We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Sarao and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Anna, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
I think it was a quote from Banksy that said, “Don’t quit – learn to rest.” I resonated with that a lot. I have been out of balance a few times in my life with my passion and priorities. I would quit for a few months only to find myself right back into dancing. I had to tell myself it was ok that I loved dancing, I just needed to take a break. So if your family or finances, or whatever the reason is, – is causing you to feel unmotivated or disinterested in your art/profession, then take a break. You can focus on your self and get your shit together. Earn money to pay off your bills. Spend time with family and be there when they need you. Focus on school and graduate – etc. And when you are stable again, you can slowly get back into doing what you love.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have a hard time with this question. Professionally I’m not sure what I am right now. I can tell you what I was and what I was doing before COVID. I can tell you what I hope to be doing after COVID too. But at present, … I am professionally unemployed LOL Before this pandemic, I was an event planner and owned a small business producing dance events. I’m most known for an International Dance Competition called “Body Rock”. We just expanded to Asia and I was in the Philippines for “Body Rock Asia” right before lockdown in the States. And no, the journey was not easy. Anything that you do that is of value never is. Looking back, I have had so many challenges. Looking at this question right now, I just want to take my head off and give you my brain and say, “Here look at all of this…” To start, I did not have the support of my family – nor am I rich. Everything I did, I learned by trial and error. I invested back into the events I produced with the profits that were made – which means I worked for free for the first five to six years. Anyone in my position would have given up at this point and moved on to something else. But I told myself to stick it out. I also did not have a business background and was very naive about money and friendships. I had to learn the hard way how to structure a business. I have been defeated and deceived in the past. I have had to part ways in partnerships because I realized my self worth and that I was doing too much because I had poor boundaries. I learned what a real business was by training at the SBA and taking advantage of their free workshops. I did this all while attending college and working part time. What kept me going is that I truly loved what I was doing and the people I worked with. I was also dreaming of owning my own company and having my own event space someday. Eventually, Body Rock (the dance comp I produce) became a global competition. It influences dancers from everywhere and I am very proud of it and my community in San Diego. But then my life was interrupted … My family went through difficult times and our relationships deteriorated in 2011. I ended up putting myself in therapy and enrolling in psych classes to try to understand what was happening to me. I stopped caring about dance and just turned inward. By the grace of God, my friends helped to continue “BODY ROCK” while I took time away to heal. I funneled whatever energy I had into other kinds of art. Not sure how I started it – but I wrote stories, letters to my family, I painted, I put collages together and taped it into a book…until one day – it turned into a narrative. One of the most healing things that my art has gifted me was a play about the trauma that happened in my family. One day, inspired by Rob Bell’s “Drops Like Stars”, I felt led to direct and produce a story about my family. I auditioned my friends for the roles and we put it all together in a month’s time. The Fringe Festival in SD gave me a stage to perform this “Narrative” for a week. Through the support of my artist friends, I was able to find resolution to questions I had about my past. It wasn’t just the performing of it either. The process…the writing, the acting, the audience Q&A after the shows helped to give me the closure that I was desperately seeking at that time in my life. I would say, in addition to my faith & art making, hours of talk therapy helped me to stabilize my emotions and gain the traction to overcome. Which led me to what I do now – I recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from Bethel Seminary. Although proud of my work, I’ve honestly been on a private and personal practicum for many years now. I’ve been working to understand how to heal from emotional and spiritual wounds for two decades. I’ve been immersed in everything from the metaphysical, to the spiritual, to movement and talk therapy. Recently, I have been doing a lot of podcast interviews and attending trainings on racial trauma due to BLM. I’ve also been providing coaching and leadership support for dancers. And I haven’t given up on events either. I think its going to take some courage and creativity – but I’m planning to bring back Body Rock back in 2021. Most likely with a focus on education and rebuilding community. What do I want the world to know about my brand and story??? That I’m a survivor, and resilient, and a helper – that’s what it means to me to be creative.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Right now with SD on Lockdown, this would be our itinerary: Japanese Friendship Garden, La Jolla Shores/Sunset Cliffs, Culture Shock Dance Center, then get boba at Convoy Area. I would take them to Kung Fu Tea and maybe Tajima. Then go to Fashion Valley Mall and Osaka for Sushi off Mission Gorge. And finally, we’d end up at Target with all the rest of San Diego.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is a timely question! Since the Pandemic, I have been reflecting on all the people who have supported me during this crazy time. So YES – I would love to recognize several groups. First in my community – the Board of Directors (Angie Bunch & Arnel Calvario) of Culture Shock International, The Mob HQ owners (Jay Chris Moore & Sarah Ro), and the staff of Body Rock Dance Competition. My family: Mom/dad, Ate Lanie, Liza Abuyo, Melvin Lumagui, Emerson Aquino, Shaun Evaristo and the Jabbawockeez . Shoutout to my therapist – the amazing Lisa Falls, The Rock Church SD, Melvin & the Block TV, and John Maxwell and his Leadership Team. I also want to recognize a few SD Black Dance Studios: Cheryl Armour Frye “The Origin”, Rap A Tap Center for the Arts, and the SD Boys and Girls Club for their work with the community/the Arts. And lastly, to acknowledge this year’s passing of Dance Pioneers: Don Campbell, Tyrone Proctor and the Iconic Actor/Hero Chadwick Boseman…Rest in peace. All of these groups/people have inspired me to mentally survive 2020 and believe that there is hope for the future.

Website: www.bodyrockdancecomp.com
Instagram: @officialbodyrocksd ; @annasara0
Facebook: Body Rock Dance Competition ; Body Rock Junior ; Body Rock Asia Dance Competition
Youtube: OfficialBodyRockSD

Image Credits
Juxtaposition Marilen Tran Seagge Abella

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