Dating a Dancer

Jake Padilla is a musician currently living in Durango, CO. He has worked for a decade as a teacher and performer for various theater productions, bands and in solo performances. His girlfriend, Malinda LaVelle, is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and the artistic director of Project Thrust. This is the world of dance through Jake’s eyes after dating Malinda for four years.

Jake Padilla and Malinda LaVelle

Malinda LaVelle and Jake Padilla

What did you think of dance before you met Malinda versus after?

I have been exposed to many forms of dance in my life. With music being my forte, I’ve always enjoyed the complimentary side that is dance. Cultural dance, for instance — African, South American and Eastern European dance especially — has intrigued me. I’ve always liked the idea of an entire culture getting together and dancing for a purpose (like a ritual or celebration). I also like the idea of telling a story without words, the way ballet does. Though in my experience, dance has always been a participatory art. At the mention of “contemporary” or “modern” forms, however, dance became too abstract and far out to mean anything to me. Frankly, I thought it was a joke! I started picturing Enya music videos and Southwestern hippies trying to “feel the energy around them.” I saw phoniness rather than artistic expression.

After being exposed to contemporary and modern dance through Malinda in the San Francisco dance community and seeing performances from both the audience and behind the scenes perspectives, I learned in some cases my previous opinion remained the same: phony! But in many other cases the art was revealed through the proper context. For example, Malinda’s Project Thrust, a company that often falls in the category of dance theater, showed me a side of dance I had never seen before— a clear representation of an idea with sparse music and little to no dancing. At first the silence and simplicity was uncomfortable but the power behind it left me obsessed. Malinda and other choreographers in this style of contemporary dance theater have the same raw and heavy characteristics I would expect to see in a great rock band!

From your perspective, what are some of the hardest aspects of pursuing dance?

Pursuing dance! Simple as that! It seems to be a lot of work to entice other dancers in the community to come to performances let alone those who have no direct affiliation to the art. The very idea of simply living off what you make as a performer seems to be pure fantasy. Also, the environment in which one has to cultivate their art is extremely limited and political. It is not an art for the faint of heart. It really is art for art’s sake!

What is something you’ve come to enjoy about dance you maybe wouldn’t have if not for Malinda’s involvement?

Dance, like any art, exists to emote. With that said, if it weren’t for my exposure to dance, it may still be a mystery to me how to express myself through art. Being a musician, I would always write something that was trying to capture a definite thought or idea but it would instead become complicated and technical and in turn vague and empty. I was surprised to see many dance performances that represented an idea in a very simple way. Without being pretentious, condescending, ironic or sarcastic, dance, and dance theater particularly, has a great potential to get the point across easily. I greatly admire art that can be so simple, it seems the most honest and impacting.