by: Tad Racca
What’s up everyone! We are back with In The Mind having our SECOND interview! This is Tad Racca, representing On One Studios, and I’ll be conducting these interviews regularly with our future choreographers. This blog series is dedicated to getting an inside look in the mind of a choreographer. We’ll get to see how their choreography creation process works as they talk more about their particular piece. I recently got an opportunity to sit down with another one of our mentors, TJ Andaya. So dive in to our conversation as we get a deeper look into one of his recent pieces taught at The Company’s: Summer Intensive class.
Video by @companyfam
Tad Racca: Soooo, introduce yourself!
TJ Andaya: My name is formally, Timothy Andaya. I go by TJ! I’m from San Jose, in South Bay. I dance with a group named, The Company, from Westlake School of Performing Arts based out of Daly City, CA. I also try to get down with San Jose a lot whenever, wherever. I’m a big fan of movement, and I’m a fan of flow!
TR: So what song did you do, and what is this piece about?
TA: This song is called, The Learning (Burn) by Mobb Deep. Rest in peace, Prodigy! Since hearing about his passing, I wanted to do this song. I didn’t do Prodigy’s verse, but I heard this song and I was like, “Yo, this is kinda where I’m at right now.” We tend to forget about the people that have been doing things for a while. People around who have done stuff for dance, so it’s kind of like a homage to that. I basically went off on a tangent and threw in a bunch of stuff. Like, Drunken Master! Jackie Chan! So I threw in some of that. Some flow and footwork… I’m just heavily influenced by martial arts and hip hop.
TR: Were you drawn in by the song from its music or the lyrics?
TA: So initially it starts off with a snare, then you hear the harmony, and it’s a song that I could just vibe to. It’s also kind of like a head-low type of feel. So that’s what got me. I remember I was just listening to it after getting off work and- “Yo, I think I’ma do this!” I heard it, and I was super pumped to get home. Started labbing. I forgot about this song long ago, but when I heard it now, everything just made sense. For me at least.
TR: Nice! Well you kinda answered the next question I was gonna ask, which is, why did you choreograph to this song? Maybe you wanna add some more to that?
TA: Yeah! So there are vets in the game, right? To be respected, and then people forget. There’s a lot of people that I think we… maybe should pay homage to in dance? We give them our respect because they are people who have bridged the gap from the industry to the community, and there are people from the community who bridged the gap from their generation to another generation. Like, “Yo, you forgot that I could still get down?” So that’s kind of like what it was.
TR: Did you have any intentions or goals approaching this piece? Did you have a particular mindset of how you wanted to choreograph this piece?
TA: Yeah! So, I’m so late in the game. I’ve forgotten how huge fundamentals are. And that simple stuff, ain’t so simple. Like if you were to do hard stuff without style, it’s kind of “….”, but if you were to do the fundamentals with style, it says a lot about the person as a dancer. So that’s what I’ve been practicing. And being able to do it in my own way, I wanted to do that.
You know, you’re always re-inventing yourself. You’re always trying to figure out how to better yourself. That’s how I feel. I’m always trying to figure this out like, “What can I do better?” And as all pieces, they’re stepping stones into the next one, and you’ll learn from that. So that was, I guess the culmination of what I’ve learned from that point. And I put it into that. Another thing that I wanted to build more into was the flow of things. There were some parts that were choppy, but then the things that led after that, I think it flowed really well with my body. If the flow fits, I just strongly go with it.
Sick! So let’s talk about the piece!
TR: Could you describe/highlight certain moves or moments if they had any significance? Whether it’s concrete, subliminal, conceptual, or maybe it has some wordplay in it?
[00:04] – TA: So the first two moves was kind of like how I said I’m inspired by old martial arts films, like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Bruce Lee was my uncle’s generation, and I wasn’t even born at that time when he was really poppin off. But when Jackie Chan came out the cuts, he was doing things beforehand, but then I was old enough to see him continue.
[00:15] – TA: Oh right there! Shout outs to Jeffrey Flores. Known throughout the community as, J-Flo. Me and him grew up dancing, and he’s one of my biggest inspirations. I always ask him, “Yo, was that tight?! Was that tight?!” But he did a piece back in 2012 or 2011? And the song said “pop-something” And we had grown up learning NSYNC’s choreography, so he did a shout out to “Pop”, and that’s where that move comes from. So he brought that, and so here we are 2017, six years later. Doing a shout out to Jeffrey, who did a shout out to NSYNC.
