BY CRYSTAL HARRELL
After months of staying indoors this pandemic season, many are itching to get out and exercise in a way that coincides with California’s social distance guidelines. One recreational activity that raises the spirit and promotes mental and physical wellness is dancing.
The Coachella Valley-based youth dance group, iLLusionists, held their first practice workshop on August 13 at La Quinta Park. The event was open to the public and those looking to learn contemporary dance styles while keeping distance from one another and wearing masks.
Leading the workshop was co-director Alan Lezama, who not only holds that position on the youth team iLLusionists, but on the accompanying adult team as well called Animazing.
“I came on the iLLusionists team as a beginner in 2017 and moved my way up since then. We never push anyone away. We always welcome everyone, but stage time does depend on their own work ethic,” said Lezama.
Both dance groups have gained a faithful following and credible reputation of dance instruction for all ages, even participating in dance competitions, including the SoCal Chapkis Dance Competition and the NorCal Chapkis Dance Competition in 2018.
The Chapkis Dance Family is known to have some of the best dancers in the world being featured on television shows, movies, commercials, and choreographing international artists’ tours, award shows, and music videos in the entertainment industry.
“Our company was really based on giving everyone the highest level of training for the lowest cost in the entire Coachella Valley, and we wanted to provide these free sessions because everyone is struggling during these times and you don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket,” stated Carlos Curley, who started iLLusionists in 2015 and took over the Animazing adult team in 2012.
The different styles of dance that the companies have been focused on teaching are popping and housing. Popping is a dance style characterized by sudden tensing and releasing of the muscles, hitting to the rhythm of beats in music. Housing is a freestyle street dance and social dance style that is usually accompanied by loud and bass-heavy electronic dance music typical of nightclubs.
“Since my journey started, I have been able to explore in many styles. Since I am Mexican, a lot of the latin culture is in my dance. I personally don’t like being defined by just one style, but housing is my favorite style. It allows me to let go, even if it’s just for a second, and truly connects with my soul,” explained Lezama.
One of the main difficulties that Lezama finds people having during the pandemic is maintaining motivation to do something and keeping negative emotions in check. Dancing is a positive way to feel rejuvenated and to get into a healthy mindset.
“In the future, I hope more people start coming and joining our classes because we are truly trying to create a good platform where everyone can go and take class. There’s no need to be nervous; everyone has got rhythm, you just have to put in some work,” said Lezama, whose only dance experience before joining the group was dancing at family parties.
Those interested in participating in future workshops and lessons can stay updated with social media. Lezama’s personal instagram is @alanlezama_ for questions or the official dance page, which is @illustionstsdancefam. In addition to running the dance company, Lezama also hosts his own podcast, which you can follow on Instagram as well, @box760_.
“I’m always posting all things relating to dance and events happening in the Coachella Valley. We like to meet with local artists and build each other up by creating together. That is what we stand for, and we’re hoping to create a new platform for the Valley,” explained Lezama.