Today we’d like to introduce you to Liezel Marie.
Liezel, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, within a Filipino-American family, and youngest and only girl was exposed to dance through a movie called Annie. From then on, my mom took me to dance class at Art of the Dance Academy in the NoHo Arts District. There I learned Ballet, Tap, Jazz and performed many recitals for 14 Years. However, conflicting with my high school years, I joined Song Team at Providence High School, choir competitions, and also started taking outside dance classes at Millennium Dance Complex and M&K Cultural Dance Center which exposed me to more cultural aspects of hip hop dance in which I fell absolutely in love with.
But all of these were amazing training, lots of exposure to performance, which I was absolutely thankful for, however, something wasn’t truly feeding my soul completely. I wanted to create. I wanted to teach people what I have been exposed too. I wanted to share. I wanted to just give back to something but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to give. I wanted to express my work on stage but never knew how too. Once I got accepted to California State University Northridge, I was exposed to hip hop theater. I was introduced to the dance department chair Dr. Paula Thomson, Maurice Godin, Donna Krasnow, Amy Pell & Concha Madrid who taught me theater dance, intention, choreographic forms, stage. They taught me how to be a storyteller, how to use my body in limitless ways, musicality, lighting, and so much more. They showed me a whole new world that I never knew existed.
Through Kinesiology classes at California State University Northridge, I met Mariesha Griffin who was the one who triggered the hip hop community to me. She exposed the basics of breaking, locking, popping, grooves and told me whom I should be learning from. She told me to go to this performance called J.U.I.C.E held at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood that introduced me to Kujo Lyons and Amy Catfox, who are incredibly known in the b-boy and b-girl world. By that one show, inspired my to make my moves in becoming a professional dancer. At this time, being 18-19years old, I auditioned for dance teams at CSUN, I auditioned for agencies, I auditioned for dance companies, I auditioned for theme parks… NOTHING. Rejected from absolutely everything.
Wondering, what is wrong with me. Was I not meant to be a dancer? Was I not meant to be shown? Was I not good enough? Rejection, after rejection, after rejection… I had no idea what was going on… until… I met a few amazing people in my Kinesiology classes. Mariko Iwabuchi, Rowena Garcia, Allen Paul Chung, Jonathan Lorico (who is now my husband) Tabatha Mills, Vides Apresto, Kenneth Mayfield II, Eddie Yang, Natsuki Ishihara and many others… through their support, through their friendships, through their willingness to grow together… a dance crew was created. We started teaching others. Learning from each other. Simply training together in the CSUN studios and also making effort to take outside dance classes.
There, I found my love of choreography. We started putting on college dance shows together, we eventually called ourselves COSMIC Dance Crew in 2011 meaning Creative Organization of Synergistic Movement and Innovative Choreography (name by Mariko Iwabuchi), and just went off doing other shows together at CSUN, Urban Street Jam, Festivals, and much more. The team grew and grew and even up till now developed a strong friendship amongst members. I became president for this team and ended presidency in 2014-2015 to start growing in other places.
As time flew by, I finally got accepted into CSUN Hip Hop directed at that time Christina Moffitino & Kristel De La Rosa, Fasmode directed at that time Bradley Tovar, & Zulu Maniacs directed by Crystal & Spidey Guster. Because of their beautiful support and their amazing faith in me, some of them asked me to start choreographing for some of their dance sets which helped me with more exposure to other dance shows and competitions such as World of Dance, Choreographers Carnival, Step of Hope, and Word in Motion. Through these shows, I already knew I wanted to branch out… and start doing Me, I think I am meant to be shown as a professional choreographer.
After receiving my Bachelor’s in Kinesiology Dance, I was given an amazing position in teaching Kinesiology 143 Urban Street Dance at California State University Northridge and Hip Hop Dance classes at Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (LACHSA). I was so honored but at the same time, incredibly nervous because in order to teach non-dancers and dancers this particular curriculum, what is the history? what is the culture? what can I give more to on this particular topic.
So, I finally had the guts to audition for the 1st time for Antics Dance Performance directed by Amy Catfox, had more guts to audition for the 3rd time Street Sweep at Universal Studios Hollywood, and had more guts to reach out to Paulette Azizian to be a part of her work for Choreographers Carnival. In the year 2013-2014, I GOT ACCEPTED TO ALL THREE and one more. Out of nowhere, I was also asked to be the WNBA Los Angeles SparKids choreographer and director through LACHSA. I believe that was God’s saying, let’s have you graduate first before you get all of these amazing opportunities. It was such a huge blessing to finally call myself a professional paid performer and director.