[00:38] – TA: From that knee drop, I think of Jangles a lot. Shout out to Jangles, Andrew Nunez. That dude put me on and I owe a lot to that dude. He’s not everyone’s OG, but I think he should be respected as one, just because what he has done for my team. He helped bridge the gap from his generation to the generation afterwards. And I just wanted to continue that. He didn’t necessarily do that move, but I thought of Jangles a whole lot when I did that. So that was inspired by him.
[00:44] – TA: Right there, you had the whole hook. That was just inspired by top-rocking. Now I’m not the best top-rocker at all! I am terrible! And like I mentioned earlier, what we do now, we pay homage to that, and we should pay homage. So it’s kinda like that. Then it goes on just to continue the character.
TR: So whenever you were vibing off to the song, did you have different thoughts during the moment of creating this piece?
TA: We’re all inspired by something. It’s damn near impossible to not be! There’s hardly anything original because we’re all a collective of everything we see, everything that we witness. What I do isn’t original, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with not being the most original,
“but what I think is original is how authentic it is for that kind of person. So each person has an original individual, not necessarily moves, but whatever you put into it, behind it.”
TR: Yeah! I see a lot of moves and they’re just like, evolved forms of what I’ve seen before.
TA: Right! It’s all different variations. It may not be original, but it’s just whatever the music came in. Whatever what was inspired by it.
TR: Did you have any struggles making this piece? Or if you had any high moments that you wanted to talk about where you just felt really good?
TA: Oh yeah, for sure! I definitely do. And it’s hard to not have it at times. There were a lot of parts where I felt really good. Whenever I do get choreo block, I just accept it. That’s what it is, right? I’m not gonna be able to come up with anything right now. It’s either I’m hungry, I’m sleepy, or I’m tired. So what’s gonna help my choreography block is to tend to those needs because we’re all human. Shout outs to the choreographers that can just keep grinding and figure it out in one session because I can’t do that! I need sleep. If I want poke, I’ll go get poke. If I wanna watch a movie, I’ll watch a movie. So I just accept it as it is. That happens to everyone.
TR: What do you think makes this piece different from what you created before?
TA: This is a result of me “labbing.” It’s not breaking new ground or anything, but for me it is. That achievement of me obtaining a flow is hard. If someone were to take my class, they can forget the choreography. But when there’s a groove coming up? To maintain that flow, they could just ride the wave because it’s coming. In my mind and in my body, it felt like I had a much better flow with this particular piece than other hip-hop or rap pieces that I’ve done in the past.
TR: Any last thoughts that you wanna add?
TA: Peace to Tad Racca. That dude’s comin.
TA: If you ain’t know now, now you do! And shout out to hip hop! Hip hop has so much history. There’s always the good and bad in things. But hip hop in itself has pushed boundaries. I remember growing up and there was just gangster rap, and it wouldn’t get any love on national television. It wasn’t a respectable thing. But it is to be respected. It’s powerful. I sound like an old guy, but there’s so much to this craft, so shout outs to them. And shout out to the people before me, AND after me. Shout out to everyone contributing. Shout out to everyone who does their best to bring out the best versions of themselves. Now obviously, you look at old pieces and you’re like, “blahhh!”, but that’s just the best version of who you are at that time.
So yeah, shout outs to everybody doing their thing. Yo, and shout out to On One Studios! What MNW has done for the urban dance scene in San Jose, where I grew up. Without a scene, you had to go out to either Oakland or SF for choreography. In terms of choreography, there wasn’t a lot of people. I remember it being so small, and I remember just going to other circles and going to different parts of San Jose just sessioning.
TR: You had to make the drive, man.
TA: Yeah, I remember teaching MNW in 2011. I was just like, “San Jose’s doin something? Guino? Yooo, what up!?” Shout out to them because what they’ve done for San Jose, they made dance so accessible for people. So you don’t have to just travel to L.A. to train, or to the city to train. You can also train here. Makes me so proud of my city that we’ve come together and they made this.
Thank you, TJ for being willing to share your mind! It was super awesome talking with you! There was so much insight having to take in, and it was great having you come out for this segment. See you in the studios! You can follow TJ’s endeavors by visiting his Instagram here. He’s also a mentor at our studio so don’t forget to check out our weekly schedule to see when he’s teaching! In case you missed it, check out our first interview with Jasmine! Leave a comment and let us know what kind of questions or thoughts that YOU have for choreographers! And stay tuned!