was not on my dancing but rather on my body shape. I became embarrassed to just wear tights and a leotard or anything that was form fitting on my legs to classes. I spent so much time picking out my clothing to hopefully disguise the body I was given so I could call less attention to my body and more to my dancing.

I saw nothing was changing with my body and was beyond frustrated that it was all any instructor wanted to discuss with me. After long calls with my mom she helped me realize that I was no longer just enjoying the art form I said I wanted to dedicate my life to. At that point, I decided to ignore some of the advice I was being given if it dealt with my body image or be able to tell teachers that “this is just the way my body is because I am multiethnic.” It took time to come back from this but I kept reminding myself of the reason I was in this field to begin with.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a freelance Dancer/Choreographer, I luckily get to dabble in multiple areas at a time. As I mentioned earlier, I am currently teaching dance at Westminster Arts Academy and song at Damien High School as well as substitute teaching at Dellos Dance & Performing Arts in both Chino and Walnut. I also pick up side gigs for music videos or performances within the LA community.

Although I have trained in many styles of dance, contemporary is the style that comes most naturally for me and I would claim to be my specialty. People know me best for being extremely serious about the work I create and for being a perfectionist when it comes to portraying the vision or feeling I am trying to embody. I think what sets me apart from others is that I create only for my own self-satisfaction and that I am not affected by other’s critiques or opinions regarding my work.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I plan on going back to school for my Masters in Dance and Choreography. I see myself either teaching at the college level, or having my own company, or owning a dance studio of my own. I will always feel the need to share my love of dance with others whether that be through teaching or creating.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Lozen Haozous, Rafael Hernandez, Erik Bender

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