As years went on, I received word that Sparkids decided to go to another direction so I was no longer that director. As I dwelled a little bit on that.. and slightly feeling a bit miserable that I no longer had my dream job. That truly taught me that nothing is ever permanent. To move forward, I took initiative to finally receive my big break in becoming a choreographer for LAUNBOUND at the El Portal Theater in May 2014, became a choreographer for Choreographers Carnival Sept 2014 while juggling Antics Dance Performance, Street Sweep Universal Studios Performer, and adjunct college instructor. I still wanted more, and more and more! I couldn’t stop. I just wanted to keep creating and sharing.
So after juggling all of these amazing things, I decided to do the Debbie Reynolds Work-study Program, audition for The Recipe Company directed by CJ Edwards, kept teaching dance at CSUN, LACHSA, and another school called Sierra Canyon. While juggling all of these, I wanted to finally create my OWN company. Greatest thank you to Jonathan Kim (Street Sweep & Disney Performer), Tim J. Lim (director, actor, & film producer), and Cameron Shim (teacher, Disney Parade Performer) we came up with the name LA VAUDE. As I’ve been training with Antics, Debbie Reynolds, The Recipe Company, and non-stop dance classes and training days, I’ve developed this style of Jazz Funk with a hint of burlesque and femme movement that I wanted to create my own.
LA VAUDE became that femme dance company which first consisted of 25 dancers. After performing our debut dance performance PussyCat Doll Set at Urban Street Jam, we got invited to many more big stages such as Staples Center for WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, Harlem Globtrotters, NBA LA Clippers, World of Dance Exhibition, Choreographers Carnival, Club Jete, Nike, music Artists such as Lanita Smith, Gamalier, Derek Jordan, Jessica Sanchez, and so much more. 25 Dancers became 60 dancers. IT WAS CRAZY!
That was just with LA VAUDE Dance Company. As a dancer, while juggling all these choreography performances, I was still traveling with Antics Dance Company to Brazil, other different states, still dancing at Universal Studios Hollywood, and balancing out dance classes due to the Debbie Reynolds Work-Study Program.
After all these blessings… the burnout started happening. Dance all of sudden started to become a forced place where I didn’t want to be in. Dance started to become a JOB more than my creative outlet to express. Dance started to make me… unhappy… and I had no idea why. I started finding myself crying to sleep. Waking up exhausted and eating out too much. My creative juices started to not cook so much. I didn’t have the heart to even go to dance class. I was tremendously exhausted that it even made me not want to talk about dance… ever. When my love ones started talking about dance… I found myself not wanting to be around them. When everyone talked about dance… I started having this feeling of anxiousness and wanted to scream out “There’s more to life than dance you know…” Something had to change…
And I was absolutely right, there is more to life than just dance. My boyfriend at that time proposed to me on May 12th, 2017 which was also the same day I came back home to center for a bit by talking to Paula Thomson, Maurice Godin, and Amy Pell. They made me realize how brilliant of a teacher I have become through these choreography gigs. They also mentioned in order to keep your job at CSUN, you will need your Master’s Degree to keep teaching and possibly teach more. After the celebrations and crazy life-changing things that happened after the proposal, Antics member Cyrian Reed, also mentioned Dance Education which intrigued me so much. But I was so torn, In order to do my Masters, I have so sacrificed so much. Quality or Quantity came to mind. Short-Term vs. Long Term also came to mind.
I decided to sacrifice many things. I finally had to say my goodbyes to the Debbie Reynolds Work-Study Program, I decided to close LA VAUDE by having our closing show at the Universal Studios Hollywood CityWalk 5 Towers Stage, I had to say NO to many dance performances and gigs, and start the journey in receiving my Masters in Secondary Education.
While attending to my Masters, the dance life still went on! But this time, I felt so much better about everything. I still got booked to bigger things such as choreographer and performer for Aventura Dance Cruise greatest thanks to Choreographers Carnival Paulette Azizian and Carey Yasis. I got booked to teach on my own at Interlochen Performing Arts Academy in Michigan. I finally started to say NO to certain things made me realize my worth. Saying NO helped me find balance in life by working out, taking yoga, and finally taking that break to WANT to take dance classes again rather than forced. Don’t get me wrong, I still say YES to many things, but not everything because the reality is, you can’t do everything… you can’t please everybody… but you can be the VERY BEST YOU CAN BE. Opening my mind to longevity made me realize that there is so much more you can do with just dance than just simply being on stage. You can perform on stage, you can direct, you can create, and you can teach.
