Tali Aires | May 2016

Hometown: San Diego, California

Major: World Arts & Cultures/Dance

Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education


Q: A little background about you: Name, Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of arts that you focus on.

Q: A little background about you: Name, Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of arts that you focus on.

A: My name is Tali Aires and I grew up in San Diego, California. I studied World Arts & Cultures/Dance as my major at UCLA, with a minor in Visual and Performing Arts Education, graduating this past June 2015.

Q: How did you discover your interest in the arts and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an artist teacher?

A: As my mom always told me, “you were dancing on the kitchen table before you could walk.” Movement was always a part of me, and having a family that loved music, my parents always encouraged us to dance around the house at any time of the day. Starting real dance classes at three and four years old, I took Ballet and Jazz for many years before discovering my passion for other styles such as Hip-Hop and Contemporary. Nothing makes me feel more myself than when I am dancing on a stage. I get nervous speaking in public if there are five people in the audience, however when I’m dancing, the more the merrier. I always was a “good” student, but never was passionate about any subject in school. When I discovered the possibility of studying dance at school, and then pursuing it as a career path, it was a dream come true. Through my incredible college experience at UCLA, I want to inspire the youth to discover their own passions if they aren’t necessarily offered in school. Life is truly about discovering what makes you tick, and then finding a way to make that thing as much a part of your life as possible. 

Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.

A: Our students at Uni High School are currently working on learning to combine grooves with choreography. There is a difference between just learning the steps and really putting your heart, body, and soul into the movement. We want the students to dive into both elements and find that happy medium between steps, body, and soul…that sweet spot is when you really start to DANCE. The students are also working on this choreography to be able to perform it at the end of the year.

Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?

A: This afterschool program is changing lives every time we step into that room. It’s more that just dance. It’s community, its trust, its collaboration on movement, ideas, and life in general. The students feel as if they have an afterschool “home” to be themselves and to express their frustrations, hardship, joy, and excitement. As two of the students said in our promo video, “it’s like we are a family.”

Q: Did you have an opportunity like this when you were a younger artist? If yes, how did it help shape your love of art? If no, in what ways could a program like this have helped you?

A: I never had anything similar to this program unfortunately; therefore I am so grateful to be a part of something so incredible for the kids. Although my school offered music and visual arts, I was never offered a dance experience and would have loved that growing up. It would have made me a more confident individual in the school setting. Since I was forced to take dance outside of school at a studio, I was shy about people knowing I was a dancer. A program like this one would have built up my confidence.

Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself?

A: This experience has taught me to be a better listener, watcher and really learn to cater to the students’ needs, rather than give them complex choreography that I think highly of. I’ve learned that simple is always better, whether that’s the question of the day in our circle, or the steps themselves. At the end of the day, it’s not about the steps, but how the students feel after the class. I’ve learned to look for smiles and laughs, more than concentration and quietness. I learned that I love making students feel warm and welcomed, from the moment they walk in the room and greeting them with a smile, a hug, and a “how are you” goes a long way.

Q: What do you personal gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?

A: I have personally gained amazing experience being a leader for a group as small as 3 and as big as 20. Seeing those smiling faces as I walk in the door is priceless. I love knowing that we make their day being there for them physically and mentally. I have learned how to create a “clean” hip-hop playlist, which is harder than it seems. I have gained experience learning how to structure a class, starting with a circle questions, leading into a warm-up, across the floors, what specific steps we do across the floor, and then leading into choreography. It’s all been a great trial and error process, discovering what works and what getting the students energized and smiling (or sweating).

Q: What are the benefits to you as a student/graduate in the UCLA VAPAE program? Was this program a good choice for you? If so, why?

A: Yes and yes! This is has been a great post grad opportunity for me as I dive into the first year of real life. It has been a fun process talking to the students about my own journey and they appreciated our honesty and realness about where we are in our lives. Since I am a recent graduate, it was something for the students to grasp as something that is possible for them.

Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions (or Arts Education Teaching Sequence) that stand out to you? Perhaps you had a break‐through with a student or saw some particularly noticeable growth in that student through this program, collaboration etc. Maybe something surprised you or made you think about art or teaching in a new way.

A: So many, yes. Near the beginning of the year, we had the students write letters to themselves about how they were feeling about school, life, and dance. We brought these letters in a few months later and two students offered to read theirs aloud to the class. Natalie spoke of the family she felt in this class, and the fact that she could be herself here. She broke into tears as she read the rest of her letter, speaking of other feelings she had along the course of this year and how grateful she was to have this program. Natalie has stuck through with us since the very beginning and is the biggest fan of the program at this point. It’s amazing to see her progress on the dance floor, within herself in confidence and joy. Near the beginning, Natalie was standing at the back looking very shy and scared, and now she is the first one in class, standing tall and confident, willing to learn new steps and promote the program to her friends.

Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?

A: My short-term goal for the next few years is to pursue dance professionally in the LA industry, work with many different companies and choreographers, and travel with a company or an artist. I currently work for a Bollywood Fusion company – Karmagraphy – performing various styles at weddings and large events, such as Bollywood, Hip-Hop, Contemporary and Ballet. I love performing and want to take any opportunity I can to work and perform, whether it’s on a company stage or a movie set. My other passion is living a healthy lifestyle, specifically through nutrition (I’m a healthy foodie) and plan to open my own healthy lifestyle business one day and possibly incorporate/educate dancer nutrition and health as a part of it!