We had the good fortune of connecting with Colleen Hendricks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Colleen, how do you think about risk?
Risk has played a pivotal key role in my life and career. Being a performer has always been my first love. I started dancing when I was 3 years old. The first memory I ever had was dancing in the living room in front of my father, mother and grandparents. They were cheering me on and I remember thinking “Wow! what if I tried doing this or that or danced on top of this…” At 3 years old I discovered the rush and adrenaline performing gave to me and it became inevitable to my parents to put me in a dance class. But being of mixed races; half filipino and half black my filipino family members always questioned my choice to pursue dance and tried to convince me I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of it. So growing up i always knew people in my life would look at my career choice as a risk. However, at my core I didn’t care. This misconception fueled my drive to succeed and grind even harder. To me, art is self expression in its purest form. An outlet where I can communicate a deeper meaning of my experiences, feelings and thoughts through my movement. The vulnerability this art form requires is a risk. It takes a level of fearlessness to put yourself out there in front of others regardless of judgment or ridicule. I had to learn to do this for myself in order to step out of my comfort zone to achieve my goal of becoming a professional dance. I strive to continue to take risks everyday in and out of the studio to grow to my highest potential.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I always get a bit sheepish every time someone asks to describe myself or my career. Talking about myself has always been hard but maybe my story can help someone else and their journey. So here we go. My journey has certainly not been easy. I went through a lot of loss and adversities during my childhood that forced me to grow up quickly. At 8 years old I lost my father who instilled a love of art, music and dance into my life. He was a musician and vocalist himself and In my early years he always pushed my creativity. So when he was suddenly gone I felt a part of me was gone. Right after his passing is when I started getting serious about dance, I believe as my way to stay connected to him. I fell in love with the art form and dabbled in every style growing up but always felt the most connected to modern and contemporary. When I graduated from Junior College I applied to my dream dance program at Cal State Long Beach and obtained my BFA with a goal of pursuing a dance career in concert and commercial dance in 2017. I got everything I could out of the program and loved every minute of it. However when I graduated and lost the consistent schedule I became overwhelmed and to be honest, scared. I went through a lot of mental health issues the immediate years after graduation. My imposter syndrome caught up with me and I began to neglect pursuing my own personal dance career out of fear. I was broke and scared and I ended up working odd jobs but found some light and creativity in teaching. I fell in love with it but was new and didn’t have a lot of experience. I began teaching at a local studio and found my groove. I enjoyed pushing studio/competitive dancers to cultivate their own individual artistry as well as using choreographic tools I learned in concert work and setting it on a competitive commercial stage.
In 2020 the pandemic hit the dance community hard. But I held onto hope that it would eventually rebuild again and I knew I wanted to be apart of it. The shutdowns and isolations was an incredibly hard time but it made me realize how much I didn’t want to give up my dreams of dancing professionally. Since then I moved to Los Angeles, am currently a guest artist for a company filled with incredible humans and artists (LA Contemporary Dance Company), in addition to working with other companies in the LA area and am Artistic Director/mentor of a pre professional dance program (Off the Floor Dance) at Elevation Studios (Signal Hill).
The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all this is to ENJOY THE PROCESS. Even through rejections and hardships I never want to lose focus on the possibilities ahead.
As a choreographer I want my work to feel powerful, strong and relatable. I love working off emotion and building movement based on personal experiences, I want my work to encompass true storytelling and nuance. I feel the most reward when I can challenge a dancer to achieve something they never thought possible for themselves all while developing their own personal artistry. I want my dancers to feel comfortable with collaboration and using their voice. I find my best work are ones that feel innate and grounded within me and my dancer(s). This is what I try to instill in my students. When I first began choreographing I would always be so concerned with what people thought of my work. I would obsess and take every “bad” note personal to then change it until it didn’t even feel like mine anymore just to please others. As soon as I stopped doing that and followed my instincts the more I enjoyed my choreographic process. I learned despite anyone else’s opinion I needed to trust myself to make work I was truly proud of.
Dance has saved my life so many times. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. It is a lifeline; it is how I communicate deeper meaning when I struggle to articulate in words. I am most excited to continue my journey and keep learning. It is when I am happiest. I am proud of where I am today but in so many ways I feel like I am just getting started.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
To be honest I’ve only been living in LA for 3 months so I’m quite new! However I have been to some pretty awesome places so far. Maybe we’d start with a hike at Griffith Park. The trails aren’t too hard and the views are a beauty!
Then enjoy some vegan burgers that can be found at Monty’s Burger on Sunset.
I love shopping especially at Melrose Trading Post or any of the vintage or thrift shops.
Dinner would have to be either Shabuya in Koreatown (perfect for a group hotpot experience) or my absolute favorite ramen spot ever (even before I moved to LA); Silverlake Ramen.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Ah! There are so many people that I can think of who have helped me along my journey. My shoutout goes to my Mother, my mentors in college who I am still close to to this day, my close friends, coworkers and students.
Other: Email: email@example.com
Cameras and Dancers Lee Gumbs Photography commissioned by Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company. KT Madden Photography Gregory R.R. Crosby DanceMakers Dance Convention Showbiz Talent