Katie Janovec

2023 Ambassador Katie Janovec

Emily Running (00:01):

Hello, my name is Emily Running. I am the Founder and Director of Dance Wire and I am here with Katie Janovec to talk about her life and career in dance. Welcome.

Katie Janovec (00:17):

Thank you. Happy to be here. 

Emily Running (00:18):

So start by telling me what are your current titles? 

Katie Janovec (00:24):

Yeah, so I really easily, I consider myself a dancer, teacher, event producer. Some would call me a popper, but specialize in popping styles and also just have a whole love and respect for street and club dance movement and community in general. 

Emily Running (00:48):

Yeah. Have you ever hesitated at calling yourself a Dancer or do you call yourself an Artist ever? I’m curious, do you think of yourself as a dance artist?

Katie Janovec (01:06):

I think as the term creative has become more popular and accepted. I think I resonate more with that than saying I’m an artist. I mean, I do believe I’m an artist as well, but I think creative feels more all encompassing of the art and things that perhaps are not always considered art. 

Emily Running (01:31):

Totally. Yeah, I like that. Alright, brief overview of how you got started in dance. 

Katie Janovec (01:43):

Yeah, so I actually didn’t really start dancing until I was in my twenties, so I was 20 and I loved dance in high school, but I felt I was too old to begin. It was like this very boxed in view of the world, but I was a cheerleader. 

Emily Running (02:04):

You’re not alone with that boxed in view, one of the things that we’re trying to overcome here. 

Katie Janovec (02:11):

You can begin at things at whatever time, right? So in midwest city, very sheltered life, I was a cheerleader, which is semi-hilarious now I think to people who know me, but loved the movement aspect of it. Really loved dancing. And then once I moved to the west coast after high school started to realize I could actually take a class, I wouldn’t be so far behind. So I started dancing in Eugene at the community college, was doing modern and ballet and was introduced and just loved every movement that I took, every class I took. And then once I moved to Portland, really got introduced to the street and club dance community from there. 

Emily Running (03:04):

It’s so interesting to me because for people who are physically inclined and movement based, you take what’s available to you, just what way is this outlet? Then you might discover something else and say, oh no, this is really what it was, but I had to start there and then, oh no, that’s really interesting. And so it tends to be you take advantage of what’s in front of you because you need that outlet or you need that physical aspect and then it takes you places. So I mean, start out with cheerleading. Okay. I don’t know. That was what was the option I imagine. 

Katie Janovec (03:45):

Right. And I feel that with dance too, that we’re still so much influenced by what’s around us is that I really enjoyed all of those movement styles. I mean ballet honestly, not as much. I realized it didn’t work as well for my body, but I really love modern and even the popping, for example, that I am more focused on now, I’m like, I love these other movement styles I just don’t have the capacity to start new things all the time. So I think at this point I was like, okay, I’m going to stick with a couple and just continue to push through even though I really like other movement too. 

Emily Running (04:28):

Yeah, it’s like a relationship. You can only have so many really solid relationships. And then you have a lot of acquaintance and friendly relationships, but you could only have a certain really solid ones. I don’t know. While you were talking about that it was just getting me thinking about that. Well, what does dance mean to you in life? 

Katie Janovec (04:54):

Let’s see. Dance has meant a lot, likely a lot of different things. I think from the jump it was just a joy and just a real love of movement and just feeling really good dancing and moving my body and feeling connected to that. So I think there was just the love of that of movement and still is. And I think as time goes by and I continue to stick with it, I think when I got, well, going back when I got into more popping and introduced to house and other street dance styles is it really opened my world as well into people and communities. And so I think that shifted my perspective a lot on relationship and people. And so I think it really opened me up in a way. So that was such a beautiful thing. 

Emily Running (05:58):

Tell me more about, I mean even walk me through the experience of learning how dance creates community and is it about the people that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about? Is it about a common interest? A neighborhood? Community is such a broad and can be used in so many different ways type of word. Just talk more about that. 

Katie Janovec (06:24):

So I think a couple of the things you said, it is all of that in the sense of when you have a common interest with people, you may not otherwise have met them if you didn’t share a common interest. So that stretches way far outside of dance. So that definitely was the case of just meeting people really varying backgrounds, ethnicities, where they grew up, what they’re even into. You know, these days, I wouldn’t have particularly met them, right?

