What a pleasure it is for us to introduce the one and only Galen Hooks as our #FEMMEFEATUREFRIDAY this week. What an outstanding woman and artist. Galen is an LA native who has been in the entertainment industry since she was 7 years old. Whether she has her choreographer, performer, director, or producer hat on, she leaves everyone amazed with her passion for art and her eye for detail.
Galen Hooks is a true chameleon who defies any labels and can seamlessly shift between roles both in front of and behind the camera. She has worked with over 60 artists, including Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Usher, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Banks, Grimes, and John Legend. She also modeled extensively for Nike, including countless catalogs, billboards, and a two-page ad in Vogue magazine. She was a part of the creative team in tributes for Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott and performed at the historic MTV VMA Michael Jackson Tribute, too. In addition, her producing credits include America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Disney Channel Presents: Radio Disney’s Family VIP Birthday, and YouTube’s “Masterclass”.
Not only has Galen been involved in so many iconic performances and TV moments throughout the years, but she has also given back to dancers in so many ways. Galen is a leading activist in the dance community, having served 10 years as the chair of Dancers Alliance and as a board member of SAG-AFTRA. She is currently a consult for DA and she is a big help in creating the Choreographers Alliance. On top of that, this incredibly talented woman has been sharing her knowledge through THE GALEN HOOKS METHOD, a program that focuses on giving direct feedback to help prepare each individual dancer accordingly for the professional world through limited class sizes. Now, you probably understand why we were so excited to interview this badass lady! Enjoy her passionate and wise words!
While most people choose to pursue dance as a career after high school or college, you are an LA native and had your first professional job at seven years old. In a nutshell, can you tell us what it was like being raised in the heart of the dance world?
I had very supportive parents who made it possible to have a childhood where I balanced school with working in the entertainment industry. My mother really managed and guided my career from the time I was 7 years old and she is still a major influence to this day. Being from LA has good and bad consequences. On the positive side, I am at home here, I have family here, and I never felt like I had to become something I wasn't, which is what a lot of people who move here feel pressured to do. On the other hand, I've had to weather the storm that is the entertainment industry for over 20 years. Building up the thick skin to weather that storm isn't fun, especially when you're a child.
I will say, however, that the older I get, the more I appreciate and love LA. When I started traveling on tours as a dancer, it helped me realize how special this city is. Had I not gotten the chance to travel, I certainly would've taken my home town for granted. I feel very grateful to have been able to train with the best teachers in LA from a very young age and wouldn't have traded it for the world.
You have played so many roles in the industry whether it be dancing, choreographing, directing, producing, mentoring and standing as a voice for for the dance community with many different organizations…the list goes on and on! How you do manage and wear each hat so well?
From a creative standpoint, I get bored very easily! That's one thing I love about the entertainment industry- there is variety in your job and it can change every week. That's also why I enjoy short term projects more than long term. So, I often change things up because otherwise things get stale. That means not only working with different artists or on different TV shows, but also across media from film to live shows to theater to teaching.
Bigger picture, I do whatever calls my attention. I am not the type of person who writes down goals, or has any sort of plan- that has never worked for me. Whatever takes up my daydreaming is what I go after, and it changes often. I'm very fortunate that I excel enough in each of these categories that I am literally even capable of wearing these hats. For example, some people might see problems that need to be solved in the area of dancers' rights but not have the skill sets to solve them. I also work very quickly, I'm very self sufficient, and I'm resourceful, so I don't have to rely on other people to get things done that I might have to outsource if I couldn't do it myself.
The glue that holds it all together is time management. I could have all of these passions and skill sets, but in order to do things like be in China working as a producer and spend your night hours planning Dancers' Alliance events because of the time change, it takes intense self-discipline and time management. I've had to burn the candle at both ends in a lot of instances where most people would quit.
When I really care about something, I make the time for it. This includes making time to enjoy life, and it ends up making each day incredibly fulfilling!
Your intensives - The Galen Hooks Method, began only a couple of years ago and have completely taken off. Dancers are jumping at the chance to train with you. We have learned so much from you, but can you tell us what you have learned from the dancers that have taken your intensives?
The actual intensive I'm doing right now just started last year! I did a few audition intensives years ago but they were on a much more basic level. Last year was the first sharing of a much deeper process, starting with the Heels Intensives.
About 6 months ago I called it The Galen Hooks Method because I wanted to recognize that there are a million different ways to approach dance and the industry and this is just my personal method, and the intensives were so much more than dance intensives but rather an entire approach to the art form. I go into it in more detail here: http://www.GalenHooks.com/train
The fact that so many people have found my method helpful has taught me the value of having a mentor and someone rooting for you. I didn't have anyone who guided me as directly as I'm trying to guide my students, and it makes me happy to provide that for them.
Hundreds of dancers have attended in LA, NY, Amsterdam, London and Toronto, and each session is completely unique. Another thing I've learned is how to refine my approach to teaching- I'm able to get dancers from point A to point B in a fraction of the time now because I can recognize similar blockages in people and can unblock them much quicker. All of the students help me become a better teacher, and each session I do, people have their breakthroughs earlier and I'm able to take them farther.
A few other lessons are:
-We're all in the same boat. In every session in every country, dancers will say the exact same istruggles they're facing- WORD FOR WORD. Across the world, dancer are having the same struggles as in LA. It's remarkable.
- It's all mental. Most dancers who have confidence issues or are missing that "extra thing" could continue training their technique and take 100 regular classes and not become better dancers because there's something holding them back mentally- sometimes I will make 1 suggestion to someone and it will completely change how they dance and how they view themselves. That one sentence helps more than a hundred jazz funk classes. It's all mental.
-Fear. I've heard recently that people are really scared to sign up. I feel their pain, and I think it's intimidating to see the footage that we post because everyone looks so confident. You'd never know that those confident dancers were shaking and crying the day before. The students who attend have taught me what courage looks like. They've taught me what true dedication to your craft looks like. To sign up for something like this takes a lot of courage and I commend every single person who has attended.
What is the advice you'd give to your 10-year old self?
I'm actually happy with all the mistakes I made and the hard times I went through, so I'd say "Keep doing what you're doing!"
What’s your definition of a YGTGirl?
Someone who knows her value and is not afraid to set and enforce that value, both in life and in work.