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Meet Annie Grove

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Grove.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My road has been pretty unconventional in a lot of ways. My entire life I’ve been a performer, I used to tell “Blonde Jokes” at my middle school talent shows. I loved theatre more than anything, so during my first two years of high school, I started getting uncomfortable with the amount of resources I had to perform.

On a whim, right before finals my sophomore year I flew out to northern Michigan and auditioned for the Interlochen Arts Academy, a top-ranking boarding school for the arts. I ended up getting in with a pretty big scholarship and was able to finish out my last two years of school there. I remember working those two summers 40 hours a week as a lifeguard to help cover the remaining costs. My mom sold a big chunk of things in our house as well. My life really started there, it was–to this day– the best time of my life. I even have a few tattoos to remember it by. The training was incredible and intense. By then, I was still studying basically everything besides dance. Save a few musical theatre classes, I really couldn’t point my feet.

I started dancing late, too late by most people’s standards to become a professional dancer. But that hasn’t stopped me. Most people, not all, have spent their lives training to be professionals. I’ve worked non stop trying to train a lifetime’s worth of work into just a few years. I’m proud of where I am, people tell me they never would have guessed that I started dancing so late. It comes with the price of imposter syndrome sometimes but I continue to claim my space in the industry. As far as choreography, it’s a new joy I’ve found in the past few years. I’ve realized that my love for creation is strong, maybe stronger than my love for performance. I hope to expand, enlighten and grow my work to be more thoughtful and necessary. I want to tell stories that aren’t told enough. As a queer person, I want to focus on specifically our stories and not the bright and shiny ones. Nowadays, when there’s not a pandemic I spend my time choreographing, hugging my students, stretching my feet and highly favoring anything on my left side.

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?
No way! I think the most meaningful roads are sometimes the bumpiest. I don’t necessarily want something that comes easily. I think that being in the arts holds its own specific types of struggles. I find it fascinating that we constantly consume entertainment yet don’t necessarily prize it as a profession. Family members get quiet when we tell them we’re pursuing a career in film, friends quizzically ask what our real jobs will be, and we’re constantly given small pats on the head for being “brave.” I for one, have known that I might be trading a specific type of security in exchange for a career that feeds my passions. Not to say there isn’t passion in fields that offer stability, but in this one it seems rare.

This industry has some sharp teeth and long claws, but I believe firmly that there is a place for everyone. My personal struggles are unique and also entirely not unique at all. It’s constant self-doubt, constant pondering if you’ll ever be good enough. If you’ll be interesting, creative or engaging enough. Why should people care about your story? That’s when I realize I’m not exactly interested in me, I’m interested in a bigger picture. I want to share other people’s story, but while walking alongside my brain. Like 1/4 of Americans, I struggle with my mental health. Being in an industry like entertainment can be challenging, it’s a lot of introspection which sometimes makes my mind have an anxiety hay-day.

I don’t anticipate my career to be a smooth road, I anticipate it to be capricious, exciting, exhausting and fulfilling. One of my favorite sayings is, “There is no there, there.” Meaning I don’t expect to wake up one day and say, “wow, I’ve made it.” There isn’t a “Once I get this thing, then I’ll be satisfied.” It’s an ever growing, changing and shifting road. I think being queer is another experience that can lend its own set of struggles. Micro-aggressions towards people in the LGBTQIA+ community are rampant. Sometimes they’re so normalized we don’t even recognize that they’re there. They are.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m mostly known as a dancer and choreographer. Ideally, I would like to choreograph for artists and music videos. However, I do love teaching. If I could travel the world and teach kids that would be a dream. I love choreographing competition solos, I really do. I’m proud of my work, but I’m mostly proud of the way I go about my work. This industry loves to take advantage, to trick people and step on others for self-gain. I love the way I work, the way I treat my students and my dancers. With respect, integrity and care. I end rehearsals on time, I’m clear with expectations and most of all, I make the people in my work feel supported. Because they are. I want to continue to grow my place in the industry and hold on tightly to my work ethic and perspective. I never want to make anyone feel used, cheated or lied to. My goal is for every job I work; I’ll be so consistent and respectful that I’ll get asked to do another job. It matters how you treat people in life and it matters in this industry. We’re not just bodies to be used and thrown around. I firmly believe that you can have all the talent in the world, but if you treat people poorly it’s useless.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
You know, it’s been tough to look toward the future these days, when life feels heavy and stagnant. For the last few months it’s been tough to do anything besides go day to day. I’m looking forward to holding my friends again. I’m looking forward to being in a rehearsal room and forgetting to put on hand sanitizer. I’m looking forward to a big sweaty dance class where we all stand and breathe together. I’m looking forward to not being afraid of people and their choices. To not waking up to more news of despair. To hugging my students and giving them a shoulder to cry on when they need it. To seeing my new baby nephew and holding him for the first time. I’m looking forward to sociopolitical change to justice where justice is due. I’m looking forward to breathing new air.

My short term artistic plants right now are to focus my energy on a project. To responsibility and safely make a visual album using dancers, I know and love. I want the story to be told inside an apartment building and have them be the tenants. The album I picked relates to the themes of isolation, grief and hope for the future. As of now, I’m applying for grants, not for expensive props or costumes but to adequately pay the dancers and crew. I never want to not give artists what they deserve. In this business, we’re told that our time and energy is disposable, and I want to change that. My long term goals are to keep building my reputation as a choreographer and become trusted with bigger and bigger projects. To choreograph for artists and projects that I love. The quality of my work can only grow with more opportunities and I’m ready to seek them out.

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Image Credit:

Michaela Todaro, Leah LaGrange, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, Alex Laya

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