Emily Running (07:02):

But when you do, you have an immediate bond, so there’s something immediately connecting you to one another. 

Katie Janovec (07:12):

Yeah, and I think in my experience, while this community can be very competition oriented in regards to battles or that being a big aspect of the community and that generally speaking, that’s not what it is about. It’s not competitive driven for most of the people that I know. And so there is a level of accessibility where you can be dancing next to someone who is potentially one of the best dancers in the world, but you’re in the same circle with them. You’re in the same cypher, you’re at the same event. You can go up to them and ask them a question. People may be friendly or not, but generally in my experience is that people will answer and they’ll introduce themselves.  

Emily Running (08:05):

There feels to be a distinct kind of culture around lineage, would you say in the street dance community because maybe that’s because how it evolved? It’s not taught in studios necessarily. That’s kind of where it started was just passing it and passing it and passing it. And so is that accurate?

Katie Janovec (08:34):

Yeah, I think it depends on who you have learned from and what they have taught and been taught by those before them. I think some people really are about like how do I respect where this came from, contribute to this and continue to pass that on. So there is more of a lineage of my teachers, their teacher’s teacher and their mentors and how that gets passed down. I do think I have been taught a lot of that surrounding just the importance of respecting, giving back, and contributing and then building and growing on that and moving forward. I think in this current stage, people are accessing it through very different ways, and so that is not always the case. And I don’t think people perhaps always get the opportunity to learn from someone who maybe has been a part of the community for 20 years and then their mentor or teacher was a part of the community for 20 years before that. So there is more of a lineage, and I think it likely took me a few years of also learning that aspect of how do I participate in this culture? Because it is a culture that I didn’t come from, and so what does that mean? The dance I do is a black dance, it’s from Oakland. So it’s like what is my responsibility and if I’m practicing this and how do I just the full circle aspect, it’s not just about me taking this movement and doing whatever I want to do with it. So I do think there’s been, and gratefully people I’ve learned from who have emphasized that and taught me that.

Emily Running (10:34):

I’m just visualizing how the world is changing with technology and accessibility and it isn’t an all bad thing or an all good thing, it’s just complicated and we have no idea how it will shake out and what things we’re going to face along the way. But yeah, that’s an interesting thought.

Katie Janovec (10:55):

It’s probably quite different than in, I don’t know, this is kind of what I know more so than other dance. It’s just so much more well known and well spread in the international community.

Emily Running (11:08):

Yeah, exactly, and various different styles across the board. Ballet, there’s an etiquette and a place where you learn it and a style and I don’t know, there’s other things to it. And then each different style has their own way of, because movement is hard to pass along. That’s the point. We can’t record it in words and pass it to the next generation of people. There has to be some sort of communication that is driving that and it kind of happens differently in different styles of dance. So that’s interesting. What challenges would you say you have faced as a dance creative?

Katie Janovec (11:55):

Right. I’ve never put those two words together like that either. Dance, creative. 

Emily Running (12:01):

Totally. I retrofitted our question from dance artists to dance creative because I do, I think artists, I know I had a hard time owning dance artist and then I moved to Paris and then I was like, oh, I get it now. I’m happy to be an artist. But then I also think that it’s steeped in this weird thing, and I think you’re absolutely right. And street dance is a good example of, is it art at this point? I don’t know who even knows, but the point is I really like creative, but then I just retrofitted the question to dance creative. So here we go. 

Katie Janovec (12:37):

Yeah, challenges. Well, so probably the biggest challenge is shortly, let me think. Shortly before I started dancing, I was in a bicycle accident, and so when I started dancing and was doing these very symmetrical movements like ballet for example, my body, my hip, my turnout was really different on one side. And I was often in pain really doing any dance, but ballet was sort of a more extreme version of that. And just recognizing my back was going out of place a lot and bones are shifting. And so, I think that injury continues, you know I continue to experience that today, it’s not something I’ve ever fully gotten a grasp on or completely moved on from. So I think learning to be disciplined and consistent, when from the beginning it seemed that the amount I could dance, the amount of time I could train, what I could do, there was some limitation to that. So after I moved from Eugene to Portland, I really stopped dancing for a couple years and then got introduced to say house and popping, and I think doing freestyle movement, I was really drawn to freestyle movement because I could adapt it to my body. And I think the other styles, I wasn’t able to do that. And so, okay, my shoulder hurts today or something, I can do more footwork, more legwork, or if my back is, I don’t have to bend back that far. Sure. So there was a lot, I think the freestyle aspect of these styles and that being the foundation or being just such an integral part of it was what drew me in because I learned to be able to be consistent but not have to do stuff that just would’ve hurt me that day. 

