Ken: Connecting The Dots Backwards
By Ken Pham
I want to share a few old journal entries from when I first moved to Toronto. I never really shared this with anyone and I didn’t know who exactly I was writing to at the time – but I’m more than happy to share now.
OCTOBER 28, 2013 - TORONTO DAY 53
Shavar said something during rehearsal today that really resonated with me. “Statistically only 1 to 2 people in this room will dance professionally. In that moment, I visualized myself being that person without question. I saw myself being the dancer and creative I wanted to be. Dancing, writing, entrepreneurship, choreographing, artistically directing, storytelling, making videos, everything. It felt crazy because I’m one of the weaker dancers on team A, but I’m not going to question it because I’m putting my trust in my love for the art, the mentors I have around me and the hustle that I’m putting in. Dropping out of my business program at Western University to follow my creative intuition as an artist. Sounds crazy, but I’ve never worked any harder than I have in my life today. With zero dollars to my name, and still having to pay off a student loan I never finished. The fact that my bedroom would become a small living room that I share with another dancer, sleeping about 4-5 hours a day... Damn I’m even “borrowing” wifi from my neighbor at this very moment. Sorry JT if you ever end up reading this haha… Regardless, I love every minute of this hustle: If I’m not dancing, I’m working at Starbucks. If I’m not at Conteur, I’m at TMI. If I’m not at TMI, I’m in dance class. If I’m not reading books, I’m improvising movement all night at Ryerson with my best friends. I’m excited because I put myself in environments where I can indulge in so much information. It doesn’t occur to me how much I’m learning, but when I reflect back on this past 2 months – I can’t help but smile. Anyways, I wake up in 4 hours for ballet class at Conteur, good night.
DECEMBER 8, 2013 – FEEDBACK FROM SHAVAR
Today I had rehearsal from 12 – 3PM and 6 – 9PM. During the afternoon workout / rehearsal, I had my one on one session with Shavar in terms of my dance progress. For the most part I received satisfactory in many areas i.e. groove, execution, movement and versatility. I’m inconsistent with my movement. I have some good moments mixed with bad ones. I have bad details. The impulsive part of me wants to say he’s wrong, but a larger part of me knows I have to be self-aware if I want to improve. To be honest, I feel like shit. So after the night rehearsal I called up Kevin if he wanted to freestyle and work on these weaknesses with me at Ryerson. We danced until 3am in the morning. Shavar also noted that although I have training in a lot of styles of dance, he wouldn’t consider me a versatile dancer because there isn’t anything I excel in. That kind of hurt because in a weird way that’s what I’ve been priding myself to be, a versatile dancer. But I can’t disagree with him, for now.
FEBRUARY 14, 2017 – Today
Wow. Fast forward 3-4 years later, reading old journal entries are the best. You remember exactly how you felt, where you were sitting, how you were holding your notebook or laptop. You get to see how much you’ve grown as person and how far you’ve come. How goals change after you accomplish one after the other. What I love most is that you also get to see how much there is still to learn even from your old self. For me it was the endless hustle, grind, ambition and fire that I had. Even though it’s been quite a journey, there’s still another exciting journey ahead. As for now, I do have to be extremely fortunate for the opportunities I’ve been given as I’ve been able to do a lot of things thanks to many training programs, teachers and mentors I’ve had, especially The Male Initiative. Some milestones include performing and traveling around the world. Doing what I love to do as a career, I was able to pay off my student loans that I thought would take a life time. Running a part-time business, organizing events, programs and workshops in my local hometown. Dancing for artists, TV shows, cooperate brands, local city programs and giving back to charities, and communities in need. I have to say a lot of this couldn’t have been accomplished without my experience in The Male Initiative.
We had to perform an Argentine Tango dance for one of our numbers on a contract I did a while back. I can dance Argentine Tango as much as I know how to speak Spanish… so not a lot. What I did excel in this dance was the masculinity aspect. Something I heavily embodied from The Male Initiative. I was able to transfer these skills into a completely different genre of dance. The relevance carries beyond dance, this just happens to be one of many small examples of how I was able to connect the dots backwards by trusting my intuition, mentors and training. So thank you Shavar for your insight, mentorship and being a part of my journey.
As for what’s happening now? There are many developing male artists like myself who are performing this February 17. I’ve joined them for a few rehearsals. I don’t know them all personally, but what I do know is that they all work hard and have that exact same fire that’s contagious – the hustle. Who knows where they’ll be 3-4 years from now, but I have faith in what they all can accomplish because they’re under good mentorship, and training. I’m excited to share the stage with these dancers, and I really hope you can come watch these dancers to see what I mean.