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Meet Trailblazer Joan Padeo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joan Padeo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My upbringing in both classical music and dance dictated my childhood. I had piano and ballet lessons, and eventually voice and accordion lessons. My older brother and I attended a music school that required merit exams, music theory, and music history, and the dance studio I attended was run under RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) Testing. Merit testing in multiple aspects of my life meant that at an early age I had to learn to perform under pressure. I kept on with both music and dance classes until high school, which was when I committed my time outside of school to solely dance.

I attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where I decided dance would be my career– not just an extracurricular activity. From LACHSA, I furthered my education at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee for my freshman year of college. From Boston, I transferred to California Institute of the Arts as a second year.

CalArts culture encourages experimenting and provides you with tools to bring your ideas to fruition. This is where I fell in love with creating. Here, I learned that the more refined my taste would become, the more I would have to push myself to reach that level of execution. My time at CalArts was definitely a defining factor in pursuing both choreography and dance.

I graduated from California Institute of the Arts with my BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography. Since then, I’ve been teaching and working professionally in Los Angeles. I am currently working with immersive dance-theater creators, Iris Company. We’ve just wrapped up our third season and will be returning to our roots with a full length immersive show– keep an eye out for that later this year. Having worked with CARLON, Bryn Cohn + Artists, Acts of Matter, B. Dunn Movement, and A. Ordaz Dance I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to not only perform physically challenging works, but also tour and sing in productions.

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?
I think anyone who is doing what they love and says it’s been easy is lying. That’s simply not how life goes. 

Being an artist can be exhausting. As a dancer, you give both your mind and body to the process. In the most fulfilling processes there’s a generous amount of give and a healthy amount of take built into the work because everyone involved is on the same page. On the flip side, being a choreographer can also be taxing because you spend all day creating something out of literally nothing. You become the well from which everything is drawn. I’ve learned that it is massively important to know when to rest so that you can more accurately and articulately respond. 

Another challenge I’ve run into is choreographing on and having been cast with dancers who have spread themselves too thin because they’ve committed themselves to too many projects at one time. As truly wonderful as it is to say “yes,” practicing the value of saying “no” can be just as beneficial. Working more gigs than you can handle is not sustainable, nor is it doing any favors for anyone who hired you to give 100%. You’ve created strain rather than freedom in a process. 

Tell us about your work – what should we know?
I believe in research. I heavily research the topics I want to make my dance about. Research, research, research. Not to exhaust the topic but because I love having multiple entry points to approach one topic.

Whether I intend it or not, my choreographic work always ends up being reflective of specific experiences in my life. I draw a lot of inspiration from my understanding of dimensions and time: how we exist in relation to each other, as well as space and nature.

• • •

A work I’m most proud of, Crest, premiered last year at Highways Performance Space. The cast included myself and 5 dancers. I collaborated with Grammy-Award winning musician and composer, Alex Wand, on the 30 minute work.

Crest looks into the finite and fragile nature of life. This work aims to reflect the resilience of life, how even though the ending of all things is inevitable, existing at all can be a rebellious and liberating act.

As a maker and performer, I’ve shown work at Redcat Theater, Highways Performance Space, Santa Fe Springs Art Festival, and Mimoda. This work has also landed me gigs in a more commercial light, working on videos with Solange, Fyohna, Bella Thorne, and James Benton as well as spots for Palmolive and ATHLETA either performing choreography by other artists or myself.

Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?

  1. If there’s a company or choreographer that excites you, or that you want to be a part of, follow their journey. If they have class or performances near you, go! If it’s daunting, or not the time to speak to them after a show or class, there are other ways you can express your interest. In my experience, there was a choreographer from out of state holding an audition for a project in LA so I emailed them and mentioned I had been following them for a while. I sent in my reel and was invited to audition and I ended up getting the gig. After the process they offered to take a look at a piece I had recently choreographed offering a seasoned outside eye.
  1. I am not usually outgoing by nature, but I do know when to go after something I want. If you’re feeling sheepish just remember that if you never ask, the answer will always be no.
  2. Staying in touch with past teachers or mentors has proved fruitful. I do this with people that I no longer run into on a regular basis. One practice I try to maintain is reminding those I want to stay connected with that I’m still working. Every two to three months I’ll send them a personal email letting them know what I’m up to, maybe inviting them to an upcoming performance, and wishing them well. The goal is to remind them who you are without taking too much of their time. Connections are only useful when they remember who you are.

Contact Info: 

  • Website: 
  • Email: 
  • Personal IG: @joanhollypadeo 
  • Choreography IG: @joanpadeo.choreo 
  • Facebook: @joanpadeo 

Image Credit:
Rebecca Orlandini, Zachary Kemper, Natalie Alvarado, Brigette Dunn-Korpela

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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