Emily Running (14:50):

I love that freestyle gives you the opportunity to customize to your body, and I think the perception is that dance is like the choreography and you have to do it a certain way. So I love that freestyle actually, yeah, you have the opportunity to customize it. Would you go so far as to say that dance helped with that injury? 

Katie Janovec (15:18):

I think what I realized is not moving doesn’t help, and I don’t know, I guess now that seems like duh of course, but I think when you’re going through some element of pain, you’re like, oh, if I move a lot, it’s going to hurt, so I’m just not going to. But I definitely figured out how having a balance was more the answer. So even now I sit a lot for my job and sometimes it doesn’t feel like dance would help, but it will. It does help.

Emily Running (16:02):

I wonder, and even that body awareness, just the act of being aware of your body so that you can teach it to move in certain ways as you do in dance might be beneficial or facilitating to a dance injury.

Katie Janovec (16:20):

Yeah, it’s been a process for sure. 

Emily Running (16:27):

What people, resources or opportunities have helped you the most in your journey? 

Katie Janovec (16:34):

So I immediately think of traveling, probably traveling and having teachers and mentors definitely. But I think that this, I love to travel already before I even started moving and dancing, and I think traveling and connecting with different communities around the US, internationally, it’s like I think there’s a lot of inspiration obviously in gathering with folks, and a lot of the ways that the street and club dance community gathers is through battles, is through jams, sessions. And I think it’s just incredible to see how people choose to utilize the foundation of these styles. So we talk about it being a freestyle movement, but there’s 1000% of foundation underneath all of that freestyle, and so it’s really interesting to watch how people utilize that foundation, with their and with their own style and themselves in it. That’s always, at least what I’ve been taught is don’t just copy me, I’m teaching you this thing, but then go and do it how you do it. So it’s really putting yourself on top of that. So I think traveling is always invigorating, is always inspiring and taking class from different teachers. And I think continuing to have teachers that I go back to, I think it took me a while to connect with someone. It wasn’t necessarily here in Portland, not having that in the city. So that changes the relationship is not having someone to necessarily go and practice with weekly. So yeah, I think my process personally has been very slow and my growth and development, I’m more just be consistent, dance regularly, try to dance daily. I mean I go in and out of that over the years, but having folks to go to and to ask questions and to take class from definitely is helpful. 

Emily Running (19:05):

Yeah. I’m curious how the travel and the community overlap because you go, so you travel somewhere for a battle or for an organized event, and that’s immediate community that’s built up around this thing with, again, that common bond. It gives you an opportunity to see places differently.

Katie Janovec (19:35):

Yeah, with people who live there, and yeah it’s definitely a different experience. And I mean here too, events happening here, any event anywhere is really how I’ve seen this community to sustain on various levels of events. If that is a session or something weekly. Like right now, there’s a popping session that’s weekly and it’s not massive, but I feel very committed. I’m like, if I’m here, I’m going to go right or I’m going to show up and I’m going to continue to do that because I think it’s important. And I think I have done a lot of training on my own, just in my house training, and so that aspect of dancing with people, of course is incredibly important. 

Emily Running (20:26):

Can you give a brief glossary of terms of things like battle and session and jam? And I know there’s a lot of ways of gathering, so that people listening who are like, what are they talking about or how to approach?

