To say my long weekend was amazing, would be an understatement. I went to the Radix Dance Convention at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I met both my favorite choreographer, Brian Friedman, and Charlize, a famous dancer (she’s best friends with Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler), and I learned choreography from other artists, such as Billy Bell and Tessandra Chavez.
Anyone who knows me understands I couldn’t live my life without dance. I started when I was a kid, but I quit multiple times. Before high school, I had a spinal fusion, but that didn’t stop me either. No matter how many times I quit, I kept coming back. I love learning videos online, and I am obsessed with the Los Angeles dancers. I am even a dance minor here at Winona State.
Initially, I didn’t think I’d be able to sign-up for Radix. Radix is a dance convention and competition multiple studios sign up for. I registered as an independent dancer under my college’s “studio” (rather, its dance department) and the senior category, which perfectly lined up to ages 16-19. This was my first year at Radix, and unfortunately, probably my last, but it will not be the last time in a class with my favorite choreographer.
I’ve planned this trip for months. I bought my registration online in advance, and I remember this because I was freaking out when I learned they would accept my college as a studio itself. I watched dance videos all the time, so it was a crazy feeling to me that I was about to experience it live. I thought it was too good to be true, and something would happen right before to prevent me from going.
The hardest part was the commute. Conveniently, the convention took place over a long weekend, which gave me an extra night in Minneapolis if I needed it. My future roommate next year, Kailie Kubista, was practically a goddess bringing me to Leah’s apartment in Dinkytown, where I was staying, and driving me to an AT&T store to deal with a phone plan problem. That weekend, I stayed with my friends that attend the University of Minnesota. I’ve been to their apartment a few other times, but this trip was different because I was going to the Hyatt Regency by myself every day for the convention. I didn’t have a car, so my options were to uber, transit, or find a ride. The transit stop from Leah’s apartment was only a block away, but the stop by the hotel was a ten-minute walk, which just about killed my soul in the 2-degree weather I walked through. However, It was all worth it when I entered the main conference room.
Upon arrival, everyone met on the fourth floor where they had the welcome announcement. I’m going to sound like a real fan-girl when I write this, but I was standing in the same room as Brian Friedman. Not going to lie—if this was my peak, I was completely fine with it. It got better when I realized Charlize was onstage, too. I didn’t expect her to be here as his assistant, and it was truly a bonus that I got to meet her as well.
The first class I took was with Billy Bell. He taught modern dance, and if you all don’t know what modern dance is compared to ballet, tap, or whatever comes to your mind when you read dance, modern dance is dance without structure. My college’s main base is modern, and ballet technique is somewhat there but isn’t necessarily followed. It’s practically contemporary—flowing movement where even lying on the floor acting dead could count as a move. One of the biggest things I learned so far from being a dance minor was of people who helped cultivate themes and forms of dance. One of these people was Martha Graham, known for the “Graham Technique.” To my surprise, Billy Bell at the convention taught a Graham class, which I didn’t think originally would happen because the convention was filled with studio companies. I was happy I could connect to things I was learning at school. I realized I understood thoroughly what he was talking about. The position was strange, moving through expansion and contraction. I learned what he called a “main twist” and “high release.”
As much as I was enjoying this, I realized my dumba** led myself to the wrong room, where the teen classes were happening. I was supposed to be in the senior room on the floor below me, ages up to 19. The room was so big, though, that no one even noticed I left. However, the senior room was significantly smaller than the other room I was just in. I walked in and a group of girls immediately turned to look at me. Some of them I even recognized from my old dance team in high school.
I have taken two ballet classes since elementary school, so learning its combo wasn’t exactly my specialty, but ballet was a classic way of dance and every dancer should try it at some point in their career. There was a period on the schedule called “Core Performer Audition,” which chose dancers who could receive possible scholarships. As cool as I thought it was, both combos were incredibly difficult, so I planned to learn both and watch the auditions. The auditions were dances from the periods with Martin Harvey (ballet) and Tessandra Chavez (jazz). I loved the piece by Chavez, whose choreography was to “Purple Rain” by Prince. Here are some of the movements in Tessandra’s video!
