Q: In your opinion what separates your dance studio from other dance studios?
Brian: I’d like to think that what separates Sweatshop from the pack (aside from our controversial name) is our training program; I truly believe we have one of the most diverse, well-rounded training programs in the country. Our dancers train at a pre-professional level in all dance genres with faculty members who have each had a professional dance career (some ongoing), which I feel to be really exceptional and inspiring. At the end of the day a great dance studio is comprised of amazing teachers and students, great dancers are measured by their ability to be passionate, technically sound, and artistically diverse. We’re very blessed to have a professional, artistic atmosphere where our faculty and students can explore the technique, diversity, and immeasurable artistic possibilities of dance arts.
Q: What has been your proudest moment coaching?
Brian: I don’t know any teacher who can chalk it up to one, single proudest moment; I’m an emotional person, I probably pinch myself 50 times per season. That said, one moment does stick out for me from a past season:
I’d choreographed this piece, “After the Crash”, having been inspired by a story I’d seen about a young man who had lost his legs at a very young age due to illness. At 30 years old, having not been able to walk past age 7, he’d dedicating his life to inspiring young people to overcome a variety of challenges. In honor of his work he was surprised with a “second chance” by a doctor who gifted him a series of surgeries and a set of bionic legs. Incredible story, it made me think a lot. I thought about how lucky I am to not have to have ever dealt with such circumstance and how deserving this young man was. I also thought about those, no matter how deserving, who don’t get the luxury of second chances. “After the Crash” was choreographed as an expression of these conflicting thoughts. Long story short, it had been a really tough process getting the piece to the stage, a lot of emotionally draining discussions and a lot of rehearsal - the dancers just couldn’t seem to relate, couldn’t tell the story, and didn’t seem to believe in their powers as young artists.
Unfortunately, mid-season, one of our long-time dance dads was diagnosed with a very aggressive, potentially untreatable, form of lung cancer. Backstage at a performance a few weeks after having heard the news, I told the cast of the piece that I would like to dedicate my piece of choreography, like an author dedicates a book, to this father, who had come to see the performance. The dancers circled up and asked me to return to the audience. When they finally took the stage, they proceeded to dance the piece with a level of commitment I could have never coached from them, with the sole intention of giving the father the gift of a second chance… “life, ‘After the Crash’”. As the piece finished you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre, the space was electric with energy and emotion, strangers were crying (and me)…it was beautiful, easily one of the proudest moments in my life: The dancers used their artistic gifts to express and affect something larger than themselves and had, in turn, touched people (strangers) in a profound way, including this father. The performance, and all it stood for, was….everything. In the end, this father succumbed to the disease. This performance was recreated at his services.
Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see dancers make when performing, and how should they fix them?
Brian: The biggest ‘mistake’ I see dancers make on stage has to be when a dancer doesn't go “all in”. Like most dancers, teachers, and choreographers, I just love to see dancers commit to their choreography (so does the audience). When a dancer can't sink in and give it everything they've got, I initially suspect there's a rehearsal problem. In addition to putting in enough quality rehearsal time, I’m a stickler for not saving performance for the stage. I’m always asking the dancers, “do you honestly expect to walk on stage, ‘turn it on’ for the first time, and expect a clean, mistake-free performance?” Though it's possible, it's not likely to happen on a consistent basis. Obviously, any real-world choreographer is going to expect to see their vision before it hits the stage; dancers should be trained to expect that. Rehearsal aside, I actually encourage dancers to approach class like it’s a performance.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
Brian: Continue to raise the 'barre'; work even harder, love even more. I think we’ve got a really great, very unique thing going here, I just want to keep refining and perfecting everything - the curse of being a dancer…the strive for perfection!
Q: What motivated you to open a studio?
Brian: I’d always wanted to open a studio, since I was a kid. Having trained with iconic teachers who instilled in me a sense of pride and legacy, I decided that, in order to carry on their legacies and pave the way for my own, I would have to take on more than just a dancing and teaching career. When I had done what I needed to do performance-wise and I, myself, was ready to hang up my performance shoes and go “all in”, Sweatshop was born. Owning/directing a studio gives me the opportunity to help positively shape many dancers’ entire pre-professional training careers; it’s a huge challenge and huge responsibility - I absolutely love it. The studio is the best thing that’s ever “happened” to me, I only hope our students feel the same.
Q: What are some other things people might not know about you or your studio? Things you'd like them to know?
Brian: Fun fact - the studio is made up of a three building site that was originally a brass foundry, built in 1939! My partner and I renovated the entire 12,000+ sq ft space almost completely on our own (by hand!), from demolition, to electrical, to drywall, to sprung floors, to lighting, paint, and trim...even some of the furniture! The studio has a big-city feel, we think it turned out pretty darn good...
If there was something important that I’d want people to know, it would be this: even though we are a non-recreational studio and require auditions before any dancer may train with us, we don’t have unrealistic expectations, and the audition process is not intense or scary. A regular concern expressed by potential customers is often, “We’re worried that our dancer may not make it into the program”. Though not being accepted is a possibility...you never know until you try. It’s maybe important to reiterate that we are interested in helping dancers reach their potential and, as such, potential is what we’re looking at. Haven’t had the greatest training? Well, that’s EXACTLY why we’re here. We’re interested in working with aspiring young artists - talented, driven, young people who are motivated to “work on it” - we’ll handle the rest, it's our job!