Written by Barbara Sueko McGuire
Photos by Kelly Mustapha
Not everyone is lucky enough to find their life’s passion at age four, but for Sarah Rodenhouse, dance has always been a way for her to use her body to express emotions she’s unable to find words for. She’s trained in just about every style, from ballet and jazz to contemporary and tap, and has taken classes around the world, from Bangkok and Florence to Cape Town and Bali. These are just the first few lines of her impressive dance resume.
“I genuinely think I have a hard time functioning unless both my body and mind are being physically and creatively stimulated, and I haven’t found anything else that does that for me in the way dance has,” she explained.
We were able to still Sarah momentarily, and sat down with her to talk about movement, what it’s like being the co-director of the dance company MashUp, and how she keeps artistically stimulated and fulfilled.
When did you first know you wanted to be a dancer?
I can’t really pin-point an exact moment when I knew I wanted to be a dancer, but a few Christmases ago my borderline hoarder mother gave me a framed self portrait that I drew when I was in third grade. At the bottom of the picture it says “My Future,” and I had to fill in what I wanted to be.
“When I am grown up, I am going to be a professional dancer. I would like to be this because I like to dance, and I get a lot of exercise, and it’s fun.” As simple as it sounds, it still holds true today.
What inspired you to create MashUp, the dance company you started with your friend Victoria Brown in 2010?
I think part of the reason I started MashUp with Victoria is because I was young and naive, but the other major part is because I felt like the industry and the auditions I was going to were not fulfilling the type of dance I really wanted to be doing.
In the beginning, MashUp was an outlet for Victoria and I to do what we really love and on our terms. But then I think we started to realize that there were just so many great dancers in LA that were craving this kind of outlet as well, and that we did have something special. The process of starting up the company and becoming a non-profit was stressful (still is sometimes) and really trial by fire, but also fun. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we went for it and have somehow made it this far.
I have had to wear every different hat you could possibly imagine, probably hats you didn’t even know existed. I’ve been everything including dancer, choreographer, director, grant writer, marketing manager, event planner, graphic designer, bookkeeper, costume washer, props handler—I could go on for days. No job has ever been too small. I’ve just done whatever I needed to do to keep the company running, and I have to say it has been an incredible learning experience that I wouldn’t ever change. I always thought that being in the dance industry meant being just a dancer, but there really is so much more and I’m so happy to have learned and acquired so many new skills through this process.
Tell me a little bit more about MashUp—what are you guys all about?
MashUp is an all female non-profit contemporary dance company based in LA. We try to bring the art of dance to life through artistically innovative works and a unique movement vocabulary. MashUp aims to engage diverse communities in the invaluable experience of dance through performances, after school programming, and participation with the Los Angeles dance community.
We hope to share the gift of dance and use it to empower young minds and bodies with a special importance placed on motivating young girls and women to be strong, confident, and articulate females. Our movement quality is based on a strong technical or ballet foundation with elements of jazz, modern, and hip hop infused to create an athletic and interesting aesthetic.
As a company, we have performed in eight cities around the U.S. and Canada, and have self-produced a total of five evening-length shows. MashUp usually performs at different venues, theaters and events around Los Angeles, but will soon be able to hold small performances in our new space in the “Frogtown” area of LA. We have also partnered with both LA’s Best and The Girl Scouts to provide after school classes and workshops.
You’re in the process of launching your own dance class for non-dancers. What inspired that and what is the class like?
THIS CLASS! I am so stoked about Moved LA. As much as I have loved working with professional dancers for over a decade, I also have some pretty amazing non-dancer friends that I always wished I could work with. They are creative, fun, and fearless. This is really what inspired me to start Moved LA. I can understand and totally dig their creative work, and I wanted to do the same for them with dance. I wanted to show my friends and others like them why I’m so passionate about movement and why it is so therapeutic for me.
Unlike other dance classes where you have to learn and regurgitate choreography, Moved LA uses exercises and imagery to help everyone come up with their own unique way of moving in order to genuinely express themselves. It may sound a little scary, but once you get going and just let the music and movement take over, it’s so much fun and so rewarding in lots of different ways. I’m hoping to do some private parties with groups of friends or team building with some smaller businesses until we launch a big class open to the public later this summer/fall.
What do you think makes dancing such an incredible form of creative expression?
For me, it’s literally that unspoken thing. As humans we all have a connection to our body. It’s the thing that gets us up and down and from Point A to Point B. Everything we do revolves around using our bodies in some way. So it makes sense that it is an innate form of expression. When certain emotions come up, we usually feel them in our bodies first before we express them in words. I can tell you what a song sounds like, but if I show you with my body it makes a bigger impact.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a dancer and how did you overcome that?
