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Meet Jennifer Chang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Chang.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
In February of 2019, I began a self-imposed, one-year challenge to become a dancer. I only had two rules: 1. Take a least two classes a week 2. Never give up during a class. I put myself on this challenge during a time where my mental health was at an all-time low. The second half of 2018 was awful. I suddenly became unemployed, my housing situation was up in the air and I began having panic attacks weekly. I was looking for an outlet to release the tension and anxiety from my body. Initially, I started going for runs in the neighborhood. I don’t love running, so I searched for another outlet. When YouTube first started, I remember watching dance videos for hours and stumbling upon the Millennium dance page. I’d always loved dance and music. I was in LA and had plenty of time on my hands. I may not have had rent for the month, but I had $16 to take a dance class.

I took grooves and groov3 classes for about two months before I woke up one morning and committed myself to a one-year challenge while brushing my hair in the bathroom mirror. Dance was giving me an outlet to concentrate on something else other than my anxiety and it gave me an opportunity to concentrate on the ways I was using my body to create art and tell stories.

One year of being a dancer taught me more about myself than 29 years on this earth ever did. Even though I have a predominantly extroverted personality, my body was a complete introvert. I never stood at the front of the class and it took me five months to get up the courage to do groups and be put on film. Being a dancer completely changed my diet as I began to think of my body as a tool of expression versus the thing that lugs me from point A to point B. Most importantly, I learned to give myself some grace and began speaking to myself a bit kinder. We are all our own worst enemies. I couldn’t put up with an entire year of berating myself, so I had to change my attitude I was going to take this to the finish line. Luckily, I managed to complete my full year of being a dancer in February 202o. Now, I’m looking forward to diving deeper into dance, exploring other styles and helping other people who are on the fence about starting up a dance career.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Through my challenge, I was honest every step of the way. It was not easy, it was scary and I wanted to give up several times. In the age of social media, we only see the best takes. Watching perfect dance videos can make you feel like no one ever messes up and that dance is only for a select few. That it’s off-limits or it’s somehow unattainable for us mere mortals. Until I started going to classes and saw complete amateurs dancing alongside 10+ year professionals. When I saw people mess up on camera and dance through it.

The dance scene in LA can be extremely intimidating. Several professional dancers take beginner classes and it can give the false sense that you’re supposed to look like them after just one class. There are dozens of mental barriers to start as a dancer before you even step into the studio. I hoped that writing about my journey made others step over those mental barriers to not only take one class but several classes. I always tell people that you’re not going to master the art of dance with a hand full of classes. I used to think that being a dancer was just hitting the steps. I’ve realized now that it’s so much more than that.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
The gig economy. Even when jobs are plentiful, it takes work to find more work. Most gigs are short-term, inconsistent and can be exhausting to look for. The gig economy comes with a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty and even at times makes you feel like other artists are your competition rather than your community. No matter how well adjusted an artist is mentally. There will be days, weeks, even months where they wonder where their next paycheck is coming from. That time spent in uncertainty is time not spent making their art.

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Image Credit:
Larisa Roberts Photography

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