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Rising Stars: Meet Cristina McKeever

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cristina McKeever.

Hi Cristina, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I was born and raised in the Coachella Valley in Southern California, most popularly known as Palm Springs. I was enrolled in dance by the age of three and have been dancing for the last 22 years. By the time I was a junior in high school, I knew that I had to dance professionally – not dancing wasn’t an option for me. In fact, I have a very early memory of my late grandfather singing a song in Italian to me as a child that translates to “dance, dance, forever dance…”; little did he know that he was foreshadowing what would become my passion.

For me, studying dance in college was the next step. I was fortunate enough to attend my dream school, Chapman University in Orange, CA, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and a minor in Italian Studies in 2017. For four years, I was immersed in dance history, techniques of multiple genres, choreography, dance science, production work and more. Upon graduating, I made the move to Los Angeles where I signed with Go2Talent Agency, and began my journey into the world of post-graduate, professional life. I jumped headfirst into my professional training, understudying with a dance company, working in production, teaching, auditioning, choreographing, etc. I’m thankful that in the midst of this crazy, ever-moving life I was able to meet and work with some really wonderful people that have become great sources of inspiration to me.

Four years later, I am proud to say that I have experienced some really wonderful opportunities and I am excited to keep exploring what this creative career has to offer my life. Dancing for live audiences, creating my own work, collaborating with other artists, and teaching young dancers has filled the last four years with a plethora of memories and opportunities for growth and development. I strive to become the best version of myself with every passing day, and I’m really enjoying the person and artist I am becoming.

Today, I’d like to say that I’m a much clearer and more grounded version of the artist I was four years ago. I used to see youth as a setback, but now I see it as time to continue developing who and what I am meant to become, rather than what I have not yet accomplished. I’m prioritizing health and wellness, developing my role as a teacher, creating choreography and continuing my dance training with confidence in what I can offer to the world. This non-linear career path has taught me the importance of manifestation and faith; a dear friend/mentor (shoutout Dana Wilson) likes to say “my coolest gig is right around the corner”…and I most definitely believe that to be true.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Has my path been 100% smooth sailing? Not entirely, however I am very grateful for the challenges that I experienced (which is hilarious because when you are undergoing obstacles the last thing you want to think of is gratitude for the experience).

Long story short, anxiety has become one of the most commonly used words in my personal vocabulary. It has been my loyal and unwanted companion for a huge chunk of the past 3-4 years. I experienced panic attacks and stress because of the pressure I was putting on myself to achieve everything I ever dreamed of as an artist in such a short amount of time. It still loves to creep back into my life from time to time when I am not seeing the big picture, but fortunately, I’ve been able to navigate how to handle those moments with grace and faith.

My brother, Nate, used to tell me that anxiety can be a gift, to which I believe I replied with something profane and argumentative (ha!) – however, I now see how he was totally correct. It’s a warning sign from within to tell ourselves to take a step back and only handle what you can control. It is such a common sense lesson that everyone knows at face value but takes many trials and tribulations to completely understand.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a dancer, a choreographer and dance educator and I am so passionate about what I do. Some of my experience includes live performances in LA + NYC, cruise ship, choreography for short films/music videos and more. I also teach young dancers ages 8-18, and I am dedicated to providing them with dance education that emphasizes proper technique, musicality and developing a love for expressing one’s self through dance!

My choreography is very musically driven and often places an emphasis on storytelling. As well as studying and teaching many genres of dance (jazz, modern, ballet, etc…), I am also a tap dancer, which emphasizes the relationship between movement and musicianship. A lot of my work includes tap dance combined with multiple genres of dance; I really love experimenting with how multiple dance forms can interact and inform one another. I’m hoping to create a full-length, multi-genre dance show set to classic jazz music that tells the stories of everyday human life…stay tuned!

I am most proud of the tenacity and authenticity that I’ve developed over the past few years and I’m proud of the accomplishments that I’ve achieved this far in my career. I’m also proud of the teacher and educator I’ve become. Being a very driven person, it’s habitual to say that I’ve not done enough of what I set out to do, but in reflecting on how long I’ve been working professionally, I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short time and it excites me to think of what else I can achieve over the decades to come.

I’m known for being a modern twist on an old classic–I’ve been told that I have an old soul and I believe that shows in my dancing and in my creative work. I love knowing the history of my craft and being able to use that foundation and create my own interpretation inspired by the legends we know and love. I am a life-long learner and I’m always intrigued to learn more about the history of dance, music, performance and more. I’d like to believe that the way I treat others is what makes me memorable. As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” I strive to lead with dignity and kindness; that never goes out of style in my book.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Happiness for me lies in quiet mornings on my porch, listening to the bird’s chirp and watching the morning sun pour over my backyard. It’s listening to my parents’ laugh, watching my friends succeed. Happiness for me is dancing spontaneously in the living room with my boyfriend, a good belly laugh with my girlfriends and any dessert that has dark chocolate in it. Happiness is watching a student’s “lightbulb moment” or knowing that my art made someone’s day better. Happiness is seeing photos of my nieces and nephews, having a home-cooked meal, or capturing a photograph in golden hour. And of course, happiness is dancing and creating. In short, happiness for me lies in the little things. A late professor of mine once said, “God is in the details”. I find happiness knowing that.

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Image Credits:

Alissa Roseborough Photography @alissarosephoto

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