In dance, there are lots of outside obstacles. You are constantly being judged on a daily basis and the competition is pretty intense. But I’d have to say that the biggest challenge has been standing in my own way, and this is a challenge that I think I am still overcoming. As I get older I’ve realized that just because I don’t have certain jobs listed on my resume doesn’t mean I’m not a good dancer and it doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot over the past 11 years that I’ve been pursuing this.
One thing I’m proud of is that I’ve really stayed true to myself through the process and have surrounded myself with really good people who support me no matter what my dance career looks like. I’m finally becoming more comfortable with who I am as a dancer and a choreographer, and have grown to like the quirks that used to make me feel like I wasn’t a good dancer.
What’s coming up next?
I’m so excited for the rest of this season as we talk about female exploration and the gender equality movement. We’ve asked our dancers and some of the most influential women in our industry to delve into this topic so we can create what I think will be our most important work to date. MashUp has actually launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project so that we can more fully develop the conversation.
We want to analyze the complexity of a woman’s role in modern society and use our space and dancers to their fullest potential to present a thought-provoking performance, which we’re calling “Intrinsic Motivation.” It’s going to be a reflection of our research on the topic and the dialogue that we’re creating in our community, and will be our first performance in our new space. I just cannot wait to share what we’ve been working on! The sky is the limit with this show as our dancers express a woman’s versatility including grace, strength, and emotional connection, and as we have free reign over our space to really make the vision come to life.
Besides dancing, what are some of your other interests?
Anything visually stimulating interests me. Aside from looking at art, I’ve always had a thing for finding fun vintage clothing and decorating. I not so secretly kind of want to be a party/event planner. I love getting crafty by creating a magical ambiance in a space. I’m kind of a DIY gal at heart, and even got to showcase my mad skills earlier this year at a friends wedding in Brooklyn. I planned, created, and decorated the entire reception space, even created all of the bouquets, boutonnieres and decor for the church (with help from some awesome bridesmaids!). Oh, and I also love beer.
A few weeks ago a group of women met in a secluded home nestled in the hills of Silverlake, CA to drink, dine, and learn a bit about their inner astrology. The patio overlooked a picturesque view of the Hollywood sign and the glowing sunset above while the dining room displayed a long table inviting guests to nestle close to each other for an evening of food and conversation. The gathering was the outcome of a creative brainstorming session held between Popover and Creative Collective LA. I was introduced to Creative Collective’s vibrant owner, Mara Mehdy, through mutual friends and from that initial meeting we both knew a collaboration had to happen. Both companies have a distinct style so this event was sure to be a memorable mix of approachable entertaining and insightful personal discovery. Like all good gatherings, the guests became the focus and the table that evening did not disappoint. Artists, photographers, publicists, florists, and other equally creative backgrounds and mindsets filled the seats to kick off an evening rooted in what the stars would hold for 2016.
One of the most amazing parts of co-hosting a gathering is watching both contributor’s visions come together in those last moments when the scene is being set. Rustic blue dyed fabrics from Warp and Weft Dye Co. lined the table, while wildflower blooms from Lark Farnum Floral Design curled and stretched upwards out of vintage vases. Each plate displayed a hand painted menu from Kitty Moss sealed in it’s own constellation envelope. Ana DiGiallonardo from Salome was there early to capture every moment, from the thoughtful placecard arranging to the passing of food between conversations. Like a true family meal, bowls of roasted tomatoes and Mediterranean faro salad were shared alongside platters of flatbreads. A champagne cocktail concocted by the evening’s discussion leader kicked off the meal and from that moment on there wasn’t a quiet moment until the last guest left.
It was fitting that a discussion about horoscopes happened perched in a bird’s nest of a home under the stars of a clear night. Not to mention, the year is just kicking off and fresh starts are still on everyone’s mind. Cara George, co-owner of Mojave Rising led one of the best discussions on how each sign defines a person. We’re not talking pop horoscopes either found hiding in your spam e-mail folders, she dove into a root of each star sign from the energetic rise of Aries all the way down to Pisces’ mystical calm. Smiles, laughs, and moments of personal discovery flickered from guest to guest as each sign was introduced. Common bonds were quickly formed as people found their astrological partner across the table. The discussion rolled into where we see those horoscope traits leading us for the year, what attributes can we steal from another sign, and how to find that magical connection with someone when you are creating collaboratively. With Cara’s guidance each guest’s most personal traits were essentially exposed to those around them and when there may only be a few familiar faces in the crowd that vulnerability can be overwhelming. But, as the discussion built and layered upon additional comments and questions everyone reached the same conclusion that in what can be considered a fast-paced and competitive city, everyone is just looking to share something creatively with someone else. That evening, there weren’t any walls to break, there wasn’t any competition, just everyone’s innermost traits on the table.
