We had the good fortune of connecting with Will Johnston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Will, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I look at the balance between work and life by the ability of each side to support the other. What I mean by that is the elements of my work life call for a need of the elements in my, lets say, non-work life and at the same time the elements in my non-work life call for a need of the elements in my work life. One is dependent on the other and since there exists only two sides, the interdependency creates balance. So I really try to honor the elements in each side when I feel they are calling. Some examples of elements in my work life are, of course, dance, creativity, activity, drive, schedules, peers, analyzation, development, editing, progress, goal setting, achieving (and it goes on). Some examples of elements in my non-work life are family, nature, travel, language, food, my dog, more dogs, animals, music, fitness, alone time, community time (and this also goes on). Of course there are elements that exists on both sides but in general I do feel and see a distinction between the two. I think because I love all the elements listed above so much, my body and mind crave them, so I honor that when I feel it. If the ocean is calling me one day (non-work life element), and I have the opportunity, I go. This evokes a special feeling in me, as it always has. This feeling spurs itself into a creative drive and desire to move and dance (work life element). I honor that when I feel it. When that sense of creative drive, sparked from the visit to the ocean, lets say, dries out. I will crave another element, perhaps a certain food (non-work life element) I go and have it. Fueling that desire then again reignites my ability to schedule and move onto the next work idea. Then it just really becomes an organic cycle and. really. a conversation between work life and non work life. Listen to where your mind and body push and pull you. This sense of self listening has been the healthiest pathway for me to finding balance between my work life and non-work life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Hi 🙂 My name is Will Johnston and I am a Los Angeles based choroergrapher/dancer. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I was a recreational dancer up until 7th grade where I started to train a bit more seriously meaning I wasn’t taking 1 class a week (hah). I then went onto to get my BFA in Dance Performance. BFA in Dance Choreography, BS in Mechanical Engineering, and finally my MFA in dance all from the University of California Irivne. While in college I began working professionally as a dancer n LA and started my own dance company, Entity Contemporary Dance, along with co-director/founder, Marissa Osato. So my art is a physicalization of this entire time line as a dancer, which as it stands today, is 29 years and counting 🙂 Something I really cherish in my craft, is the multiple sources that have contributed to my career. Whether that be studio dance world, collegiate/academic world, concert dance world, commercial dance world, or the collegiate hip-hop world, I have taken so much from my experience in each of those communities and celebrated the differences and the similarities I have found in all. In my eyes, there is no high or low, better or worse, when referring to dance. Everything has the potential to work together, compliment and embellish each other. Of course we have preferences, but our ability and potential to learn something from every avenue, discipline, and community in dance, is huge. It has been a part of my training and wiring as a human, to stay open and curious. This is something I physicalize constantly in work. I celebrate all the different voices I hear and am inspired by. I try to pay homage to those influences by embodying them in my owns creative words and choices. I credit a lot of my success to openness and not really having any specific goals. That sounds crazy but I never wanted to be a dancer. Engineering was really the ultimate for me, and once I finished my degree, I never touched it again. So what was interesting was the thing that flourished for me, was always more of an organic trajectory. I didn’t know what I could do with dance, what specifically I wanted to do with dance, but I knew I like doing it. So I just did it, A LOT. So I really reflect on the state of mind I was in as dancer and the fact that I didn’t have any specific goals related to it, and I was therefore really open. I didn’t have any judgement on what I was doing, where the information was coming from, or where it would lead me. I didn’t think about that because I myself didn’t even know where my destination was. This allowed me to be present and indulged in the craft itself over where the craft could take me. This momentum and presence is really what created curiosity and drive in my training. Through his curiosity and driver came participation in anything I could get my hands on. This constant participation lead to networking and opportunity and before I knew it, I had an amazing foundation of experience under my belt as a dancer. Even before knowing that I wanted it to be my career, dance was my career. As always there are plenty of other factors that contributed to the trajectory of my career, but when I reflect back and really zoom out, I can see how beneficial it was for me to not have had a rigid, goal like, mindset but rather a organic, open, and foggy destination was really an avenue to my success. Stay hungry and open. The student mindset keeps our craft growing, fresh and new. Learn from your community and your peers. Lead with love 🙂
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.
Everything and anything outdoors. One of my favorite hikes is Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes. The route I take is about 10 miles roundtrip and its an upside down hike. So you start at the top of the mountain and hike all the way down to Abalone Cove right up to the water. The entire hike is panoramic ocean views and its one of the most beautiful, perhaps strenuous, “walks” I have done here in LA. That would be a must do. After we would most definitely fuel up at Pine and Crane in Silverlake. A super delicious Taiwanese restaurant where some of my favorite Dan Dan Noodles are. Or dim sum at NBC Seafood in Monterey Park. Some amazingly traditional dim sum that will bring you right to Hong Kong 🙂 (my favorite food in the world). After we will get boba from my favorite boba shop in Pasadena, CA, Jin Tea. Mind blowing. Finish it up with massages at The Now in Silverlake. They have the most beautiful ambiance there and the therapists are incredible. Man thats a good day. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My entire foundation is a product of the lessons learned from my family and especially my parents. They have taught me since day 1 to lead everything I do with love. Not until recently did these ideas really become a realization. I have always been grateful and aware of the opportunities they have provided for me and my siblings, but as I get older and I really am starting to cement in my habits and way of life, so I see how similar it is to theirs. The ability to work hard, and enjoy the work, is a direct skillset learned from them. The ability to balance that diligence and hard work with relaxation and breathing time, is a direct skillet from them. Again, the choice to lead everything we do in our lives with love, is, without a doubt, a direct skillset learned from my parents and y family. So I want to recognize them, as some of my greatest teachers and supporters in this crazy, beautiful life.
Jay Swuen, Vince Horiuchi