Our “10 Questions With…” feature today is with Francisco Gella–and we’ll be hearing more from his students (and other students) soon when we debut our new feature, “Student Spotlight” down the line….in the meantime, get to know this talented man a bit…
1. How did you become involved with dance?
I was a freshman at the University of Washington and had just recently quit gymnastics. I decided to take a Dance 101 class just for fun. What was supposedly just for fun ended up being a life altering experience. That beginning dance class instilled a love for dancing that I knew as a child but never really pursued. It was the beginning of an amazing journey that continues to this day.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
Currently I have been teaching and choreographing all over the North American continent. I also founded and am the current artistic director of Nuevo School of Contemporary Dance which boasts a hybrid curriculum combining the training aspects of the concert dance world with the commercial dance genre. Although I do take class on a regular basis, my professional dance career ended in 2007. It was a choice I made to concentrate more on developing my teaching and choreography skills.
3. What is the best advice you have ever received from a teacher or mentor?
The best advice, which was consistent with many of my mentors and teachers: to not be afraid of being yourself, to be who you are, and to be accepting of your own individual merits both as a person and as an artist. This was important in fully developing the confidence and most important, to truly be comfortable with who you are, without judgement, both in life and on stage.
4. What has been your greatest challenge in dance?
The greatest challenge is to be and truly accept who you are without falling into the trap of always comparing yourself to other dancers/artists. Everyone is different and it is the uniqueness that we each hold that I find to be the most difficult to accept without having to conform to what is trendy, what is acceptable, and what everyone else is doing.
5. What has been your biggest strength as a dancer?
My biggest strength is my total and unconditional love for the art form. This is what has helped me to keep going in the most difficult of situations and especially during times where an individual has to truly face the truth without judgment.
6. Would you share one of your career highlights?
My most memorable career highlight (I want to make a note that there are several actually), was dancing at the Closing Ceremonies at the 1998 Nagano Olympics in Japan. It was the most amazing experience seeing the entire world come together, watching different races and cultures put their differences aside to celebrate sportsmanship and what makes humanity so beautiful. I was so emotionally high for several weeks after and saw the world in a more hopeful and positive way.
7. What do you think are the most important qualities for a dancer to have?
Although having natural facility can be advantageous, it is important to understand that even without amazing and natural physical gifts, through proper training the body can be changed, developed and adjusted to attain proficient and excellent technique. In addition, I feel another important quality to have is to not be afraid to look at the ugly within oneself and work to make it beautiful. Sometimes we tend to want to hide our flaws and avoid having to take responsibility and fix them. Finally, dancers should never be satisfied. Technique and artistry should always be improved throughout the life span of a dancer. Once you think and feel you are ‘there’ so-to-speak, it is all over. Learning becomes difficult and less satisfying if one thinks they have attained perfection, when in reality there is no such thing.
8. Is there any advice that you can give to young dancers?
To always work hard, to be truly honest with yourself and be realistic with our personal and professional goals. Also: never give-up. Anything is possible if you really want it bad enough and are willing to work hard for it. Finally – never take anything for granted. Be thankful for each and every moment that we are fortunate enough to fully express ourselves through movement. Not everyone is granted this talent.
9. What is it that you love about dance so much?
The physicality of it and the art of it; referring of course to both dancers and choreography that exhibit memorable, unforgettable, and timeless qualities. Dance is a method of expression and a visceral art form that can never be matched because the main instrument used is our own human body. And, in my personal opinion, there is nothing like dancing beautiful choreography to the most amazing piece of music. The combination is pure bliss.
10. What is next for you?
There are several projects upcoming for choreography. I am currently working on a commission for Long Beach Ballet. Now that Nuevo School of Contemporary Dance has become more established and is flourishing, it is now time to concentrate more on my own personal endeavors such as further pursuing choreographic opportunities and to continue to develop my overall skills as a dance educator. The long term goal is to establish both a youth dance collaborative and finally to create a successful professional dance company.
BIO: Francisco Gella’s career as a successful choreographer and dance educator proves that his philosophy of combining the commercial and artistic aspects of the dance world is sought out by many prestigious professional organizations.
Mr. Gella has choreographed for Pennsylvania Ballet’s Shut-Up and Dance production, and has set pieces on PHILADANCO’s Danco on Danco Program, Danco/II, Ballet East of Austin, Texas, Tucson Regional Ballet, Reflections Dance Company of Washington, D.C., Ballet Pacifica, California Ballet, Long Beach Ballet, the University of Utah Ballet Ensemble and the University of Washington Dance Program. Other choreographic credits include two highly acclaimed duets performed at the Laguna Dance Festival directed by Jodie Gates. His work for South Bay Ballet entitled “Configured Echoes” garnered the Best Choreography Award for the Pacific Region at the National Regional Dance America Conference. Francisco choreographed a solo entitled “Tango en Pointe” which was performed for the Presidential Scholars Gala held at the Kennedy Center. Mr. Gella has been a finalist multiple times for the MacCallum Theater’s Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival and he has also created several award-winning contemporary solos for the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition. He was recently awarded the Outstanding Choreographer Award at the 2011 Youth America Grand Prix Competition in Los Angeles. Mr. Gella was the assistant choreographer of Patricia Zhou’s solo featured on Dancing with the Stars.
Mr. Gella has been a guest instructor with SUNY Binghamton Summer Dance Institute, Extravadanza in Montreal, Canada, West Coast Dance Academy, Lula Washington Dance Company and School, California Ballet Conservatory, Ballet Pacifica Conservatory, Festival Ballet, Tucson Regional Ballet, Long Beach Ballet Summer Intensive, California Dance Theater Summer Intensive and the Orange County High School for the Arts. In addition, he taught master classes at numerous prestigious colleges and universities while on tour with the Philadelphia Dance Company. Francisco was on faculty for 4 years with Coastal Dance Rage, co-owners Blake McGrath & Shannon Mather’s dance convention which tours all over Canada and the United States.
Mr. Gella has been a company member with the Philadelphia Dance Company aka PHILADANCO, Repertory Dance Theater of Salt Lake City, UT., Spectrum Dance Theater of Seattle, WA., the Chamber Dance Company, Leaving/Ground Dance, California Ballet and Ballet Pacifica. He was part of the National Choreographers Initiative two years in a row, performed at the Closing Ceremonies in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan, a worldwide broadcasted event, as a principal soloist and was featured in a PBS: Dance in America Special in Daniel Ezralow’s holiday satirical work entitled the “X-mas Philes” (Mr. Ezralow is also the choreographer of Cirque du Soleil’s, The Beatle’s LOVE).
Born in Bacolod City, Philippines, Francisco first began dancing in college at the age of 19 and graduated with a B.A. in Dance from the University of Washington in Seattle. Prior to dancing, he was a competitive trained gymnast for 8 years.