We had the good fortune of connecting with Keren Ashri and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Keren, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk has played a leading role in my life so far. I was born and raised in Israel. I started dancing when I was four years old. Ballet, modern and jazz. When I was 16, I discovered the Latin dance world. At the age of 17, I was already teaching salsa classes in Tel Aviv. After my service in the Israeli Air Force, I was still teaching and performing in Israel wherever I could, However there weren’t a lot of opportunities to turn dance into a career back then. After some pressure from family, I decided to quit dancing and enroll in university. Four months before the school year started, I performed for what I thought would be the last time at the Israeli Salsa Congress. A very talented dancer and choreographer by the name of Frankie Martinez offered me the opportunity of a lifetime – to join his Afro Latin Funk Dance Company called ABAKUA based in NYC. I felt like Cinderella. I’d never been to the US before, I didn’t know anyone there and I didn’t speak fluent English. But I kept hearing this voice in my head saying: “It’s now or never”. Three months later, I moved to NYC and never looked back. It was the scariest and biggest risk I had ever taken in my life at that time. The first two years were extremely hard and lonely. I think I cried every day for six months straight, I missed my family so much. But my wanting to be an artist was stronger than anything, it changed my life. I was with ABAKUA for almost 12 years, traveling the world and teaching Dance. I met extraordinary humans and learned so many life lessons. The second big risk I’ve taken came after those wonderful years with ABAKUA. I found myself struggling to maintain the NYC dancer lifestyle, I was no longer in my 20’s and I wanted more. That’s when I found acting. I studied with the wonderful Penny Templeton before making another life change and moving to sunny California. You would think after moving from Israel to NYC this would be a piece of cake, but it wasn’t. It was another hard reset on everything. New job, new friends, new routine. Los Angeles is so spread out and meeting new people was extremely difficult, but I kept reminding myself why I am here and what I wanted. My first year in LA was ROUGH and lonely. But once I found my acting class with Robert D’Avanzo Studio, I finally found my community. I have been in LA for four years now and I love it. Who knows what or when will be the next big risk?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been dancing since I was four years old and dreaming about performing on big stages. In 2015, ABAKUA was invited to perform at the Lincoln Center for an outdoor anniversary event. It was a dream come true. We performed for almost 2000 people, and by the end I think I was shaking…just looking at the crowd not believing this was really happening. I think being an artist and choosing a lifetime of no stability is a challenge of its own. It’s a vicious, mental cycle where you go from being proud, excited, and motivated for a period of time to being depressed and questioning all of your life choices as well as your talent. But I chose this path when I was 16. I never had a plan B. Even though I still have a “survival job”, I try to remind myself during my low days that it’s just part of the journey, the ups and downs will never go away. I have to trust that everything is going as it should and just enjoy the ride. In these Pandemic times, I had the opportunity to really focus on where I see myself and what I want to do. Instead of waiting to book the role I wanted, I decided to create it. I teamed up with a close, talented actor and writer friend – Kat Silvia – and we created Welcome to a Restaurant – a sketch comedy series on Instagram. We both worked in the hospitality industry for years and wanted to create something fun with no expectations just to keep our minds and souls creative. We launched the series in December 2020 and it’s been so great to work on something all my own. I now have a greater understanding for what it takes to produce film projects and, let me tell you, it’s not easy going at all. Writing has definitely changed the way I now approach a script as an actor. We are in a business of endless learning, and I’m excited for all the knowledge I have absorbed from this experience and will carry with me onto the next project. @welcometoarestuarant
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Funny story…surprisingly, I managed to live in LA for three years without a car. After living in NYC for 13 years, you can pretty much handle anything. I recently got a car in February 2020 right before the shut down. I have yet to truly discover LA, but these are a few spots I would take visiting family and friends if everything were still open: Venice Beach / Santa Monica to stroll along the ocean after breakfast at Shutters On The Beach. Angeles National Forest – there are so many amazing hikes in that area… you really can’t go wrong! It’s a full day of adventure. California Science Center in downtown LA – I actually took my parents there on their last visit and they loved it! For food, I highly recommend Noah’s Bagels for breakfast (because I miss NYC) and of course Porto’s Bakery. There are great comedy shows at The Comedy Club and improv shows at Groundlings. I also really like taking boat rides in Marina Del Rey and catching a show at the Pantages Theater (or any theater, really). Dining options – TAO, Ca Del Sole, Babel, Republique, Aroma Coffee & Tea, Felix in venice and Quarters BBQ. I will probably have to discover the rest of LA with the help of Google 🙂
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not be where I am today without the following people supporting me in so many ways. I will be forever grateful to Frankie Martinez for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. Johnny Matos, Aisha Koswara and Alan Litwack for their endless support, shelter, and mental balance in the concrete jungle years. Overall, though, I feel like every human I have encountered so far in this life has contributed to where and who I am today. Friends, ex’s, coworkers, acquaintances, and random strangers – regardless if it was a good or a bad experience. I thank them all because I love where I am today. I can truly say I am happy and lucky to keep pursuing what I love and am most passionate about. Cheesy but true.
Matthew Schmidt Iluminadora Photography Joseph Pasaoa Christopher Duggan Valentin Behringer