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Meet Trailblazer Cecilia Wen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cecilia Wen.

Cecilia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I moved out here to LA for college, University of Southern California specifically, when I was 18 years old, being born and raised in Shanghai, China. It is definitely a risky move since I do not have any friends or family in the U.S. let alone LA, but weirdly it was something that I made up my mind to do since I was 14. That teenage girl in me somehow knew and felt this was not where I belong nor where I should end up as much as I have so much love for my city and respect for the culture I came from–somewhere in California is where I need to be for my love for music and dance and the environment that will help me become the woman that I want to be.

Music and dance have always managed to take me to another mental space that is unlike any other and my connection with music and movement are irreplaceable. However, being brought up in such a conservative and traditional culture, I was always told that anything related to art is considered to be a hobby at the most regardless of whether it is my passion or not. Therefore, just like every other international student, I chose something else as my major of study. Unlike most typical storyline where I had to be stuck with something I hate for the sake of pleasing my family, I actually love my field of study–psychology as the human mind has always sparkled strong interests in me. That is when I realized my desire to have the capabilities to connect with different people is the common theme here for my interest in psychology and my passion for music and dance– One is to build the scientific tool and factual information for me to understand more perspectives; one to evoke emotions through movements that are universal to everyone.

I did not start dancing until the second year, I moved out here and only started as something to do in my spare time keep my love for dance alive in the city that has one of the best dance resources in the world. Since I was taking classes for me and for pure joy, I was so consistent that no matter what is going on I made sure I took 3 classes a week and little did I know I was growing at a really good pace with no fear and no judgment. When I got offered my first job as a dancer a year or so later to dance for San Francisco Pride Parade, I was shocked because all my life I was made to believe that dance would not pay bills but here I am, holding a check made from doing the very thing that I love as the opportunity fell into my lap. “Maybe I can do this and I should give this dance career a go,” I said to myself 3 years ago.

As my goal in dance has taken a professional direction, I train as I mean it. As weird as it is, the more I train, the more I realize how much work I need to do especially being in an environment with such insane amount of talents and people who have been dancing their whole life. This journey has been nothing any less than a mental battle and having the right mindset is one of the most important characteristics to thrive and have that longevity of whatever it is that I am building.

The biggest lesson that has helped me get to where I am today is that understanding my journey is unique and unlike anyone else’s, which means that it is never productive or beneficial to compare myself with anyone at all. A lot of toxicity can come from comparing because it creates self-doubt and that feeling of not doing enough and not good enough. But the truth is there is not ONE single way to achieve what I want, the hard parts are: 1) really knowing what I want with all the distraction and comparison that is present 2) knowing that It is okay for what I want to be different than what every other dancer wants for their dance career.

Bringing the focus back to myself and gain as much self-knowledge as I can through different experiences is the type of mindset that keeps me motivated. All the things I have gone through as a foreigner, as a woman, and as a dancer has shown me to learn so much about myself and shaped me to be the way I am today and grow into the human that I am proud of. You cannot know what it means to stay true to yourself unless you actually know yourself and that will always be something that I am working on and am inspired by.

Having such a clear vision has been guiding me in how I am training and building what I want to offer because it gives purposes in my everyday routine. In return, knowing and believing in what I have is always going to valuable and irreplaceable stops me from comparing myself and being concerned about what other people are doing. My path does not need to look like anyone else’s and I know I am working towards where I want to be and who I want to be in my way.

Has it been a smooth road?
I think my biggest struggle has been, and I am still working on this, is believing in the value that I have to offer. Being a teacher/leader at my early 20s is a tricky thing because from time to time I feel like I have to show and convince people that I am not just some random 20-something and have the knowledge to bring to the table because of how I got here and what I have been through. Having to understand and come to terms with the fact that others will see how I see myself and recognize what I have to offer means that I have to believe in myself twice as much and believe in the fact that my being and staying true to what I do is enough.

I think this is especially hard for women because we often grew up with all the “dos” and “don’ts” from society and how we are supposed to be as women, which makes us constantly question ourselves, feeling like not enough in any sort of way and/or feeling we cannot be 100% . I want to say that whatever it is that you want to do and whoever you want to become, you have to believe in it and who you are so strong that you can smell it, see it and almost touch it — That right there is the power that women need to reclaim. By reclaiming that power, you will be at peace and secure because no one can make you feel any less than without your own permission. Learning to walk away from situations, people or environment that make you feel like it is not welcomed to be who you are or you have to dim your light to make others comfortable because you don’t need to and you are meant to shine.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
With my passion for psychology as well as dance, I have discovered that I want to use movement and my abilities to connect with people to help them become better versions of themselves and to start important conversations.

As a choreographer, I love putting stories and giving purpose behind my movement. I truly believe that it is easier to create dance steps than creating a story or a conversation. To me, dance as an art form is ultimately to connect people. Therefore having an intention and purpose for my choreography is essential, which is my artistic outlet to express how I feel and open a discussion and have a conversation about modern, relevant and relatable topics with people who engage in my work.

I don’t think everyone an amazing choreographer makes a great teacher & I don’t think every teacher out there enjoys and loves the nature of teaching the same. With that being said, I feel so passionate about teaching: 1) I enjoy giving a whole lot, especially in an art form that I am in love with. 2) as much as I am the teacher, I am always learning from my students and my teaching experience. I started teaching beginner heels last year and just started my own class. Instead of just promoting looking sexy and getting a workout in( do not get me wrong, these are also amazing aspects to focus on), I lead my class to focus on self-love, confidence and being in touch with femininity, which is so much more than being sexy and so much more individualized. Teaching fuels me and motivates me, and I will continue to let that inspire me growing in different ways.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
One of the things I learned very early in life thanks to the way my mom raised me is that always remember to look at the bigger picture and what is important in the long run. She is the first person to send me to English school when I was young because she has foreseen the importance for someone in my generation to be bilingual; she is the person who encouraged me to visit the U.S. for a month to see if I liked the lifestyle there when I was 14 so that we can decide whether I was going to go to an international school or not. I learned from her that I have to always know what I am after and aiming for FIRST and set my goals and plan accordingly. As I grow into my adulthood, I consider myself a visionary as I have a clear vision for myself and I check in with myself from time to time, especially when I am feeling lost or frustrated, if what I am doing align with my vision and if it benefits me in the long run. This mindset not only helped me prioritize all the things I have going on in life and waste a lot less time but also enable me to keep my vision alive.

Pricing:

  • Beginner Heels Class Every Wed 7:30 at The Spot LA – $12

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Aditi Harish (@aditi.harish), Allie Gomes (@agpixx), Elisa Pitella (@elisapitellaphoto), Jeanna Snipes (@snipesshotit)

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