By the time I finish writing this, Galen Hooks, L.A. based choreographer, producer, dancer, advocate, and more (a lot more), will likely have flown 238,900 miles to the moon, performed a killer dance routine in a pair of jet black stilettos, and made it back to New York in time to teach an afternoon intensive class.
But that’s to be expected from an extraordinary dancer.
For Hooks, busy days (sans space travel) packed with dance classes, intensives, traveling around the world, and helping dancers reach their full potential in performance skills as well as on the business side of dance is just part of the daily routine — like brushing teeth may be for the rest of us meager humans.
Since early childhood, Hooks itched to get on stage and soon began her trip to stardom at age seven after her and her dance troupe performed for the hit '90s television talent show Star Search. The five-person dance troupe named “Girls of Paradise” were crowned dance champions, and her career has hardly slowed down since.
Hooks has captured audiences all over the world and has worked with some of the biggest names in music — Usher, Janet Jackson, and Ne-Yo, to name a few. She’s worked on Dancing With The Stars, the historic MTV VMA Michael Jackson Tribute, and the inspiring Legion of Extraordinary Dancers...the list goes on and on.
But for Hooks, it has never been about any kind of checklist. Rather, any time you ask her the how, what, where, when, and whys of all of these projects her answer is often as simple as: “You just go out and do your craft.”
It’s easy to be in awe of Hooks based on her nonstop schedule alone, but once you watch her perform on stage as a dancer for the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, or catch her impassioned routine for “Love On The Brain” by Rihanna, or watch her stomp your heart out to “River” by Bishop Braggs, it’s easy to get hooked on Hooks.
“I find it so energizing,” she said in an interview with BUST.com. “You’re on your 20th hour of shooting and you still don’t want it to end, by the time we wrap the job I’m so energized I can’t sleep.”
This energy translated to a number of projects throughout Hooks career, including her Campfire Vaudeville, a poetic folktale interpreted through dance and song, featuring original music and stories by Hooks. She’s also worked closely with Ne-Yo as a dancer, choreographer, and actress performing alongside him in his music videos.
Recently, her time and energy has been focused on activism within the dance community and helping dancers grow professionally and artistically. As Hooks moved throughout the dance world she began to notice the pitfalls and her frustrations rose.
“No one was teaching people how to be confident,” she said. “But if you’re dancing from the inside out, you’re being creative, you’re being an artist, you have a point of view, and you’re dancing for you.”
So Hooks set out to change the industry and began teaching intensive classes, better known as the Galen Hooks Method. In this, she combines the art of dance with the business side in order to help dancers, new and old, understand not only the best way to move their bodies but the best ways to land the gigs they’re working toward.
Her site gives interested students the rundown of what they’ll be getting from different intensives — 1-on-1 customized guidance, the opportunity to “find your voice & be unapologetic” as well as career and life guidance — an all in one package not always easily found. In addition, she offers “heels intensives” for men and women that challenges her students to find the confidence to own a stage.
Hooks is a true believer in “the more the merrier” mentality and hopes that sharing her experiences with others introduces more unique dancers into the industry. “I want to watch award shows and be inspired by what I see, not frustrated that everybody is the same,” she said. “When I’m hiring for a job, I don’t want to feel like I’m forced to pick between four mediocre people — I want to have a tough time picking between ten amazing dancers.”
While the majority of Hooks students are looking to train and build up their skills for a future in professional dance, others like a woman from Toronto who works for the Canadian army, dances to get a break from day to day work. “The way that she went back to work on Monday wasn’t the same as how she went in on Friday before the intensive,” Hooks said. For many, Hooks intensives can be a healthy release from stress, trauma, or simply offer a change in daily life.
Outside of her specialized intensives and classes, Hooks is the chair of Dancers Alliance, a volunteer organization dedicated to improving the wages of professional dancers and choreographers. She’s a board member at SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), and spearheaded the historic effort to unionize music videos, which resulted in an industry-changing contract victory and the first contract drafted under the newly merged SAG-AFTRA.
For Hooks, what dance comes down to is community. Through the Galen Hooks Method, classes, and performances, Hooks’ mission is to make dance accessible and be a mentor for dancers trying to reach their goals. “Sharing this information, my experiences, is a gain for the entire community,” she said. “It’s always a gain if everybody is better.”
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