We had the good fortune of connecting with Robin Olive and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robin, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Having a creative mind in so many ways is the best blessing ever. But in some ways it can be a crutch. You have to be able to turn it off or at least down sometimes to create balance. In my case, it means I never stop working because I never run out of things to do. But I have learned to balance by scheduling trips to visit my family in N.C. a couple of times a year. You need to check out every once in a while so you can recharge. Then you’ll be able to give even more when you come back.
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.
Since I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to do is Dance. I’m thankful every day that I get to dance. Have you ever noticed no one is ever sad when they are dancing? When you dance you are connecting all your parts together at once. Your mind, your body and your soul. Some of the most profound moments in my life were while I was dancing. Some on stage in front of large audiences and some in an empty dance studio by myself. Through the years I’ve learned that it’s not just dance that is captivating to me, It’s all movement. I love to watch things move. Large crowds, dancers, lights, water, birds, fish, martial artists, fabric, all things. And I love to watch the pure joy of my students when they are dancing. It’s magic! As I’ve said, I’ve always danced. My amazing parents put me in dance when I was only 3 years old. And I haven’t stopped. I did not come from an affluent family. But my parents knew that it was important for us kids to do extra curricular activities in order to find ourselves. And I thank them for that every day. I grew up on a small farm in N.C., with BIG dreams of living a Hollywood life. It seemed almost impossible. So, it was a gradual move out to the West Coast filled with many life experiences that have shaped me into the human that I am today. Without writing you a novel of all of those experiences, I will just tell you that I lived in Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL and Atlanta, GA before making the BIG move to Los Angeles in 2002 with very little money and no place to live. And here I am now! Moving across country was definitely not a breeze. There was a cultural change that I needed to adjust to. Finding work was not always easy. I had to couch surf and struggled to put roots down in Los Angeles for many years. Things will knock you down but there will always be something around the corner that will lift you right back up, If you keep your eyes open. And along the way you get to know yourself better and better. And that makes life a lot easier. Just remember no one knows you better than you. So if you are taking advice from someone, always take it with a grain of salt. They don’t know you, like you know you. So, now, living in Los Angeles I’ve been able to live out so many of my wildest dreams. I’ve travelled the World dancing, teaching and doing choreography. I’ve been surrounded by other amazing like minded artists. And now I focus most of my energy on making the World a better place for All. I started Straight UP Abilities in 2016. A 501c3 Non Profit focused on creating performance art opportunities for students with different abilities. We provide professional dance training to kids and adults primarily in the Greater Los Angeles area and surrounding counties. We perform at over a dozen events each year. We also do quite a bit of outreach in the community and at schools. Our message is simple. We believe in Patience, Inclusion and Empathy. Or as we like to say “We love P.I.E.”. In a World filled with so much uncertainty, this message seems even more important than ever. So what just started as a dance company for all abilities, has turned into so much more. When we first were faced with shutting our studio doors to Covid -19 , we wondered how we would stay connected to our very vulnerable students all over. I will admit I had a short panic attack for about a day. But, I am a hard worker and have been blessed with a creative mind. So, a day into the crisis I set up my computer to do a daily noon zoom for all of my students wherever they may be. I knew this would be an exceptionally hard time for them. They are used to having many activities and I felt their families needed this just as much. It was an instant success, and even surprised me how quickly it caught on. I have continued the class every day, Mondays through Saturdays, and we keep gaining more and more students each day. The greatest part is that we’ve been able to reach out to more students this way. We have students joining as far as Guatemala, and from all over the United States. They’ve been making new friends and we are doing our part to spread some love out into the World at the same time. So the lesson there is one that begs repeating. “When one door closes, another one opens.” I am a true optimist and I 100percent believe that to be true. And like i said, “Always keep your eyes open”. I imagine that we will be able to get back to our in person classes before we know it and performing all over the place again. But I am excited to keep this new virtual platform running and continuing to grow our platform virtually. We are also excited to be introducing some new learning tools into our outreach program. We have a new animated mascot name Ruby. She’s a beautiful Angelic Ruby Heart Gem character. Ruby teaches us to stay in touch with our pure hearted 5 year old self. And she teaches us to practice selflessness at the same time as practicing self love. Life is a balance. In my own quest for balance in life, I will continue to work on my own performance career. I love working as performance manager at massive music festivals. I can’t wait to choreograph the next music video or live show production. Or who knows perform again. But in the meantime I am grateful to be a part of something as magnificent as Straight Up Abilities. The sky is the limit!
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?
I am very lucky to live in Venice Beach, CA. So, on the rare occasion I have free time I love to kick it there. There is so much to do. I love to ride bikes down the bike trail to Malibu and on the way you’ll see acrobats in the Santa Monica playground are and the Ferris Wheel on top of the Santa Monica Pier. Or traveling in the other direction to Marina del Rey you can see skateboarders ripping it up in the Venice Skatepark, or Roller Dancers, Breakdancers, Graffiti Artists, Surfers. There’s always something to see you’ve never seen before in Venice. And if you’ve never ridden or walked through the Venice Canals it is a must. Some of favorite food spots in Venice are Abbot Kinney Pizza, Double Zero, Cafe Gratitude, Maos Kitchen and Thai Vegan. I love the old theaters in Downtown LA that were built in the 1920s. If you have a chance to visit any of them they are beautiful palaces. I work for The Mayan Theatre and I am always amazed at how grand it is. One of my absolute favorite shows takes place there a few times throughout the year. Please look up “Lucha Va Voom” and If you can plan a trip to LA around one of their show dates it is a must see. It’s Mexican Wrestling and Fantastical Burlesque Performances and all things in between. And if you happen to be in Los Angeles between November and January, you should definitely check out the holiday lights at Descanso Gardens. It is really a beautiful magical experience that I highly recommend.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate this to my Straight Up Abilities students, that teach me every day to Live in Love. I have always been an optimist and true lover of all things. But, sometimes, life throws you some curve balls. And these guys are there to remind me just how bright and beautiful this World is.
Bruno O’Hara David V Chi Photography