by: Tad Racca
What’s up readers! Welcome to the fourth edition of In The Mind. So far, there was never a moment where I didn’t learn at least one thing in each interview. After listening and taking in different perspectives, I’ve noticed that everyone’s different and unique, obviously. What really intrigues me is that there are people who have a voice behind what they are creating. Whether it’s embodying the feeling of a song, or cultivating their deep thoughts into a piece, people generally know what the piece is about. Still, it is only up to a fraction or the surface that they know about, until the choreographer actually talks about it. I got a chance to interview one of my long-time friends and choreographer, Kevin Breis. Let’s dive into his mind and see how his choreography creation process unfolds onto this piece!
Kevin Breis: Hello!
I’m Kevin, one of the owners of On One Studios. I’m also the current director of Chocolate Factory, and founder of KMB Event Services. So that kinda almost sums me up in a nutshell, dance has become my life a little bit. I also like to sing too, watch cartoons, play games, kind of like your normal, mid-twenties millennial!
Tad Racca: What’s the song of this piece and what’s it about?
KB: So I did a song called, Hear Comes A Thought by Estelle and AJ Michalka. It was originally from Steven Universe, which is a cartoon from Cartoon Network. The song’s about- it’s interesting because it’s something that I haven’t heard in any other song personally. It’s about accepting your negative emotions and being able to push past it by accepting it vs. running away from it.
TR: So how’s that in relation to the piece, how do you describe it?
KB: Ah, so the message behind the song was really the main inspiration behind the piece. Personally, I just relate to the song so much because all of the things that I’ve listed that I’m involved in, there’s a lot of little things where my anxiety takes over. So I wanted a piece that was really able to show literally in my mind, in terms of balancing all of these day to day things. And really just being able to grow and express it, and being able to… just burst out of that, I guess. The piece starts off really small, and then it slowly builds and becomes a lot more loose and free. So I think of it as kind of being trapped in the anxieties of the day-to-day, but then accepting it and finding your nirvana.
TR: Do you think you made the piece for therapeutic reasons, or maybe you just heard it because just watched the actual show and just liked the song?
KB: Well, the song overall is a really great song. It was catchy to begin with, but I think one of the main things that solidify wanting to make a piece to is that it was one of those songs that made me cry. When I heard it for the first time, there was an emotion that I couldn’t forge,t and the message behind was something I knew I needed to do. It took me years, but I finally did it! Haha.
TR: So is there any other inspirations that you drew from other than the message of the song? Sounds, instruments, or the way it is sung?
KB: Yeah! I mean I love Estelle’s voice! Estelle’s and AJ’s voices combine too, and they’re very together. It just feels right. I don’t know how to describe it, but I think it’s the harmonies that they’re hitting and stuff that makes you feel some kind of way. Can’t really say it’s happy, it’s just relaxing and calming. I actually had to find a bass-boosted version of the song because it wasn’t really made for radio or mainstream, so I found a remix to the song so that I could work with it a little more. In all of the little snare combos in the background, they kind of coincide with the calmness with their voices, which is kinda cool. It’s like a juxtaposition of those two things, so yeah.
TR: Any particular mindset, intention, or goal that you had and wanted to do? Or maybe it was something like, “I wanted to express this through my movement in the choreography”?
KB: I think that I wanted to tell a story. Because of how much it related to me, at the end of the day, I wanted to tell it. I had this clear first image of like, sitting into this fetal position. Sitting into a darkness where you can’t escape. And that’s kind of where I started, and I was literally sitting down on it.
TR: You know, this kinda transitions into the next segment anyways, let’s watch the piece!
[00:07] – KB: So that’s where I really wanted to start, and just pick away and explore the bubble of each move. That’s why the first moves that happens here, it’s really just small movement and kind of in place. I think I just wanted it to be the fight to start grabbing your life again.
[00:14] – KB: So you’re in this cross-legged position, right? And it’s literally a reference to meditation. That kind of one of the biggest things I wanted to do actually. I’m kind of almost hammered in on the obvious inspiration of meditation. So that’s why I really wanted to get into that part.
[00:19] – KB: The next moves after it were a lot of quick “ticks”. Here, I kind of wanted to symbolize when I say the “something” I did, I would realize all the “somethings” that I did… if that even makes sense. So each of the “ticks” to me, represented another “thing”.
TR: That’s pretty deep, man. Haha!
KB: I know! Haha!
TR: It’s okay, I mean I’m sure everyone has their ways so-
KB: Yeah! But this one though, I remember specifically thinking that. It’s because over think things, and that was one of the specific lines that hit me!
[00:29] – KB: So when it starts to hit that, “Ohhhh”, that’s when it’s starting to really see the light, if that’s how you wanna call it. Like if I had to put it into a music video, or if I had the access to more effects and stuff, that’s where I start to see the world kind of brightening up a little bit. It’s kind of like… Well, I don’t wanna say the five steps of grievance, but it’s just more about the “accepting” and starting to accept things.
TR: It’s kind of funny how I’m in this piece, and I never really noticed the small details and reasoning behind the movement learning it, haha!
KB: Oh yeah that’s right! Haha!
[00:37] – KB: Oh, this is one of my favorite parts. The part where we’re shaking is something what I translate into frustration. And that’s why had this shaking motion and then bringing it back in. With anxiety, for me it’s like being angry, but not being able to express it. With being angry, you can’t really do anything about it, and I guess that’s where the shaking comes from.
[00:48] – KB: Yup. Again, same concept. The “might lose me” is the part where we get swallowed in that emotion. I like to refer to this middle part as the “battle” because it’s like you’re beginning to accept, but sometimes you just revert part. And it’s hard to push forward, you know? It’s starting to get bigger, but you have these moments where it’s closed, small, and intense-ness to it. Literally, on the next move after that, there’s a release. That’s like the realization to me. The turning point, I’d say.
[1:00] – KB: This kind of where I’m declaring to the world and telling everyone, “I’m okay.” It’s just true expression and being free. Especially where the part I was talking about the harmonies and stuff, it just makes you feel so relaxed and you’re just on Cloud 9. Like in a music video, it’d be very white and open.
TR: It’s chorus too, right? I feel like there’s this tendency to open or explode during a chorus. But not that I’m saying you exploded or something, haha!
KB: Yeah, I get it. It’s true. Most songs in choruses are where the “resolutions” happen.
“It’s like you’re building up to something. Like a roller coaster comes up, and then it goes down where you just ride all the way through it.
[1:06] – KB: This is where I lost it. Because the lyrics are literally, “it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.” This was such a strong message to me because I was always looked down upon having anxiety, and just being overly cautious about everything. But for someone or a song to say that it’s okay to feel that way, I really wanted to make sure that moment specifically stuck out to me. It was just like this release off of my back, this burden. When you’re leaning back and then forward in this piece, it’s wobbly, but that’s how I feel of being free and just being loose and letting it all go.
[1:16] – KB: Ahh, so I had this thing where I definitely wanted to end on the ground flat on our backs and just being open on the floor. You’re being open, but in that same spot. And it’s okay to be in that position that you were in, but you’re just free and open now. That’s something that I was like super keen on doing. I wish the camera was actually a little bit higher, just so you can see us laying on the ground, but it’s okay. Also, in the episode where this song plays in Steven Universe, the character falls back and looks at the sky where it’s like, “I’m here.” That’s something where I wanted to reflect within the dance, because that’s what you’re supposed to feel. Like I’m here, and it’s all good.
TR: So what makes this piece different than your other pieces?
KB: For me, it was the first time I’ve ever done floor work, first of all. I felt that it was interesting because the floor and that position was a huge part of it. So it was a big challenge for me to make floor choreo because I’ve never done it before. I’ve never really had a base choreography start on the floor.
Also, I think I’m very drawn into the show to be honest. It’s so crazy to talk about that in a cartoon, but it’s so smartly written and the characters are so deep that you feel such connections to them. It really translated, and I think this is the piece where I felt the most emotionally connected to. I’ve had other emotional pieces, though. I’ve had angry pieces and sad pieces, but I’ve never done anything that I really personally relate to. I didn’t have to really tell myself to do it. I just did it.
TR: Was it easier choreographing to this song?
KB: To be honest, no. In relation to the song, I get too perfectionist-y. I got a little too perfectionist at one point, so I had to redo a lot of parts. I really wanted this piece to be perfect, but the song talks about how I eventually have to accept what I’m doing and just listen to my body.
“Like if my body is telling me to go one way, that’s what it wants to do. And I couldn’t fight that.”
TR: So what are your last thoughts?
KB: Two cents! So I’ve noticed myself starting to choreograph a lot more quickly and easily through just accepting what your body is doing vs. trying to impress. I definitely think it’s a subconscious thing. For me when I used to choreography, I’d be like “This combo would be sick. I need to make sure it’s perfect!” But it’s like, no. If your body doesn’t want to move that way, then don’t do it. Listen to your body. A lot of people ask me also on how to choreograph or how to improve on their choreography. But, you’re never gonna know.
“Each piece isn’t gonna be the piece. It’s just a slow progression, right? For every single piece, you have to be proud and move on to the next one. That’s the only way you’re really gonna improve, I guess, “quickly”? I mean it’s not the only way, but that’s just something that I’ve found that really helped me. It’s seeing it as just one of the steps on your journey.”
Awesome stuff, Kevin! Thank you for being part of this series, and I hope for the best in your endeavors with On One Studios and KMB! If you want to know more about Kevin and KMB, you can visit his business’ website here. This week is the last week up to the official Grand Opening on September 9th! If you live in the Bay, or have any plans visiting San Jose, you can RSVP to our Facebook event page! Also, we are hosting a grand opening giveaway where you can enter here, and get a chance to win prizes such as getting a season pass to our MNW: Winter Edition coming up! Other than that, thank you all for reading, and tune in to next week!