I do recall Kemo saying this to me at my very first Choreographers Carnival. “You will soon watch the parade, audition for the parade, be in the parade, direct the parade, and watching the parade again… but this time. It’s yours.
Now, finally graduated with my Masters in Education, finally being happily married with Jonathan Lorico, finally having that professional dancer, choreographer, professor status… I’ve never been happier. Sure… there are so many bumps in the road… we are constantly moving.. we are constantly pushing ourselves to be better… constantly growing.
I will never know what’s next.
But looking back at what I’ve been through… I would have never guessed I would be here today. And it was all about connections, networking, keeping good relationships and working hard. There will always be bumps on the road. It will never be easy. However, never take things for granted… nothing is permanent. Change is always hard but always adapt. Be the very best you can be by looking at the positive in every situation. That’s why I hold dear to my heart, the JOURNEY is so much GREATER than the DESTINATION. And once you hit that destination… keep moving forward.
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?
Oh man, I think I said everything on the previous post haha! But there were so many struggles. I got rejected constantly! I also struggled with the fact that I was not a good enough dancer, I struggled due to my looks. It was either I was too short or too stubby to be a professional dancer. But through my choreography, through my passion to teach and share to others, I knew I would never give up.
As a teacher, director, and choreographer, through a small class or a big class, through a small audience or big audience, I always say to myself, there will always be that one person who will take whatever it is they can take from you, and it’s their choice whether or not they want to share that as well. Keep inspiring I told myself. Even on a hard day, keep inspiring, keep going because you never know who’s heart you will hold.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a dancer, choreographer, director, and teacher.
I specialize in Hip Hop Dance & Jazz Funk.
I specialize in choreography and education.
I am very proud of the fact that I am still moving forward in my very own pace and in my very own lane. I didn’t follow the agency pathway. I didn’t follow the commercial way. I am proud that I made it into the dance industry and dance community my own way.
The one thing that sets me apart from others is my spirit. I try my very best to give that positive energy to my students, my squad, my dancers, and to anyone who I am working with or just hanging out with. I have so much faith in people because that’s hard to come by especially in the artistic world. I always tell everyone, while working with me, please keep those positive mindsets and leave all that negativity out the door, because we are here to work hard, have fun, and just dance the night or day away.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
LUCK has played such a huge role in my life.
If it wasn’t because of the bad luck, I wouldn’t have such good luck. I strongly believe in that.
If it wasn’t for the greatest connections, I wouldn’t have experienced all the blessings and mistakes I’ve been through. Don’t get me wrong, mistakes are considered blessings as well because you live and learn. But I don’t rely on luck either. Dance life is filled with lots of rejection and through those rejections, we have to take it as fuel to keep going. There is always a reason why you got rejected in the first place, there is always a reason why we score last, and there is always a reason why it’s not for us at this time. God truly works in mysterious ways and I truly leave it in his hands.
- Phone: (818) 281-2849
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @Laydeeliz
- Facebook: @liezelmariechoreography
My Husband Jonathan Lorico
De Guzman & Lorico Family
Art of the Dance Academy – Sarah Raphael, Karla Escobar, Samantha Esguerra Gonzalez, Tommy & Leigh AN Dearth — Ms. Maureen, Ms. Leslie & Ms. Monica
CSUN Dance Faculty Dr. Paula Thomson, Maurice Godin, Donna Krasnow, Amy Pell, & Concha Madrid
COSMIC Dance Crew along shouting out Mariko Iwabuchi, Natuski Ishihara, Allen Paul Chung, Eddie Yang, Rowena Garcia, & Diana J. Kae
Zulu Maniacs – Spidey & Crystal Guster
The Recipe Company – CJ Edwards
CSUN HIP HOP
Choreographers Carnival & Aventura Dance Cruise – Paulette Azizian & Carey Yasis
Club Jete – Tiffany Billings
Alma Ramos – WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, NBA Los Angeles Clippers,
Michelle Garcia – Nike & Harlem Globtrotters
Danielle Jarvis, Sara Kempa-Leon & Betsy Uhler Colombo – LA UNBOUND
Wise Owl Productions – Gamalier, Lanita Smith, Jessica Sanchez
Conekt-LA Misty Rasconsmith, Timmy & Aury Reitz
Antics Dance Performance – Amy Catfox, Bliss Ultraomni, Cyrian Reed, Stephen Velazquez, & Emeroy Bernardo
Universal Studios STREET SWEEP
Stewart Irel Universal Studios Hollywood 5 Towers Stage
there is so much more out there… but thankful for EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU on my journey. I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart if I missed something or someone…