Gathering by Popover and Creative Collective LA
Photos by Ana DiGiallonardo of Salome
Flowers by Lark Farnum Floral Design
Table fabric by Warp and Weft Dye Co.
Menus by Kitty Moss
Horoscope cards and discussion by Cara George Mojave Rising
I moved back to Sydney in December of 2013 after a three-year hiatus in Boston, far away from the hustle and bustle of Australia’s biggest and most vivacious city. A native Sydney-sider, I’ve grown up on both sides of the equator and still find myself drawn to this multicultural island of beaches, breathtaking experiences, and unparalleled food. I returned to a city that does its absolute best to welcome the friend and the stranger alike, and I did it in summer.
Summer is my favourite season in the city, despite the fact that year-round fair weather means outdoor tables are always at the ready and a sweater is the heaviest layer of clothing needed. It’s the cicadas that hum and bellow in the afternoon, the widening of menus to include the very best that the season has to offer, and the start of month-long free festivals that make living in this city truly surreal.
There’s no shortage of magic in Sydney, and I’ve had the pleasure of rediscovering (and finding anew) my favourite spots to explore and, as is nationally appreciated, eat. As I returned to the place I left, I found myself bonding with the food scene. I would eat alone, but with such wonderful company: the intricate and well-devised dishes in front of me.
It started with breakfast. Making time for a morning meal is an integral part of the Australian way of life, and we do it well. Our coffee is world-renowned (flat white, anyone?) and our classic avocado on toast has found its way to menus across the globe. When I started exploring the city, I landed on Devon Cafe in Surry Hills. I frequent the sister cafe in Waterloo (an up-and-coming industrial suburb in the Eastern neck of the city), Devon on Danks. The eatery is known for its creative flair and Asian-inspired culinary dynamics; highlights include the Manny P burger, a generous hunk of annatto-spiced fried chicken, decorated with chilli mayo and pickles and the bruschetta with confit tomatoes, peppers and burrata, lovingly strained, separated and stretched by hand by head chef Zacharay Tan. Tan’s cronuts (matcha and azuki; kaya; strawberry cheesecake) are decadent, and his soft serve sundaes (blue pea flower and jasmine; Thai milk tea; sweet corn) are out of this world.
When the oceans started to warm up towards the end of summer, the Bogeyhole Cafe on Bronte Beach became my favourite spot. It’s quintessential Australiana; sit at a table overlooking the beach, order a long black or mango smoothie, and enjoy poached eggs with chilli jam or avocado smash – all Australian staples.
I always made sure, in my summer explorations, to return to a few of my favourite places, and the Sydney Fish Market is no exception. The fish markets start early, and the best oysters are piled high in glass cases. I am fond of De Costi’s, because the seafood is stunning and the energy is electric.
Afternoons, or “arvos” as we refer to them, also hold much reverence in this city. I would drink tea by the pot and read paperbacks in bright cafe frontage, and it was splendidly solitary. As someone who takes their tea very seriously, I’m very fond of The Rabbit Hole Tea Bar in Redfern. Their Earl Grey lattes are magical, and sparkling tea on tap is a thing.
The sun doesn’t set until well past 8pm in summer, but late meals aren’t a problem. In my adventures in the city, I’ve found the quiet and unassuming suburbs of Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay to be home to some of the city’s best food. For modern European food, it’s Yellow. The former art gallery-turned-restaurant gets it right with Spanish mackerel cured in-house, and a licorice ice cream dessert unlike anything else. When I’m more inclined towards pan-Asian goodness (of which Sydney has so much), Ms. G always represents. Dan Hong and Paul Donnelly have developed a complex and creative menu that accentuates the city’s vibrant culture. The cheeseburger spring rolls are so much better than they sound, and the lamb ribs – crisped to perfection and soured in all the right ways – are second to none. I still recall eating those lamb ribs for the first time. There is such beauty in discovering something unparalleled.
Returning home in 2013 was difficult; it was jarring, exciting and challenging all at once. It has been two years since then, and it’s hard to believe that my experiences in this city were so different then to what they are now. But, still, there is food.
Sydney is something else. It’s this living, breathing, dancing city that makes such an impact in people’s lives. It’s effervescent, loud, peaceful and entirely unlike anywhere else in the world. The food is a literal melting pot of everywhere else, and that’s the kind of scene that makes everyone feel welcome. It’s those meals that make me feel like a local again, and now I get to share that with those who visit. I always caution friends of the same thing upon arrival, the same thing as we saunter from cafe to restaurant to midnight snack spot: “Be careful. Once you’ve met this city, you’ll never truly leave again.”
