We had the good fortune of connecting with Cristina McKeever and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cristina, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I love this question. I used to think work life balance was something attainable, until I started reading Matthew Kelly’s book, “Off Balance”– (he is one of my favorite writers). The book discusses how the term “work-life balance” can often set us up for failure because we only have one life and to compartmentalize our personal and professional paths is nearly impossible. If something in our personal life occurs that lifts our spirits, it usually shows in our working lives; this I know to be true as an artist. Don’t get me wrong, I used to journal about finding my work-life balance almost every day for a year…however, with this new perception of wanting to gain lasting satisfaction from my life as a whole, rather than balance, I’ve been much more relaxed and at peace with where I am in my life. Over the past few months, I’ve been able to really slow down (as I imagine many of us have). I’ve spent more time in my hometown over the past 4 months than I have the last 7 years. I took some time off from dancing, which ultimately motivated me to start right back up again. I’ve spent more hours cooking and taking care of my vessel, reflecting on where I am and where I want to be. This forced pause yielded a surplus of clarity in regards to how I want to navigate my professional and personal life moving forward. My soul needs peace, it needs time to grow. It needs time to rest. I’ve truly enjoyed a lot of moments from my busy, ever-moving life in LA. However, now that I’ve taken a step away, I feel my growth as an artist blooming than ever before. I’ve found a need to dance, to create, rather than an obligation. So, in a roundabout way, my search for “work-life balance” is instead going to be a search for satisfaction. How richly satisfied can I be in all aspects of my life, so that they can grow exponentially and symbiotically? What is the best way for ME to live? The answer lies within and will continue to change as I progress into different stages of my life…the adventure awaits!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Like most dancers, I start most introductions with, “I’m a dancer”…and I love that! But I am much more than just that one entity. I am a choreographer, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend… the list goes on. All of these “titles” help me to create a foundation for my art. I have an immense love for music and musicality. I strive to be one with the textures of instrumentation and rhythm found in music, which comes from my love for tap dancing. I love the rich history it contains and how percussion can physically manifest itself into movement. My creative brain loves the collaboration of tap dance with other dance forms–most often being jazz dance which is essentially a direct relative to tap dance. Both dance forms originate from African traditions and experiences, and the humanity that has been expressed in these dance forms is probably one of the things I love the most about being a performing artist.

Some background: I knew that I wanted to dance and choreograph professionally since high school, so I decided the best step for me would be to study dance in a collegiate environment. I attended Chapman University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance in 2017 (and a minor in Italian studies…fun fact). My education is something I am deeply proud of because without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. It made me a better technician, a better historian, a better lifelong student and a better teacher. I still would say my graduation was one of the best days of my life.
I moved to Los Angeles without hesitation right after graduating. I didn’t take a year or even a summer for myself and dove right into this new chapter of my life. Within the first three months I began working behind the scenes, fulfilled an understudy role for a professional company, and choreographed my first music video– all while teaching 17 hours a week in three different SoCal locations to support myself, auditioning and maintaining my dance training. As you can assume from the length of that sentence, I became very overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because all the work I was doing wasn’t lining up with where I thought I should be.
*Cue the meltdown of the young, twenty-something trying to figure out her purpose*
Three years later I couldn’t be more grateful for that low point because it led me to where I am now. With each professional opportunity I’ve experienced, I’ve worked through obstacles of anxiety and fear of failure. I’ve learned to let go of a lot of expectations and reconnected with my spirituality. I’m approaching my training and career path with more of an open heart than ever before.  I’ve had the opportunity to work for really incredible choreographers that have become mentors and friends, as well as continue to develop my own choreographic voice. Right as the pandemic hit, I worked my first job that took me out of the United States! Things I dreamed about as a child and even now as an adult are coming true, all in divine timing. Being able to slow down and reflect on the last few years of my young career has finally given me permission to celebrate the wins, learn from the losses and manifest the experiences I want in the future. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to see how far you’ve already come.
Dance is the one thing that never fails to challenge me, to push me, to show me love and to remind me of tenacity. My love for it was the only thing that came easily. I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked to be where I am AND proud of the fact that I am still working and learning more from dance. Moving forward, some professional dreams I have are: create my own full-length, live dance show, perform in a movie musical, become a professor of dance at my alma mater, and continue performing live, teaching kiddos and travelling whilst doing what I love! (I’m putting these here on the interweb for some manifestation magic).
All in all, if there’s one thing I want those reading this to know about me, it’s that I want to lead, create and perform with authenticity and a pure heart. Anything I do, as long as it’s centered in those two ideals, I will be proud of.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite places in the Los Angeles area is actually Topanga Canyon. One of my best friends was married there and we’ve gone back a few times to explore the restaurants and coffee shops along the two-lane mountain road. It’s somewhere that I’d want to rent an Air-Bnb for a few days and fill my time walking through every little trinket store, grabbing a coffee and driving through the canyon to the quiet beaches north of Malibu. Pretty simple, but that’s me!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to make a few shoutouts: – My parents for always meeting me where I’m at. My other half, for your patient understanding and encouragement to be the best version of myself. My friends and fellow artists, for their love, laughs and perseverance. Also, I highly recommend the books “Resisting Happiness” and “Off Balance” by Matthew Kelly.

Website: www.cristinamckeever.me
Instagram: @cristina.mckeever

Image Credits
@focuslexi x IAF Compound Alissa Roseborough

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