by: Tad Racca
Hello and welcome, new readers! This is In The Mind, an “On One” blog series dedicated on getting an inside look in the mind of a choreographer and see how their creation process works. We’ll be sitting down with special choreographers and talk about highlighted pieces they have created. What is the piece about? Why did you choose this song? What was your choreography process like for this piece? Why did you dougie in that specific section? Here, we’ll be talking, learning, and getting an intimate perspective of how the mind of a choreographer works with a closer look at their piece.
Meet Jasmine Santos! At 26 years old, she’s currently working as a full-time math teacher at a middle school and started dancing as long as she can remember! She loves teaching her kids at school, but on the side, she teaches dance! In fact, she’s one of our very own mentors at On One Studios, and loves sharing dance to the youth! Now let’s watch her piece!
Tad Racca: So what song did you do, and what is this song about?
Jasmine Santos: So this song is composed by Cashmere Cat, but sung by Ariana Grande. From what I understand, just the chorus, there was this feeling of wanting a man, but she shouldn’t because he’s a really bad guy.
TR: Why did you choreograph to this song?
JS: I think I just really like Ariana Grande a lot, and then the words, “I can’t quit-” for some reason, that just spoke to me. I was driving on the road and it made me feel that I wanted to move.
TR: So what was it like creating this piece? Did you have some some sort of process, a structure, or did you freestyle your way into making this piece?
JS: So at first, it was just- I liked the song. Then I started dancing in my seat while I drive. So it started off with freestyling because I wanted to be comfortable. And then some of the movement started being repetitive, so that turned into choreography. I listened to the song more, and found that there were certain beats that I wanted to do movements to. Mainly I did the words I wanted to hit, and then the beats I wanted to hit. Then, there were fillers that I had to make and somehow put them together.
TR: Right right! So it’s kinda just scattered everywhere, and then you pick the right ones that feel good to you.
JS: Yeah! Kinda like when you make a plot in an essay. You just throw out the ideas and organize it, then see what connects.
TR: It’s like Tetris. Kind of.
JS: Yeah yeah! Haha!
TR: Cool! So what do you think drives your movement to this piece? Like, is it the emotions, the lyrics, her voice? Is it simply the beats or message? I know the song is about quitting from a loved person and maybe you like, created moves that portrayed sadness?
JS: Ariana Grande has a really strong voice in this era today. So whenever she sings something, it feels like it’s really from the heart. I’ve seen her perform, and she is AMAZING. But like, her voice is what really made me do certain movements. It really was just off of feel.
Nice! So let’s talk about the piece!
TR: I kinda wanted to take a look at this video specifically. And maybe we can get a chance to pick some of the highlights that you would possibly wanna talk about. Can you describe a certain move/moment(s) in the piece that has significance or some meaning to you?
[00:10 | 00:15] – JS: So that whole phrase of when she says, “I can’t quit you” I felt that since her voice was stretching out, my body had to stretch out with her voice which brings in stress to my body.
So I feel like if I were to try to sing that voice, I would stress out my tonsils or whatever. Is it tonsils?- No, her vocal cords. And I felt like that movement of going in and out, and using every single body part really brought up what she said.
[00:29 | 00:37] – JS: In the back of my mind, I was thinking more for beginner class. Since the beats were like 1… 2… 3… 4… It went whole counts and then to half counts, I wanted to do something where it was whole counts, and then just repeat it faster.
TR: Like it builds up, right?
JS: Yeah! That whole build-up, and not only was I thinking about the song, I was also choreographing if I were to teach it. So considering what kind of people would wanna do this, or considering like the level… It just felt good to do arms. And when I taught it, it was challenging for the newbies! Soo yeah haha!
JS: After that it was just full eight counts of grooves and basics and whatever felt good.
TR: Did you have any struggles making this piece? Were there any high points where you felt really good creating the piece? Did you have any low points where you felt stuck creating?
JS: As mentioned, I did feel stuck when I got bored just doing basics and straight up eight-counts. There’s nothing wrong with basics, but me trying to create something and wanna share something, I feel like there should be a little bit of challenge. So I think that high points, if there were certain beats I want to hit, and I hit it as what I want, that was just a good feeling. Other than that, I mean.. I really did just, “Oh, let’s do this move. Let’s see if it goes together! Haha!”
TR: What do you think makes this piece different from what you created before? Is it abstract, subliminal, or even emotional?
JS: This was one of the most emotional pieces that I’ve done. I would go off on like, “Oh, this is a fun constant beat” or “Oh, this is a common song most people know”. Since I’ve always been choreographing for beginners, I always just recycle what I’ve done before, or just do a whole eight count of one move, and I wouldn’t really consider too much of the song. So this one, I considered the song more than I usually do with other songs. Like, “What is she saying? What is she trying to speak?” vs. “Oh, there’s a constant beat. Let’s just dance to it!”
TR: So I know you teach here at On One for beginner classes. Any two cents if you want to add any?
JS: I honestly think the more you build your foundation and take beginner classes, for some reason as a dancer, I started to predict or my body started to flow more whenever I learn choreography. When dancers have their foundation, it’s easy to be versatile or easy to be open to move around when you learn something that’s challenging. There’s always these basics that dancers do, but then they change the basic up by adding a little bit more to it.
“Like in Math, we learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Couple of years later, we end up doing the same thing, but with different material that’s harder.”
Thank you, Jasmine! Our conversation was pretty cool! It was great having you as our first mentor interview for this project. Have fun in class and see you in the studio! Learn more about Jasmine by following her on Instagram here. Check out our weekly schedule to see when she’s teaching! Leave a comment and let us know what kind of questions that YOU have for choreographers! And definitely, stay tuned for more posts!