Katie Janovec (20:47):

So how I think of it, so a session is really just, it can look differently, but how, for example, the one I am going to, we come together, we’re actually meeting in a park and we are freestyling the whole time. So we’re in a cypher, which is generally a circle where one person dances at one time and we just take turns, we play music and we dance, respond to the music, whatever that looks like for that person, that’s a session for me. They can look differently. Sometimes sessions will have folks dancing more on their own, so they’re not always cyphering, but they’re practicing in the same space. It could be, I mean, nowadays there’s a lot at studios or it could be, I’ve seen in Chicago, they would do the first hour, like loose training, just going through drills. Second is more the cypher collectively dancing together. So that’s what I think of as a session. A jam, I wonder if someone will disagree with me on this, I think of a jam more as a larger event in itself where a battle is included within that, but there’s perhaps other aspects to it. So I think it’s similar to a battle and it encompasses a battle, but it’s not only a battle. So I think of a jam in that way, and I think they’re used interchangeably. A battle is okay, we’re going to show up, I’m going to sign up to battle, whether that’s a 1v1, so I get paired against someone else and then we each dance for say whatever, 45 seconds or a minute, and then the judges decide if I go on or if they go on and you go through the bracket system. But you can go to a battle and not battle, you can just watch you dance with other folks in the cypher. You can just kind of do whatever. But that’s how I would define them. 

Emily Running (23:01):

Totally. I’m just conscious of different terminology that probably doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people of what is the difference of this and that the next thing and anyways, helpful to have the picture painted, I think. 

Katie Janovec (23:18):

Yeah, now I’m thinking about jam. Am I describing jam right? I also think of jam like maybe there’s a class at some point in it or there’s different level dance festivals or things like that.

Emily Running (23:34):

Well, okay, so here’s a question. How do you know what to expect out of a thing that you’re going to?

Katie Janovec (23:43):

I mean, at least they usually explain what’s going on, what’s going to be included. In a couple of weeks I am going to go to Canada and they call that a Dance Festival. So I can look and it’s like, oh, there’s prelims day one, main event day two, which has battles, but it also has live music. It also has performances. We all know what a dance festival is I think a little bit more.

Emily Running (24:14):

And kind of one more question around this is if somebody was entering into this world, if somebody was interested in entering into this world, what is the best place to start? 

Katie Janovec (24:36):

I mean, I guess if you’ve seen it somewhere, I mean, I would reach out to whoever that is. So it’s like, oh, a lot of people started because they just saw someone dancing and they were so interested, they went up to them. I mean, of course other people probably of my age who started before me, they saw a video or something like that. But yeah, I mean, if you see someone doing something, ask them what it is. There are, say in this city, a few people who perhaps organize and host more things. I’ve hosted different events and I have a project that if people dm me, then I’ll be like, yeah, here’s some places to check out. Here’s some people to connect with. 

Emily Running (25:29):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny. It feels like a less straightforward channel.

Katie Janovec (25:42):

I think here, I think in larger cities and in other places around the world, it just varies because I think that there are a lot of dancers in certain cities and there are a lot of people who are perhaps more prominent and they have their own studios and their only offering these specific styles. Or my teacher, Future, went to China and he said there were 1400 people who signed up for popping in the battle. It’s massive. So that’s mind blowing to me, but in certain countries it’s not unknown at all, or communities. So it just really varies, and I think in say the smaller cities around the US, it’s not a huge community, but there are definitely people for sure. 

Emily Running (26:39):

What stage are you at in your career or kind of your trajectory as a dancer? 

Katie Janovec (26:46):

Yeah, so I think because I started as an already adult, I never thought I would be professional. That was never my track of I want to be a professional dancer. So I think the reality has always been quite different. And it’s interesting to be in my thirties and I’m still committed. I’m still dancing. So I think around dance and movement, I just always want to progress, I want to be able to express myself better, I think doing a freestyle dance is like, how can I express myself and really respond to the music and make that translate so that folks understand my movement. I still have interests and goals in battling, being a better battler, performing. So there are those things. I think too, as I’ve organized events and now I also do that professionally, I really see those worlds merging or having the potential to merge. So I have organized dance events, but would also love to organize larger scope of events and feel there is a lot of potential for that here.

Emily Running (28:13):

I want you to talk a little bit about The Beautiful Street. What is it? What do you do with that? 