This is, this will be, home.
Photos and article by Riley Wilson
Riley Wilson is a native Sydney-sider who grew up between Australia and the USA, with extensive travels throughout Europe along the way. She edits Manhattan-based Melting Butter and writes for Broadsheet Sydney, among various other publications in Australia and abroad. She’s deeply passionate about olives and oysters. @thelifeofrileyw
Written by: Barbara Sueko McGuire
Photos by: Lou Noble
From her first performance in the basement of a Ramada Inn in Silverlake, to this past September when she sang for the Pope, President, and Congress at the National Mall in Washington DC, the background to singer Mindy Jones’ career has certainly changed. But her positive attitude hasn’t. The ever humble, forever grateful music artist has been at it for the past ten years, and even with accolades like being the lead vocalist for Moby boosting her resume, she’s never let any taste of fame turn her into a diva.
But that doesn’t mean she can’t sing like one. Mindy’s voice is a powerhouse of passion, natural talent and hard work. While her easy smile and infectious laugh beguile the hard work it’s taken to get her where she is today, it’s been no Sunday stroll. Mindy shared with Popover what it’s like to make music in today’s digital world, and why it’s so fun.
Do you remember when you first realized you could sing?
As a child, my Mom sang everywhere we went, all the time. If I was running late, she would sing at the bottom of the stairs “Are you ready?” from the song by Barbara Mason until I sang back “Yes, I’m ready!” and came down. Or crossing the street, she would sing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles so I wouldn’t feel so dorky holding my Mom’s hand.
So, as you can see, I grew up with music everywhere. I didn’t even know other people couldn’t sing until I was about 11 years old when I joined the church choir and my best friend at the time couldn’t because she was completely tone deaf. I was shocked, so for practice, I would sing a note and she would try to sing it back to me, and would completely miss the mark. It was the first time I realized I had a gift.
What do you love most about singing?
EVERYTHING! I love the way it makes me feel. I love the way it makes other people feel. I love it’s healing power. I love that I can’t go a day without it.
What made you decide to pursue singing as a creative career?
I’ve been in countless bands and sang on countless friends records, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I realized I had an edge—I could sing a lot of different styles of music like Gospel, Soul, Country, Indie, Choral, etc. So I decided to try to be a session singer. I started asking around and started getting referred to do commercial, cartoon and movie trailer work, and other “paid for hire” jobs around LA. And I fell in love with it! Being able to walk in a room and sound like Adele one day and Rihanna the next, after only hearing the song one time through, is kind of thrilling! Almost like playing a game.
How did you connect with Moby? What’s it like making music with him?
I met Moby for the first time at SXSW in Austin, Texas, in 2011. We had a mutual friend and he saw my band at the time, DA & The Jones, play at a bar. Well, not even in the bar, more like on the front porch. There were probably three people there, including Moby, but he must have seen something he liked, cause he asked us to be in a choir on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” the following week! As you can imagine, my answer was “YAAAAAASSSSSSS!”
The day of the dress rehearsal, he looked up at me out of ten people and said, “Mindy, will you do a solo at the end?” and the rest is history. I started singing lead for him that year and have recorded on his last album and will be the only featured vocalist on the next one coming out in 2016! I am grateful everyday for meeting him and getting the immense honor to work with him. I respect him so much as an artist, an animal rights activist and a friend.
You are also a singer and songwriter of your own right, can you tell us about the music you make?
I make whatever comes to me at the moment! I taught myself the program Ableton last summer from YouTube videos and now I write and produce everything myself. I didn’t want to always depend on others to make my music for me, so I took it into my own hands and it was the best decision I ever made.
Of course I still work with other producers and songwriters, like my duo project ADLT VDEO with the crazy talented Luke Top, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to “rely” on it anymore. It was a long and hard learning curve, but I’m pretty good at it now, and am proud to say I self-produced my latest EP “Under the Covers.” I guess if I had to describe it, it could be referred to as Electro-Soul-Pop? I just made that up.
When you’re writing new songs, what’s that process like?
It’s different every time and that what keeps it exciting! Like every musician, I’m sure, my “Voice Memos” are out of control. I get the weirdest inspirations right before I fall asleep or when I’m driving or when I’m listening to an old tune that inspires me somehow, and then I’ll sit down with all of them at the end of the day or week and piece all the ideas together.
With ADLT VDEO, Luke and I write together from scratch. Maybe he’ll come up with a cool synth melody, and I’ll start writing the first words that come to mind, and then we just build and build up the track till it’s rad. In co-writes, one of us will usually come into the session with a starting point, maybe a chorus idea or a full verse, and then we bounce ideas around until a song come out. There are so many different ways to create and I love them all!
What or who would you say inspires you creatively?
The planet earth! I know that sounds hippie or something, but it’s true. Anything from the wind through the trees to crickets against wind chimes to people on the streets to getting my heart broken to listening to other music to losing my puppy two weeks ago (at least a really good song came out of that!) to everyday life!
There’s a song in everything.
You recently had a song on “Blindspot.” How did that come to pass and what was it like hearing your song on a national hit TV show?
It was crazy awesome! I met the creator/writer of the show, Martin Gero, at a party one night and the next thing I knew, he put my song on his show! This is NOT the usual way synching a song on TV happens for me, I have an agent for that, but I guess it does really happen! I watched the show at his house that Monday night with the cast and writers ‘live tweeting’ alongside me. It was incredible and surreal. I had to re-watch it when I got home because I was so distracted with emotions.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment thus far? Have you had an “OMG is this my life?” moment?
I have them almost every day. I’m not even kidding. I fully realize how fortunate I am and think about it a lot. Twenty-five year old Mindy would never have even DREAMED of this life. But if I had to pick…
Singing for Pope Francis?! Or playing to Will Ferrell and his kids in his backyard supporting gun control?! Or singing alongside Duran Duran, Karen O and Donovan at the David Lynch Foundation’s 10-year anniversary!!? All just this year!
What is one of the biggest challenges of pursuing a career in the music industry?
Supporting myself. The music industry has changed dramatically in the recent years. It’s no secret that streaming has completely changed the game and is making it increasingly harder to earn a living as a musician. I do a lot of different work to fill in the gaps, but it’s a constant hustle. I keep going strong because I absolutely love what I do, and to be honest, I’m not really that good at anything else.
Any advice to people looking to break into the music industry?
Don’t give up! It’s hard, but can be done with the right attitude, talent and drive. Be open to anything, but be smart. Oh, and connections, connections, connections!
What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?
I love swimming, building things (currently staining shelves I made), and watching movies. I’ve recently been trying to enjoy LA more. I live in an incredible city with a million and one things to do every day and night. So more art shows, museums, galleries, concerts, and exploring new restaurants, but mostly, hanging out with my friends. They’re pretty amazing.
The season of friends-givings has almost become as important as the big day itself. We spend the year sharing memories with our friends so it’s only natural that the family centered meal should include those non-related figures in life. Popover gatherings are meant to build friendships over food and highlight how inspiring a good dinner party can be, so when it came time to plan the next gathering a friends-giving was top on the list. We partnered with the adorable local shop Shout and About because her long communal table, usually bursting with trinkets, plants, jewelry, gifts, and more just begged for a family meal to be served. Plus, the store owner, Tamara, has to be the friendliest person to collaborate with. We decided to split the guest list, creating an environment of familiar and new faces. There is always a moment of pause when guests meet for the first time, but as the intimate group of eight sat down to share homemade food the conversations, laughs, and thanks began flowing naturally.
The menu consisted of easy to share food that looked seasonally tasty, yet was incredibly easy to make. Everything kicked off with a ginger beer cocktail spiced with flavored bitters from Seven Stills of SF, balsamic chicken skewers with sweet potato were topped with pomegranate pearls and feta, while a winter salad featured toasted hazelnuts and big sweet pieces of dates. Mini cornbread muffins cured the carb cravings, but the star was definitely dessert. Kelley from Valley Cruise Press treated the guests to a decadent chocolate ganache tart with a pistachio crust. It’s the holidays after all, so dessert calories don’t count. The table itself was glowing with mini orange tea lights nestled between Tamara’s tiny potted succulents (benefit of hosting a dinner in a store means you have an endless supply of table decor). The Social Type treated everyone to a card, while Alisha of Goldpress Paper gifted everyone with a thoughtful hand brushed written greeting. In true thanksgiving fashion, the photographer of the night, Lily Glass, sent everyone home with her famous biscuit recipe…something sure to make it on the menu this season.
While the big Thanksgiving meal is still the star, this intimate friendsgiving, hosted in an equally intimate and inviting space was a great way to gather with new and familiar faces. The conversation was refreshing, with topics ranging from life in the suburbs to the joys of running a small business, but more importantly the table discussion was natural, like good friends sharing a holiday dinner.
Photos by Lily Glass
Location by Shout and About
Cocktail bitters from Seven Stills of SF
Thankful cards from The Social Type