So this particular post has been sitting on the back-burner for a while. It’s been partially drafted and undergone many edits, I could never seem to get it up to be published. It is about the Lipstick Diaries Heels Intensive that I attended in late 2015. This post was so hard to write, because I could never quite articulate how profound an impact this program had on me. There are no words that would adequately describe what a great program this is. At the risk of vomiting some superlative ridden review of something that I really enjoyed (haha we all know I’m good at those), I kept this post to myself. Partly because I didn’t want to come across like some e-mo nutter (again, we all know I am good at coming across like that at times), and partly because I didn’t want to diminish the good work and reputation of this program by sounding like some paid television shopping commercial (which I am not, by the way).
Jessica Castro, the founder of Lipstick Diaries. WOW! Superwoman is the only applicable word. In terms of commercial professional dancers, she’s the epitome of success. She has worked on screen and on stage with artists such as Janet Jackson, JLo, Beyonce, and Ricky Martin, and with dance heavy weights such as Tina Landon, Frank Gatson, Rich and Tone, and Hi-Hat just to name a few. As such, when she teaches, you are not just in a program learning the latest on-trend choreography, you are actually receiving decades of information and experience from these people. It’s hard to explain unless you are physically there. But it actually feels as though Castro has taken her decades worth of auditions, rehearsals, shows, successes, failures, critic and praise, and shaped it into this deliverable package – but only for those willing to open it. For those of you that were there, you might understand what I mean.
The program ran over several days. It was a Heels intensive, with a strong focus on female empowerment. Owning and using one’s unique femininity to their advantage particularly when auditioning. Note the words “femininity” and “female empowerment” not “hot sexy mamma” (cue the side eye). Castro’s team included Aisha Francis, Galen Hooks, Tracy Phillips, and if that wasn’t enough Tina Landon. [Little side story here, when Ms Landon walked into the room it was the most surreal thing for me. As a child, I’d only ever read about her in magazines. It was always some strange fantasy that I would one day dance for her. Never in a million years did I think I would be in the same room with her let alone take a class with her and actually dance in front of her! Dreams come true in the weirdest ways don’t they?].
Each one of these teachers brought something special and unique to the table, teaching from their respective experience. If I went into detail this post would go on forever. They gave so much of themselves. It was hard to choose, but in a single sentence this would be perhaps the most succinct take-aways from each of the teachers.
Aisha Francis – Make good choices, and take a sip of “f*ck it juice” and take some risks.
Tracy Phillips – Don’t be afraid to be different, use what makes you different to your advantage.
Galen Hooks – Dig deep into your soul when you dance, find your story that relates to your dance, and tell it sincerely.
Tina Landon – Be real, don’t try to be someone else, and accept that not every job is meant for you.
Jessica Castro – You have to want it. You have to want to dance, you have to want to be a dancer. NOTE: You have to want to be a dancer not want to get famous quickly. They’re very different things.
As well as the actual dance classes, and Q&A sessions, Castro orchestrated a mock audition. We were sent the brief the night before and expected to prepare for the day as you would real audition, in front of a real panel that consisted of a BLOC agent, Choreographer Luam Keflezky, and Galen Hooks. As well as the experience of the audition, you got direct individual feedback. Confronting if anything. But truly essential. This program is not for the faint hearted. It’s not for those that just love to take a dance class because it’s fun. It is a serious, albeit short, program. The intensity of training, and expectations of participants I would argue sits on par with elite performing arts schools. I am just surmising based on what I have read, witnessed and been told. Many of the attendees are already signed with agents and are booking work, but enroll in this program because they know it will give them that edge when they step into an audition. A few months after the program I saw two girls I was dancing next to, dancing next to Beyonce at the Superbowl. I can’t tell you how proud I was for them, to see them there, reaping the rewards for their hard work, yet how humbling it was knowing that I was dancing next to them in class, feeding off and matching their energy and intensity. And, then also knowing I’m a good 10-12 years older than them, post popping out a baby and still pushing as hard as they can.
This is now the fourth, nay possibly fifth edit of this post. I’ve cut copious amounts of content because it’s simply too long, and I was running out of superlatives. Dancers, if you dance in heels, and want to become a better artist, and/or if you want to be the dancer that knows how to book jobs – this program is a must. It’s an investment in yourself as an artist. You will walk out better, stronger, and more confident. But, as Castro will confirm, you have to want it. The knowledge and the tools are given to you in this program, but you have to be willing to take it, use it, and take the risks necessary to propel yourself. If there is one thing that I wish I had done in my younger years is taken MORE RISKS. I wish Castro’s Lipstick Diaries Program was around 15 years ago; to have given me the confidence and tools to take the risks I should have taken. If you’re coming to New York, please look it up, and seize the opportunity.