An Interview With Anna Sarao
By Samantha Andico
Southern California is home to a plethora of dance competitions - The Bridge, Vibe, Fusion, and more, but one stands out among the rest: Body Rock. Last week, we had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the owner of the Body Rock Dance Competition, Artistic Director of Culture Shock SD, and Paradise Hills native, Anna Sarao.
Anna was raised in Paradise Hills. She jokes that her parents really tried to “raise them [her and her siblings] in ‘the Filipino way,’” but it was American television that ‘raised her’. From shows like What’s Happening Now!!, Soul Train, and Yo! MTV Raps, she was exposed to the hip-hop culture that was beginning to permeate the mainstream media. She danced with classmates at school, and every opportunity she could. However, her parents weren’t too supportive of her endeavors. “You’re a girl,” they had said. “You vacuum, you wash the dishes, you stay home.”
Of course, she kept on going.
While a student at Mesa College, Anna met the woman who would end up being her mentor, Angie Bunch. She was initially surprised to see that a white woman was teaching the class - and that there were actual college classes for hip-hop. After signing up for the class, she was hooked. She ended up subbing for the class and assisting Angie as her TA.
Angie eventually invited her to join Culture Shock San Diego (which would eventually grow into a national phenomenon - there are multiple Culture Shock groups around the United States). It was there that she met her friend Chris, who sadly passed away in 1999. He inspired her to keep on dancing, and she founded Bustagroove in 2000, which would eventually become Body Rock.
After a few setbacks in the early 2000s which resulted in Anna splitting from her former business partner, she wondered what she was going to do next and what the future of Body Rock would be. Thankfully, her good friend and Pastor at the Rock Church offered the church as a venue for the show in 2009.
When asked what advice she would give those aspiring to make dance a career, Anna said: “If they pursue dancing, just be prepared for it to be hard. I didn’t have supportive parents, and it’s not a lucrative job. Only a few people who pursue this kind of career go to LA. Also, getting views/likes [online] does not always mean someone is a success or is financially stable.”
Knowing your roots and always being a student are also other fundamental parts of dancing: Anna says that it is incredibly important to learn different styles, immerse oneself in the history of different types of dances, and learn about the history and culture of hip-hop. Many of the pioneers are still alive and live in Los Angeles. There are a ton of master classes offered at Culture Shock. She also recommends the documentaries “Freshest Kids” and “Style Wars” to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the genre.
In addition, she wants those aspiring to make dance a career to know that “If you are a choreographer, or teacher, or event producer, in any type of art and aspire to make a life for yourself - then you have to charge a fee for your time. People are paying you for the training you received, the professionalism and care you put into your craft, and your authenticity as an artist. That is worth something. If you're unsure, the ask other artists what they charge so that you can get a base rate. Take time to prepare for your future. And artists don't have to starve - the really good ones should be paid for their time.”
She acknowledges that the show and the dance community has changed over the years (social media playing a big part in that), but the love and the passion is still there.
Body Rock: Homecoming will be held on June 3rd at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Anna recommends that you purchase tickets directly at the Box Office in order to avoid Ticketmaster’s $8 service charge (however, if you decide to buy tickets online, you can get them here). The seats are tiered (balcony, mezzanine, and orchestra). This year’s show will pay tribute to all of the groups that inspired the competing groups.
Check out the awesome lineup and list of judges below: