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Friday, June 22, 2012

Fanny Pak's Megan Lawson: Embrace Individuality

America's Best Dance Crew is filled with groups that deliver the "WOW factor" through their tricks, stunts, and power moves.  But then comes a group that can "WOW" us in non obvious ways through surprising transitions, unique story-telling, and genius musicality.  Their choreography is challenging and surely not for the' 'faint of heart'.

The group I'm referring to is Fanny Pak.  This quirky, hip and 80's-influenced stylish dance crew founded by choreographer Matt Cady appeared two times on the show and consecutively pushed the envelope when facing their challenge week after week.  They had me personally curious to see what their next routine would entail.

Original Calgary-born (Go Canada!) member, Megan Lawson talks about surviving her Hollywood identity crisis, why Fanny Pak is so damn awesome, and what fusion dance is.  My old LA roomie, I'm beyond proud of her successes since moving out to the city of dreams and how she confidently uses her individuality to put her mark on the world.

JLC: Congrats on all your recent successes on ABDC!  Tell me how the wonderful world of Fanny Pak began and how you got into the crew and met founder/choreographer Matt Cady?

ML: The first six months I moved to LA, I wasn't really in a good place.  I was going through a bit of a "Hollywood identity crisis", not knowing where I fit in and who I was.  I took a class and Matt Cady (choreographer of  Fanny Pak) was also in the class and asked me to come and take one of his classes.  Total 'love at first move'.  I've never been so inspired.  What he was creating was so different - this fusion style.  It felt like ME.  I felt like I found a style that was really challenging (but loved that challenge) and was creatively stimulated for the first time since moving to LA.  He then asked me to audition in a group for ABDC.

JLC:  What is so different about his choreography?

ML: The shapes and the lines he makes with his body.  And the way that he describes it.   I've always been inspired by body language, real life scenarios, or animals.  When he was explaining, he always had a neat parallel, metaphor ... or an attitude. It helped you to understand.  Also, the musicality wasn't typical. He made me hear songs like I've never heard them before.  Instead of the obvious, you could tell he put care and time into his work.  His ear for music remains to be one of the most special ears in choreography.

JLC: I need to did the name Fanny Pak come about?

ML: We were originally called Top Roman ( the noodles). We went to the audition and they liked us but we couldn't use the name because of the copyright.  Napoleon, the Supervising Choreographer told us to come back but to find a new name and go with the bright colors and something 80's theme.  We went to America Apparel and beefed up the colors and strapped on a few fanny packs.  Within discussion, it just became Fanny Pak.  The fanny pack is a symbol of the 80's and although our dancing isn't 80's (many people have that misconception), we carry the attitude of that era - unapologetic, unafraid to be ourselves.  We showed up the next day at the callback and they loved it!

JLC: Well it definitely works.  So what goes on behind the scenes of ABDC? Tell us about some of the challenges your crew had to go through?

ML:  You have to abide by the "ABDC formula".   You get 1 minute to show who you are while making sure there are 5 really great moments.  At the same time, you want to actually dance - you want to bust - but if your trying to tell a story (which is what we often do), it's really hard. You have to go through your checklist: Did someone flip? Did someone have a solo section? We have to go through 20 different versions of the routine and you have the supervising producers saying "I need something bigger" or "No, we don't like that part" so we have to be ready to change it.  We also never get to pick our music and props are just given to us.  Excuses aside, we really thrived on the challenges.

JLC:  Sounds both difficult and exhilarating at the same time! Let's talk about fusion dance.  There are so many classes now that mix styles together.  What are your thoughts on this?

ML:  I agree there is so many different styles out there, sort of a mass melange.  I often don't know what to call my class, I call it fusion because that's the safest.  Tap, jazz, ballet, musical theatre is what I'm trained in.  Hip hop and musical theatre came after.  I have a base in techniques but I dabble in a little bit of everything.  I don't think there's anything wrong with creating the moves, intentions, vibes for the styles that you like.  I still try to take as many styles that I can from teachers that I love. You have to try the classes, then you find the ones that inspire you (the style and the teacher), then you go from there.

JLC: What would you say to dancers that may be going through the "Hollywood identity crisis" (or any identity crisis for that matter;)

ML: Yea, so hard. I talk a lot about this.  My biggest suggestion is to really embrace what makes you happy. Dance is our life but there are so many things I enjoy aside from dance and they help me appreciate dance so much more.  Yes, train, work hard, take class because it's important but go and do something different  - go to the club, go take a yoga class.  In LA, being this young girl from Calgary, I had this idea of who I should be and how I should be dancing  But there's so much more now, a variety of styles, companies, cliques and you have to find yours.  Surround yourself with people that make you happy and feel good.  Also, everyone has a different story.  When I was starting out, I wanted to follow the path that worked for someone else but it's different for everyone.  It's all about timing and luck.

JLC: Amazing words of advice Megan. Thanks for taking the time to chat and good luck with everything!

ML: Thank you!

Megan will be teaching throughout the summer and just had the opportunity to work with Madonna on her world tour after being hired directly through a youtube video.  Determined, with ther partner Matt Cady, to "dominate the world', we wish her all the best and know with her Ruby Whoo lipstick, killer moves, and individual sense of style, it won't be long before we'll be seeing her choreography on the big stages and screens.  So strap on your fanny pak and keep your eyes peeled for Megan!


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