Katie Janovec (28:22):

Yeah, so the beautiful street is my project that I started, it’s so wild, I think it was seven or eight years ago. And really at that time I was in Buenos Aires in Argentina and just was really inspired by all the street art and how colorful it was and dynamic and was really looking for women artists, and there were very few who were really big muralists. And so started thinking of, oh, how do I support women doing things in the street, whether that’s photography, dance, or murals. So I started a blog, which evolved into moving away from a blog and more just focusing on dance related events and performances and classes. So, that’s what it’s been for the last, I don’t know, five years, and I’ve organized and I’ve tended to partner with folks who are already hosting events or street fairs or festivals and bringing in the dance aspect to it. And so it being a little bit of a performance and a battle and also supporting visibility for the community. I think it’s always been very important for me of how do I support visibility for this dance community and how do I pay people? And that’s still important to me and wondering, and I think right now it’s in this evolving space as I have organized a lot of dance events and battles and then also am organizing all these other events outside of that. And so I’m really in this phase of what do I really want to be doing? What does this look like? Is it a dance battle? Incorporating movement always feels important, but I think I’m taking some time to reimagine what that is. Yeah. But it’s evolving. It’s evolving as everything I feel like in my life does in general.

Emily Running (30:47):

As it does, as it should. It shouldn’t just be and stay. That’s not how the world works. So describe from your perspective, what is the current dance scene in Portland? What is fabulous, what needs work? Again, you can kind of talk specific to your genre or broadly, however you want to go about. 

Katie Janovec (31:19):

So I like that. What is fabulous. I mean, I think there’s a lot of, there’s so much dance happening in Portland, and I don’t even have a pulse on everything, but I try to attend things and performances that are outside of my scope. And I think we both attended that meeting the other day, and so it was interesting to hear of folks who had been around for a very long time and invested in movement. And then I think also new thought, new people who perhaps haven’t been around or younger as long. And so I think there’s always people who want to dance, and so there’s always new energy and folks coming in. And I think the things that I see are, there’s some very grassroots community driven spaces and studios and choreographers that are doing a good job of connecting with folks, at least the ones that I follow. And so I feel inspired by what they’re building. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m a massive part of that, but I think I just appreciate movement and I appreciate people putting energy into creating. So I think that that’s good. 

Emily Running (32:50):

And it’s hard to, I just want to say it is really hard to focus on, especially you’re building something, so you’re focusing on your thing and you’re building your thing, and then that connectivity, it’s hard to do both. I do believe that it’s hard to do both, and I think that’s a gap that as far as trying to work out how to fill in functional ways where that connectivity can be there, while really we recognize that everybody, you spend the majority of your time focusing on what you’re doing because it’s hard to do. So it’s not that you have a bunch of free time to run to be going on out. And there is, we know that supporting other creatives, supporting other people, showing up to what they’re doing will help them show up to what you’re doing and getting inspired by people outside of what you’re working on, all of that super valuable. And then it also takes a lot of time and energy. 

Katie Janovec (33:59):

Definitely. And I think even in building event production, which sometimes crosses over in a dance and doesn’t, just building that up, there are times where I’m so fully immersed in that and have so many events that I’m like, I’m not dancing really that much and I’m clearly not going to anything. But I really love art and culture. I love being out. I love hearing music, I love seeing dance. It’s a big priority for me. So I don’t know. I don’t have too many critiques. 

Emily Running (34:37):

I mean, what are things you would like to see? Again, it doesn’t need to be a critique, but oh, I wish, or what’s missing that I always want to turn to, but it’s not there. 

Katie Janovec (34:49):

Oh my gosh. Well, so I think for me, I’ve shared this with a lot of people, but I’ve always felt that there was potential for a street and club dance festival here in this city and that there are a number of folks that could sponsor this, a number of brands that are very aligned with the street and club dance community. And I’ve wanted to see that happen a long time, or I’ve just personally wanted to create it. I think now I’m in a space where I can do that. I do have the tools to do that, but I think just sitting and evaluating, is that a thing I want to do? But I do believe that there’s potential for that here, and I would love to support that or be a part of it or see that happen. So that’s something I have always thought would be super cool and tight. And I’ve been so inspired by other cities who’ve done things and I’ve traveled to and seen. So I think I’ll stick with that. 

Emily Running (36:03):

Great. So last thing is to paint an idealistic picture of dance in Portland in 10 years or so. You can paint the picture in any way you want, but what are the features? Who are the people? What is the avenues for getting involved? Any way that you want to paint the picture? 

Katie Janovec(36:31):

Yeah. Let’s see. 

Emily Running (36:34):

What are the funding streams? Where are people getting money from? 

