Gen X, Y, Z - Take Over w/Excellence

Preamble: This article features a shapeshifting young artist, Kalen Simpson -- an example of the outstanding pursuit of the performing arts in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. While the pandemic has posed so many challenges for those who are seeking to break in and stand out--virtual platforms are simply not the same as being in a studio or stage amongst peers and friends. It is the experiences, by having access to other bodies in this art form, during workshops, intensives, and conventions that contribute to their growth and development. In the DMV area, we have concert, band, competition, liturgical ministry, commercial and flash dancing. Kalen happens to do quite of few of these, helping him to become a well-rounded emerging artist and soon-to-be professional choreographer. When the opportunity came for him to return to the stage to share his gift this is what he had to say...


"Conventions have been a huge part of my dance training since I started. I always leave inspired and ready to work. I have been going to the NYCDA (New York City Dance Alliance) convention for almost 10 years. Each year I go I return to my home studio even more inspired and ready to work."

The convention starts on Fridays with solos, duets, and trios. The competition always goes very smoothly, this year I completed my self-choreographed solo "Everything Must Change" and I placed 9th overall out of the 68 amazing dancers in the senior category.

Kalen moving wholeheartedly through his movements

This was very rewarding for me because sometimes I can be overly critical of my own choreography and performance so for these amazing judges to also like it was very rewarding. Then on Saturday convection classes started and this year the audition was on Saturday. At first, I was very nervous which is pretty common for me but there is always a really positive environment in the room that helps calm my nerves. One thing I love about conventions is how I get to be exposed to different styles of dance. This year we had a funk fusion class taught by Tony Testa and I really enjoyed the class and it is something that I would like to try more.

One thing that I took from the weekend was how important versatility is and how you have to lock into the combinations as quickly as possible. When there is time before the given choreography to use that time to improv and get into the intention and quality of the combinations. Sunday you have the same class and they usually teach more of the combinations they taught the day prior. Conventions force me to focus on my own dancing which is something I struggle with. I am too involved in what people around me think or if the teacher is looking at me I can forget to have it because I'm trying to get noticed. This is a problem I have gotten better with thanks to conventions, they help me to be more confident in my own ability.

At the end of the day, they announce all of the scholarships, not only the Outstanding Dancer Scholarship which allows dancers to go to nationals, but also scholarships for a variety of summer and winter programs. I was blessed to be awarded the Outstanding Dancer Scholarship and I will be attending nationals during the summer.

Conventions are a great place for exposure and this is a great example because you can be seen and given multiple different opportunities in the span of 2/3 days. I think that many more dancers should start taking advantage of conventions to not only expose themselves to more styles of dance but also more opportunities."

Find out more about Kalen, Instagram: @simpson.kalen

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