Posted on September 20th, 2012
She’s worked with Jennifer Lopez and Christina Millian and you’ve seen her throw it down on New.Music.Live. If you’ve ever wanted to get to know NML Dance Battlez judge Janet L. Castillo, here’s your chance because we got the low-down! We asked her a few questions about her work, the artists she’s inspired by, and we got advice from her straight up for all you aspiring dancers out there. Ready? Let’s do this!
When did you first start dancing?
I started dancing at the age of five doing hula and Filipino folk dancing. My first few performances were for weddings, talent shows, family and community parties. I did it for fun and when I started getting thrown money while performing, I figured I wasn’t too bad at it. From there, I extended my vocabulary with studio training in ballet, jazz, acro, tap, lyrical and then in my teenage years I discovered hip hop at a community center and loved the style so much because of the energy, flava, and individual style. Always wanting to learn more, I got into Latin and ballroom and started teaching grown couples had to “rumba” and “waltz” in closed position before the age of seventeen. Performing and making up dances came natural to me and I never really imagined that years later, I would be doing it professionally. Don’t get me wrong, there are several obstacles I had to face that tested my love for dance and my place in the entertainment industry. But at the end of the day, it’s all worth it and every obstacle from broken bones, to closed-down shows, to not winning battles or competitions, has shaped me into the person I am today.
Who are your favourite artists?
There are so many that feed my soul in different ways! I love music that is timeless – Prince, Aaliyah, Sade, Missy Elliot (ready for her comeback!), Mary-J Blige, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and Coldplay. On the other spectrum, I also admire artists that take intended risks with their sound like Outkast, N.E.R.D. and Kelis. As far as new artists, I’m digging Azealia Banks and Frank Ocean. Of course I have give it up for Canadian artists that make the city proud – JRDN (shout out to Kuya!), Melanie Fiona, K’naan and K-OS.
What do you like about being a judge on New.Music.Live.?
Being a judge on NML Dance Battlez has been an incredible journey because I love seeing dancers achieve their greatness, particularly when they are put to the test. Every Thursday, they step up to a challenge and take a huge risk at possibly failing. That to me takes a lot of courage and strength – two qualities I think dancers need to survive. I enjoy seeing the diversity of talent and especially finding the ‘diamonds in the rough’ – new, raw talent that I’ve never seen before is super refreshing. Thanks to MuchMusic‘s New.Music.Live., youth now have a national outlet to express themselves and share their story. For the returning contenders, to witness them elevate to new grounds is always rewarding. I try to always give the crews honest and genuine feedback from the good to the bad because without it, they would be stagnant and no one wants to be stuck there.
Any advice for up and coming dancers?
Be yourself. Don’t try to be like any other crew or dancer that you see, but do what YOU do best and the truth will reveal itself. Sounds so simple but, in my opinion, it’s the hardest thing for dancers to fulfill. I’m still figuring it out. Everything else falls into place. Of course you have to do what every other aspiring pro athlete or artist would do – train hard, learn from the best, know your competitors, have passion, and never give up on your dream.
Why did you start your Dance Breakdown videos on YouTube?
My main mission behind the Dance Breakdown videos is to get people to move across the globe. I’ve never really put myself out there on Youtube so I was a little hesitate at first but when I thought of all the people – from non-dancers to dancers – that would benefit from it, I really felt the need to share my dance expertise with others. I wanted it to be fun, engaging, and easy-to-do for anyone looking to get into dance. When searching online, I found many videos of dance performances and choreography but there weren’t as many tutorials for instructional purposes. My goal is to extend the channel to feature more interviews, events, news -dance stories that matter and are inspiring, entertaining, and educational. Dancers are a special breed and I want the world to see them in a new light.
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