Katie Janovec (36:37):

I’m definitely thinking about funding immediately.

Emily Running (36:38):

Who is supporting this?

Katie Janovec (36:41):

Well, I think I also worked in nonprofit. I’ve worked at a dance nonprofit as well. And I definitely think of funding and there being more access to, for artists, whether that be solo artists and choreographing or creating or companies. I think just wanting to see a level of support for the arts in general.

Emily Running (37:14):

Enough said, like, could we get a little love over here? 

Katie Janovec (37:20):

Yeah, and just wanting to see that that be a potential accessible career choice for folks, or just people giving more? I think, yeah, I just have a big like, hey, we should all be supporting something. I personally feel connected to movement and to dance, and that’s something I want to fund. And I’m like, I hope everyone chooses something regardless if it’s dance. But yeah, just that being worked into the reality of we have a lot that we can share personally, and I would love to see more funding and just a continued level of professionalism around whether that’s big events. I would love to see big events that have the most amazing funding sources so the marketing is really dialed in and everyone knows about it, and they can come. Just things that make it, put it in front of people. I think sometimes just the act of letting people know what’s going on. There’s so many things going on in this city, and I really do believe that, and sometimes you just don’t even know about it. 

Emily Running (38:40):

And I think you bring up a great point of just creating a culture of giving towards what’s meaningful to you. And to be clear, that doesn’t mean you have to be able to give $10,000 to it. If enough people give to something that’s meaningful to them, then a lot of this funding pressure could be very quickly alleviated. If there was a critical mass of people that just said, hey, I’m going to give to something and running a nonprofit, I know that a lot of times I get a blank stare just what does that mean? I don’t even know what a nonprofit means, except for that you don’t make any money. It’s like, well, that’s not exactly it. And so sometimes even the concept of what a nonprofit is or because it is tax code, it’s a business structure, but it is also related to taxes, and so it’s something that, yeah, it would be so great to just have those channels that are there and that culture of just giving to something, even if it’s $10 or one hundred dollars a year or give to that event or just whatever way that you do it that is keeping all of those things alive. 

Katie Janovec (40:07):

Yeah. I really feel, I don’t know. I don’t know if we haven’t been taught that in some way or…

Emily Running (40:15):

I think so 

Katie Janovec (40:16):

Also, my family was in nonprofit work, and I grew up in that as well. But I think of it now, I mean, everyone is in a different category around money, and it’s difficult and it’s super expensive right now, but I also think of $25, we just very easily spend on a dinner boom. If you get a drink, it’s way more. And just the reality of like, hey, what does that mean if you just signed up for a monthly thing of giving $25? Would you even notice? But besides the individual, I mean, there’s always an individual, and then I think there’s also just obviously other countries that just fund arts so much more. And it’s not a struggle for folks to be able to get a grant or I’ve gotten a couple grants and gone and traveled to DC to train with teachers, and I think I’m really fortunate because I was able to learn grant writing from someone, and that was an accessible thing for me.

Emily Running (41:33):

Which is a unique skill that you have to be taught.

Katie Janovec (41:40):

Totally, so I think having there be more accessible funding, how many funders are there who fund individual artists in this city? You can get a small grant. I could likely name them off and like, oh, that’s awesome. I mean, I’m so grateful for those that are, but it’s not, I would love to see more street and club dancers also applying for things like that and being able to go get it and they could get it right now. It’s just, I think some of it is really out of the view, and it’s just maybe perhaps it’s really far away.

Emily Running (42:22):

And it is the way that the arts are valued and structured and everything in our country. Anything else you want to add just to the conversation in general? 

Katie Janovec (42:42):

No, I mean, this has been great. It’s always great to talk about your history a little bit and thoughts. And I think in my evolution, it’s like you just go through so many different iterations of my relationship with movement of dance, with community, with investment, all of those things. And so I think I continue to come back to this is super important to me, I really believe in dance saving lives and the power of it. And so, yeah, it’s great to be able to talk and share. I really think it’s just so integral. 

Emily Running (43:26):

Yeah. Well, we will continue to talk and share, and we will continue to share with listeners and people where to find the stuff that you have going on and some of the other things that are going on. And thanks for being a 2023 ambassador and we keep with the creative process.