Get to know the dancers! Today’s conversation is with Shuaib Elhassan. Scroll on to read more about this New York native who ventured west in 2014 to join LINES Ballet (spoiler: did you know he used to regularly karaoke after work?).
When did you first come to dance, what brought you to it?
I loved watching music videos growing up. I’d dress up and put on shows for the family, learning the choreography from the video. It wasn’t until I was twelve years old when I met Francisco Martinez. Not only was he my neighbor, but he also was a dance teacher at the Ailey School. My mom brought me to his house where I had a mini audition. I remember doing ballet positions and a step routine. He was able to get me into the school on a full scholarship.
Is there a history of artists in your family?
My brother is a good drawer and went to school for design. My mother can play the guitar very well and sing. One of her sisters (Auntie Becca) plays piano. My mother’s four other siblings were into drawing and painting, like their mother Helen. My father helped build the building I grew up in.
Also, I consider the Lower East Side family and in the Lower East Side there’s always an artist to look up to.
At what point did you decide “this is what I’m going to do”?
When I was sixteen years old I remember getting told, “you’re getting better at this”. Coming from a teacher that didn’t just give out compliments, that meant a lot to me. That gave me a push to work harder. Later I had the urge to start working when I got the opportunity to attend the Contemporary Program at Jacob’s Pillow when I was eighteen years old. I decided to leave the Ailey school and start auditioning. Every day I still choose dance.
Were there other strong interests that were put aside?
Not when it comes to working/job, but definitely with friends. It was time-consuming growing up; every day after school I’d have to rush to the train to get to ballet class rather than get to hang out with everyone. I ended up kind of growing apart from my neighborhood friends. I am thankful for technology – it gives me a way to stay connected even if it’s just seeing what they are up to in the world.
Are you interested in making films?
I’ve always been fascinated with how the camera can see the world. My mom got me a camera for my sixteenth birthday. Best present ever! I dropped it a couple of times so it broke eventually but while it was alive it lived a beautiful life. I’m totally down to get behind a camera anytime. With films, the editing process gets kind of challenging, especially because I tend to want everything just right.
Are you interested in singing?
I love singing, for a while [former company dancer] Jeffrey Van Sciver and I would go to karaoke after work almost every day. It was helping with confidence and letting things out and fun times for #ShaHeff. It’s been a while since we’ve gone…
I have waves of shyness rush over me every once and a while but I’m working on being able to face that and let my words out … to speak/sing.
Is there a goal you have for your dancing career?
I want to feel curious about what I’m doing and always feel like I’m learning. If I can do that for the rest of my career/life… very cool.
Is dance separate from your living life or are they connected?
Connected. Dance has given me many life lessons and Life has done the same in return.
Is there anything that you would like to share that has been invaluable in your life?
Meredith Webster always says “Be brave”. I’m still learning more about that, but it has been valuable so far, for sure.
BIO: Shuaib Elhassan from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, began his formal dance training at The Ailey School under the co-direction of Tracy Inman and Melanie Person on a full scholarship. Elhassan has also trained at intensives such as Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Elhassan was a member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet during their 2012- 2013 season. Additionally, Elhassan has performed with Life Dance Company, Zest Collective, Dance Iquail, and the Von Howard Project. Elhassan joined LINES Ballet in 2014.
Photos: © RJ Muna
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