How She Got There: Kae Burke & Anya Sapozhnikova, Co-founders of House of Yes

Names: Kae Burke and Anya Sapozhnikova
Job Title and Description: Co-Founders and Co-Creative Directors of House of Yes 
College Name/Major: Associates Degree in Apparel/Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology; one year at The Fashion Institute of Technology majoring in Apparel/Fashion Design
Website: Houseofyes.org
Twitter and Instagram Handle: @houseofyesnyc

Photo Credit: SASHABPHOTO

What does your current job entail? Is there such thing as a typical day? 

Kae Burke: There is no such thing as a typical day, which is what I love about my job. A day can include long brainstorming meetings, finding talent and booking performers, conducting walk-throughs of various  spaces, rehearsals and  anything to do with costume styling/shopping/sewing.The reality of my job is connecting the dots between talented humans, our audience, budgets, time, space and availability which means LOTS OF EMAILS and texts. And of course Facebook promotion and coordinating people.

Anya Sapozhnikova: There is no such thing as a typical day. I sit in front of the computer a lot booking, communicating and organizing with various artists. I do some rigging and climbing around the space in the ceiling setting up equipment and décor for the shows for the weekend. Sometimes if we’re working on a full length show there is a lot of rehearsing happening with larger groups of people. I also train with my aerial partner working on new acts. I work with my coach once a week and I try to take ballet and flexibility classes in the city a few times a week to maintain my body. Having meetings with people I know I would like to work with also takes up a bit of my time. All of the above happens between 10am and 9pm. Then there is the second part of the day (well night!). If we have an event on which we usually do, I will spend the early evening getting costumes and looks together for the show. After that I am then performing usually from midnight to 3 or 4 in the morning doing aerial and silk performance and lots of dancing!

What is the best part of your job? 

KB: Working with my best friends and a ton of creative weirdos.

AS: The best part is definitely how much I get to collaborate with other talented artists and performers. I love being inspired and bouncing ideas off of my partners and the various other artists I get to work with. I can honestly say everyone I work with I truly love and they are my family. Also I love how hilarious everything/everyone at House of Yes is.  

What was your first entry level job in your field and how did you get it? 

KB: Being a pedicab driver in Times Square. I got it because my roommate in Crown Heights was doing it and said they were looking for people.

AS: Creating “holy sh*t” moments at warehouse parties with The Danger (now known as You Are So Lucky).

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you now know?

KB: That it is non-stop 24/7. Organization and self-care are extremely important and can make or break you.

AS: You can let it be stressful or you can laugh at the absurdity. And (insert whatever drug you think is helping you be a better version of you/do your job better) is definitely NOT your friend.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

KB: Adam Aleksander; a fellow immersive events person.

AS: William Etund, Jr. He showed me how to be a good leader and that it’s never about someone’s ego - it’s always about the artists and the community.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

KB: Don’t have your nightclub’s grand opening on New Year’s Eve! It’s much better to have it on a regular night where you have all the attention and can have all your friends come and contribute and celebrate.

AS: I got really drunk and got fired from a really sweet gig when I was 20. I’m glad it happened when it did, because people don’t expect that much from you when you’re that age and you can bounce back easily. Since then I’ve never let partying impact my work, especially when there’s an audience involved!

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

KB: Just standing in the back of the room, watching an amazing party and thinking “wow, I made this happen”. Totally surreal.

AS: Hard to pick just one, but one of my all time favorite bands (Glass Animals) whose music I use for the acts all the time, played at House of Yes. After their soundcheck, my business partner and I started to pull out my laptop and speakers to run our act to their track and the lead singer said, “do you want us to just play it for you? We’re right here.” So they played the song and we ran our number, and then they offered to add a couple of extra tracks for good measure at the end to make the whole thing perfect. When your art idols make art with you, it’s the most surreal and best thing ever!

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

KB: Energy. Lots of it. Passion, ambition, drive.

AS: Being proactive. Someone that is a go getter, hard working and interesting. Someone that wants to work “with” people and not “for” people. And as hippy dippy as it sounds, a person’s energy plays a big role. Aside from having the skillset that is right for the job, I always ask myself if I would want to hang out with them 24/7, because our work is round the clock and we need to keep it fun, otherwise the day is going to feel really long.

What advice would you give a 20-something with similar aspirations?

KB: Don’t give up. Take care of yourself. Seeds take years to grow, plant them now. It’s never too late to start. Always be grateful and thankful. Always take the high road.

AS: Don’t be afraid to go hungry here and there to pursue your path in the arts. The ones who succeed in this industry are the ones who do this full time. Working some irrelevant job that eats up 20+ hours a week will not get you there, it will only show you how to pursue your dreams half way. Recognize the importance of community. Nightlife and the performing arts is a way for people to come together and celebrate. Being cut throat will not get you there - making genuine friends and surrounding yourself with the people you love will.

 

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