We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelsey Ang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelsey, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I think that artistic work is incredibly meaningful and important for creating change and making a positive impact. I love when my work as a performer, teacher or entrepreneur is able to bring joy, help people, or make a difference in someone’s day. Connecting to others through dance is the most rewarding and fulfilling part of my job. I believe the world needs more artists and I want more people to see the value of dance. Dance is not a common nor a respected career choice in Asian culture and where I am from. I wanted to be a professional dancer to show people that it’s possible to have a career in your passion and lead the way for future aspiring dancers from Asia. Every job has its challenges and although a creative career path is especially unpredictable and challenging, it is worth it because I love what I do.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a dancer, choreographer, teacher, entrepreneur and have recently also explored dance in media through directing, movement coaching, and photography. I am passionate about performing for the concert stage as well as dance for films, music videos, fashion campaigns and commercial works.
Having lived in a few different places, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and LA, I am passionate about connecting with people from all over the world through my art. For my recent project “Night Market,” I created a series of dance films with collaborators based in Hong Kong, Philippines, Los Angeles, Indonesia and Iceland.
One of the things I am most proud of is SHIFT Dance, an international dance platform creating rich arts experiences to connect movers worldwide and shift the landscape of contemporary dance in Asia. Our summer program, SHIFT Dance intensive, is the only contemporary dance intensive for youth in Hong Kong bringing international artists to Asia. Our Guest Artists have included internationally-renowned dance artists from LA/ California, Germany and Australia. There isn’t much of an arts culture in Hong Kong and growing up, I didn’t have the same opportunities for training as those in the US or Europe. Moving to LA was a challenge because I had to start making connections from scratch in a new country. With SHIFT, I am able to offer unique contemporary dance experiences to communities in Asia, share what I have learned in LA, and also bridge dance networks between Asia and LA. It is really rewarding when young dancers are inspired by these programs and are given more resources to pursue their passion.
I created SHIFT and started the business soon after graduating from college. One of the most important lessons I learned from this is to create your own opportunities rather than waiting for someone else to have a job for you.
Working as a freelancer, especially during COVID, I learned that it is important to diversify and be versatile. Performing, choreographing, teaching, running a business, and working in arts administration have made my career more sustainable because I am able to do multiple things. I think that these different areas of my job also help each other. Teaching gets more people to experience dance and creates more awareness for my choreography and work as a performer. My work as a performer influences what I teach my students. Working in marketing and arts administration gives me the skills I need to promote my own classes or shows. Currently, I am exploring creative direction and movement coaching to share dance and movement with people through different avenues. My creative agency, SHIFT Creative, creates movement-based content and performances for brands and artists. I have been working with musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers to integrate dance with other artistic mediums. I think that collaborating with artists and creatives in other disciplines will help build audiences for movement and create more sustainability for the field of dance.
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.
We would definitely check out art museums (The Broad, LACMA, The Getty) and any performances that might be happening. We would go to the Griffith Observatory for beautiful views of LA and go to Malibu for the beaches and hiking.
For food, we would go to Night + Market, Love & Salt, SOL Mexican Cocina, Jon & Vinny’s, The Butcher’s Daughter, Wurstküche, Northern Thai Food Club. We would definitely go get tacos too.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mentors and teachers who have supported and believed in me – John Todd, Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, Rachel Nowosad, Jacqui Roberts, Jim Vincent, Cheryl Mann, Teresa Heiland, Lisa Gillespie, and Sarah Hardy. I am especially thankful for Lillian Barbeito who encouraged me to start my own business, SHIFT Dance, and mentored me as I created my first summer intensive – it was one of the best career decisions I have made. Her educational programs with BODYTRAFFIC and HAVEN have also been integral to my training as a dancer.
Loyola Marymount University’s Dance Program has had a huge influence on who I am as a dancer and person, and I am eternally grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community.
I’d also love to shout out Invertigo Dance Theatre and Laura Karlin for hiring me when I had just graduated and for giving me opportunities to dance, teach and work as part of the administrative team in a non-profit dance company.
WE-Program directed by Mathilde Gilhet and Dario Dinuzzi is an amazing initiative supporting artistic projects around the world. I am so thankful for their support of SHIFT and their belief in my project.
And ofcourse, family and friends who have supported my art along the way including Karina Curlewis, Shaan Azim, Gabbi Farillas, Corinne Ang, Jeremy Morganty, Celine Chai, my parents and many more!
Other: https://www.shiftdanceintensive.com https://nightmarketproject.com
Jeffrey Han Lee Gumbs Justin Tang