Today we’d like to introduce you to Annika Alejo.
Annika, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a true born and raised Southern California girl and grew up in the lovely suburbs of Orange County. I began dancing at age three and since then it has evolved into an integral part of my life and self-identity. I trained at Focus Dance Center of the Performing Arts, a competition dance studio, under the direction of Emmy nominated Monie Adamson. My studio exposed me to a variety of styles- jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, pointe, tumbling and musical theater. Early on, it fostered my curiosity for movement as a whole and appreciation for different approaches to dance.
In high school, I jumped into the commercial industry and became represented by Go2Talent Agency. I juggled high school academics, college applications, studio commitments, and industry auditions. At this time, I worked closely with Tiffany Billings, creator of Club Jete (LA’s premiere industry showcase and networking site), and performed her piece at her acclaimed venue.
From there, I attended the University California of Irvine and pursued a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in Anthropology. This is where I naturally shifted away from the commercial industry and dove into the concert dance world. At UCI, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the established choreographer Lar Lubovitch and performed his historical modern work “Marimba” at the Irvine Barclay Theater. Additionally, I was a member of the late Donald McKayle’s Etude Ensemble, where I was one of his soloists for his memorial concert and part of the last generation of dancers to work with the legend himself.
Post grad I spent a summer training in Israel with Vertigo Dance Company, Kolben Dance Company, and at the Suzanne Delal Center (host of the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company). At the time, I thought I was going to stay and live there. However, my heart wanted to go back to the commercial industry. Since then, I have performed in musical theater productions at the Gem Theater and stage productions with South Coast Repertory. Additionally, I am a member of the Actors’ Equity Membership Candidate program. Currently, I am embracing my Jazz and commercial background, I am part of the IAMForce Jazz Project under the direction of Chehon Wespi-Tschopp. Since moving to LA each week is a new character, different costume, and an exciting experience. I am so grateful for the opportunities and gigs sent to me from my agents!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Such a great question. I feel like every artists’ path is not a smooth one. As individuals we made the conscious decision to devote our lives to our craft. That choice is not an easy one thus there would be no interesting story filled with colored nuances to tell. My favorite thing to say when I feel a struggle or hurdle is …..“I’m building character right now.”
The best example I have are the lessons now and what I am currently experiencing. The road to moving to LA was a wild one. I moved up from Orange County in October but started working in the city during the summer. I would start my workday in LA then drive back to Orange County for my one of my jobs and run to rehearsal after. Thankfully after a few months of commuting I moved, made it in one piece, and chuckle about the car troubles I had. Along the way, I have met some of the best people that truly inspire me and built a support system of genuine friendships.
With that being said two flat tires, a ruptured gas tank, hours spent in traffic listening to Fleetwood Mac, many cups of coffee and one heartbreak later- I’m still standing. I laugh about my experiences and am proud of myself for not only pushing through it but embracing the process. I mean not every day was a dance number from High School Musical, yes there were many tears but ultimately I picked myself up and I kept going with a smile on my face. I am guided with a strong conviction for what I want and what I want my life to be. So to answer the question my personal “road” has not been smooth, also literally it hasn’t considering I had so many car problems (haha). However, I have built character and am continuing to do so. But most importantly, I am collecting memories that make me appreciate the moments and my story of how I got to where I am and where I will be.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Grit: made up of hustle, passion, and perseverance.
- Instagram: @annikaaalejo