We are pretty excited to share this interview with the multi talented Calida Kuzek. As a dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher, it's clear that Calida loves to dance, and you only need to take one glance at her Instagram for photographic proof. Having recently relocated from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams Calida offers great insights into the world of dance. So sit down for Like A Girl - Calida Kuzek.
1. Tell us about yourself.
Heya! I guess to start...my name is Calida Kuzek. I am a professional dancer from a small town in Northern BC. I have two big bros, two year old incredible twin nieces and I love dancing, music, candy apples and the beach!
2. What do you do?
I am a professional dancer/teacher/choreographer. I feel so flippin fortunate to be able to dance, and to do it for a living! I started dancing when I was 4 years old, my mom put me in a ballet class at the dance studio in my hometown Quesnel. It was not a love at first plie type of deal.. I was terrified. I remember crying a lot. Like an embarrassing A LOT. But, for some reason I stuck it out and after a while, I cut back on the crying and fell in love.
I think I always knew dance was going to be my life. You know in planning class in high school when they would have you research jobs and what you might want to do etc. I always felt like, nah.. I got this. I know what I want. Dance. I didn't really know what that meant but it lead me to Vancouver in 2009, where I trained under Joanne Pesusich in The Source Dance Company. After a year of training, I sort of leapt out on my own, signed with an agency and started doing fun live projects and working in Film &TV. One thing I love about the industry is that every week is completely different. You never know what's to come, which can be very scary and overwhelming at times, but for the most part its pretty exhilarating!
3. When did you first become interested in dancing/choreography?
I have been teaching dance since I was 13. I started teaching at my hometown studio, and continued when I moved to Van, eventually teaching at workshops travelling across North America. Just in this past year have I started teaching adults with the rad company RSVP33 in Vancouver. Teaching really is the most rewarding experience. To see your students, of any age, literally be moved by music, it gets me all weepy. I love it.
4. Who are some women that inspire you in your life and work?
My mom is my biggest inspiration. She is the strongest person I know. Her will and determination and "just do it" attitude are constantly pushing me forward. When I was younger, she would actually help me prep choreography for my classes! She would sit at the front of the studio or in the living room, wherever we were, and help me make decisions. She taught me to say "yes" and trust my own ideas and creativity.
I am very, very fortunate to have a lot of wonderfully inspiring women in my life! I could list dozens of them! One artist I am particularly inspired by right now is "Miss Me". Miss Me is an unapologetic, opinionated street artist, or Art Vandal, if you will. And I admire her for just that. Her ability to create and share whatever the F is on her mind, and not feel ashamed or self conscious or afraid. She is a bad ass.
5. What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about dance and music and the power they have, and the potential they have to help girls and women ( I mean, everyone really, but specifically girls) around the world. I have learnt so much from dance, and it has given me a great amount of self confidence and worth, and I intend on sharing that with as many young girls as I can.
6. What is the most helpful piece of advice someone has given you?
It goes back to my mom, or maybe Nike, who I heard it from first I'm not sure, but "just do it". If you want it, whatever "IT" is, set your track to get there, and just do it. It's so simple. Duh. Just do it.
7. Why do you do what you do and what do you love most about what you do?
When I dance, I feel like the most authentic and honest version of myself. To me it really is the purest form of expression and release.
8. Are there challenges you have faced in your work specifically because you're woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes. I feel like female dancers are often objectified and expected to do a lot "less" than dance when they are hired. For example, I walked onto the set of a music video I was cast as a dancer on, and was told to "put on my lingerie and go jump around in the bouncy castle". Which I kindly answered "oh hell no". I spoke up and didn't do something I wasn't comfortable with. That level of comfortability can be completely different for everyone, and that's fine. YOU DO YOU, whatever it is, but do you!!!
9. Are there any particular people who you would absolutely love to collaborate with on something?
Miss Me, for sure. Missy Elliot ( the dream!!) My two best friends, Dianne and Greer and I are slowly but surely working together on creating a dance workshop to empower young girls. Dianne and Greer inspire me on the daily so collaborating with them has been extremely exciting!
10. What would be your advice to girls and women?
I think the most important thing is to trust your gut and stick to your guns. If you are not comfortable in a certain situation, or you're being asked to do something other than dance, and it's not what you signed up for, you don't have to. SPEAK UP! I mean, in any situation! Speak up, demand the respect you deserve.
11. You've recently relocated to Los Angeles from Vancouver, BC. How did that come about? Any advice for women looking to make the same move?
Moving to LA had been a dream of mine for many years, it is THE place to be if you are a commercial dancer. I began working towards obtaining my O-1 Visa for the USA in 2015, which would allow me to work in the States (being on tour with a major artist is my DREAM!). After a lot of time, tears, money, help from friends and hustling it finally came thru! I've been in LA for almost a month now and it feels incredible. Being here, going to auditions, training with some of the best dancers in the world, it's overwhelming and I have to pinch myself. STOKED! To any other women who are thinking of making the move, I would want to tell them it is not going to be easy. The process is going to test you and really make you question if this is what you want. Be honest with yourself. If it is, awesome! You can push through and do it too. If it's not, then that's fine! Sometimes I think dancers think getting to LA is the be all end all, and for some people it is, but there are so many other ways to have dance in your life, you will find whatever fits you best!
12. Any stray thoughts?
Thank you for chatting with me and taking a little peak into my world! Girls rule! Dance rules! Love rules! hahaha! :)
Photo Details: Headshot credit to Karolina Turek. Header photo credit to Richie Lubaton. Rooftop class photo is from a class I taught RSVP33 at The Four Seasons Hotel for Global Wellness Day last June. The other is a "behind the scenes" candid with other dancers and our choreographer on the Lifetime movie Britney Ever After.