(Choreography I learned starts from 1:53-2:30)
However, it was so hard to learn some moves because I didn’t recognize them nor couldn’t do them (thanks to scoliosis on my back), but I still tried my best, finding loopholes through rolls my body was limited to.
I stood as they called two numbers, where people in between would perform in a small group in front of the panel. Two voices made conversation in my head—one saying to go, be brave, and take a chance because if you don’t at least try, you’ll regret it; the other voice, of course, told me that I would be okay and safe just standing from behind and watching. It wouldn’t hurt me because I learned the choreography already and wouldn’t embarrass myself. Then the group with my number was called. I could not describe how nervous I felt. I was dancing with maybe six other people. I knew if I didn’t go out and try, I’d regret it.
I relaxed in the ballet combo when I danced in front of the judges. It was harder for me when I danced with multiple people and maybe it was because it was too crowded and I had the space to go full-out. The dance by Chavez, however, gave me stress. This was a fun dance convention, but I was still going through negative thoughts that were bringing me down. I love that I am writing right now that I left it on the floor. I truly did try my best. I know that my turns weren’t perfect, I forgot some choreography, I might’ve gotten off a beat or two, but I was and am proud of myself because I kept going. There was something about dancing under tension that I’ve come to like. It’s almost like school itself: a student works better under pressure or a deadline. The same goes for dancers—if there wasn’t any pressure or a deadline, one wouldn’t be working, and it’s so important to grow. The only way to do that is to push yourself and your limitations. That was what this trip was all about—I bought my Radix ticket, my transit tickets, and I found a place to stay.
When the table of judges left for the day, I talked to Brian Friedman afterward. I wanted to ask someone to take a picture of us, but he insisted we take a selfie instead. In a way, it was almost better because it was more personal.
The last class on the first day was a fun jazz routine, which I felt good about. I felt proud because once I had the choreography down, I let myself go and had fun. The song is “DANCE,” by DNC, and it was choreographed by Sisco Gomez.
Not going to lie, I forgot most dances the second day. I learned a fun jazz combo by Tina Caspary, which I did find online!
I remembered small parts to the second modern and tap classes (I am the worst at tap), but finally, I got to take my first class with Brian Friedman. He was the last session in the convention, and I could not have asked for a better way to end everything.
His session was the longest of all the choreographers that the dancers learned from: two hours! His class started with across the floor, and honestly, I went towards the front so I could see the choreography clearly. I realized I was already in the front-line in front of him and his assistant Charlize. Dancing in front of two living icons scared the sh*t out of me. I admit I was not the best at technique, so I was thrilled when there were more contemporary/hip-hop sort of moves, but I did freak out on the turns and floor work, though. The best part about Friedman’s teaching, however, was his interaction with his dancers. He interacted with me once, and I don’t know why, but it was such a positive highlight of the weekend.
When he started teaching his choreography, I was surprised it took me so long to realize it was the song “Strip” by Little Mix. I have watched it thousands of times online. The choreography was crazy, and even though I was prepared for it, I found myself in a block trying to figure it out. Every movement was critical to get to the next. I messed up more than I could count, but I never felt more alive. It was truly an out-of-body experience not only because of the dancing itself, but also watching Friedman film Charlize live in person.
A person dancing in a video is one thing, but seeing them dance as well in person is miraculous. I had no words.
That ended my 2019 Radix experience. I did it all by myself. Not only did it make me feel independent, but also it left me feeling so strong. I have no idea if I’ll attend Radix next year, but I know it is not the last class that I will take with Brian Friedman because I will make it happen again.
When I went back to Winona for school, as much as I felt satisfied with my experience, I knew I wanted to get Brian Friedman’s dance down and correct. Conveniently, my new class this semester, Performance 1, gave an assignment to do anything I’m good at. This past week after the convention, I worked hard to finish Friedman’s dance, getting my body used to the movements and allowing myself to let go within the choreography. I had fun and went for it.