Cultured Carrots: Micah Gebreyes is the Dancing Queenby Carrot Creative
Carrot Creative is filled with colorful characters. Cultured Carrots is a series that shares the outside passions that inspire the very best work for our clients. This week, Associate Engagement Manager Micah Gebreyes talks about her passion for the art of dance.
Carrot: What's your origin story? When did your dance super powers emerge?
MG: I started dancing at age 10 but I definitely wouldn’t say that I had superpowers. Marvel would not want to make a movie on the start of my dance career (AKA me awkwardly dancing on stage to “Goodies” by Ciara in purple camo pants). I first enrolled in dance lessons because my sister did, and you have to follow the ways of the cool older sister, right? A few years later (when I didn’t suck as much) I joined a Bay Area dance studio team where I’d compete around northern California. Then, I joined my high school dance team and later joined, a hip hop crew in college (when I was completely void of all suckiness). That crew, Urban, became my family.
C: How did you find your style and preference for a genre?
MG: I started with hip hop and fell in love with it, but ballet was a requirement at my studio because of its ability to strengthen your core and improve your balance. It makes you a better dancer in any style. At first I was like, “ew gross,” but after a few classes it really grew on me. Ballet is actually what opened me up to other styles too. Because of those ballet classes, I was able to branch out to jazz, contemporary, and even tap. After a few years of competing in all styles, I realized that my true loves were tap and hip hop. This may sound strange but they’re actually pretty similar in a few ways. Some people think “top hat and cane” when it comes to tap but that wasn’t the case at all. It was much more “street” than that.
Of all genres though, hip hop will always be my bae. To many people’s surprise, there are a lot of different styles within hip hop and also variety within regions. I would say that my style is more modern LA or Bay Area hip hop as opposed to New York. There’s a huge difference between West Coast and East Coast hip hop. East Coast is often much more gritty and rooted in dope old school moves while some West Coast teams pride themselves on small, sharp and precise moves. The diversity within hip hop is an amazing thing to me.
C: What's one of the most memorable places you've danced?
MG: I have a few golden places. One, being a cruise ship to Mexico. It was the strangest, funniest, most annoying thing, but I’ll cherish it forever. We danced on the stage that was usually reserved for the daily drag show and had a full on 3-day dance competition. I did an acapella tap dance (tap-capella LOL) and won my first platinum trophy. A few other spots near and dear to my heart include UCSB’s basketball court, where we’d perform at halftime and of course, the parking lot where we’d practice into the wee hours of the night (shout out to Lot 22). My all time favorite place, however, was on the TV show Let’s Make a Deal. Wayne Brady forced me to tap dance on national television and it was just as mortifying as it sounds. Plus, I didn’t win.
C: What are some of the dance trends in the U.S. that confuse or intrigue you?
MG: All of them. Just kidding- but sort of. I think dance trends are fun in the way that they allow non-dancers to get involved and get creative with something awesome. But, it’s a little confusing to me when a dance trend that has been around for a long time in the black community goes viral when picked up by mainstream media. A prime example is the “twerking” craze that everyone thought Miley Cyrus had magically invented - cultural appropriation at it’s finest.
Another thing that truly intrigues me is when a new version of an old dance trend goes viral but holds the same name even though it doesn’t stay true to the original style at all. And the internet youths never even know the original dance existed. The new “running man challenge” is cute, but why is it called the running man when it’s not? And why is to Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo”? And remember the new “harlem shake” that was actually just people gyrating in weird costumes to that song on camera? WHY. Okay, old lady “back in my day” rant over.
C: Have you ever considered being on So You Think You Can Dance?
MG: Only in a dream… but also in a dance class final. I taught myself a contemporary dance from Season 6’s Ellenore and Ryan (choreographed by Travis Wall) and performed it in front of my class, so I was basically on the show. I did, however, consider being on America’s Best Dance Crew, because I was so inspired by crews like Jabbawockeez and Quest Crew when I was in high school. I would’ve done it, too… all I was missing was a crew.
C: What's it like to memorize a dance? Is it like trying to remember a speech?
MG: Memorizing a dance is a difficult thing to do right on the spot for me. I would take master classes from famous choreographers and then make a fool of myself when doing it at the end of the class. In those classes, you spend about 1 hour learning a dance and then 15 minutes taking turns performing it in front of the rest of the class, which can be up to about 50 people. It’s like, “Got it? No? Welp, best of luck. Oh also we’re doing it in groups of 4. Don’t screw it up.”
I usually memorize choreography best when I pair each of the moves with lyrics or beats from the music. I also mark choreography in my head. It helps me to see the moves in my head and I visualize myself moving to it. I usually do this as much as I can, wherever I can. In school I’d be sitting there looking sketch AF twitching ever so slightly, but in my head I’m doing a full out routine. On stage. With lights. As Beyonce’s backup dancer. On The Formation World Tour. As long as I continue to do a dance in my head, I can still remember it years later. The moves just come to me and my body will magically know what to do.
C: Who is your favorite dancer ever and why?
MG: I have a quite a few favorite dancers but one of my ultimate faves would be New Zealand dancer and choreographer, Parris Goebel. She truly amazes me. I first saw a video of hers with ReQuest dance crew back in 2011. She has continued to produce magical choreography, killing EVERY piece she’s in. I was blessed enough to take a class from her at the the Movement Lifestyle studio in Los Angeles over spring break. Yes, my friends and I spent our spring break taking dance classes. WILD. Parris taught a piece to Beyoncé’s “Rocket” and I’ve never felt more in love. I struggled through it of course, but I struggled happily.
C: What do you want to say to all the dancing kids in the world?
MG: Don’t ever stop doing what you love- not even for a moment. Also, Beyoncé is a queen.