Chatting with @drummamamma

Paris-Gutierrez in LABA's new studios. Photo by Iker Gutierrez.

Andrea Paris-Gutierrez in one busy lady.  She’s the owner/Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Ballet Academy (LABA).  She’s the Director of the Los Angeles Youth Ballet Theatre and the Theatrics Dance Company, which have 70 young dancers between them.  This past August, she moved her studios into a brand new space designed by architect Robert Elbogen.  Student enrollment is up, she’s now launching adult classes and fitness project.  Growing up at her mother’s dance studio in New Zealand, she helped out with classes and soon joined the New Zealand School of Dance and toured with the New Zealand Ballet.  At almost 5’10” and still a teenager, she found it difficult to find work in ballet.  Once she moved to the States, her knowledge of jazz, modern and teaching helped her gain work in television, film and musicals, even touring internationally.  Some of her bio includes:  Sugar Babies, Anything Goes, Pennies From Heaven, The Wonder Years, Rags To Riches, General Hospital, and the Oscars. Oh, she also happens to be Joffrey Ballet dancer Dylan Gutierrez’s Mom.

RB met Paris-Gutierrez last fall in the Harris Theater lobby at Hubbard Street‘s Twyla Tharp premiere.  We quickly became Tweeps!  We finally had a more-than-140-character conversation over the phone one Wednesday evening last November.

How was your day?

(Laughing) Long.

Tell me about the new space.

It’s a really beautiful, inspired space that’s never been used.  We had a 20-year lease on our old building, but the city wanted to tear it down, so we were forced to relocate.  The city bought the building.  We wouldn’t have had the money for a new facility, so it was sort of a fortunate/unfortunate accident.  (Dance/Celebrity Photographer) Rose Eichenbaum is doing a shoot of the new space for “Ventura Magazine”. 

 Why is your Twitter name @drummamamma?

Dylan loves to play the drums.  In high school we got him a drum set, which upset all the neighbors…they called the police.  We now have two drum sets for sale – acoustic and electronic!

We met when you were in Chicago to see your son dance in Joffrey’s new production of Don Quixote.  What did you think?

I like the production.  The flying was cool looking.  Dylan used to say it would be a dream come true to dance “Espada” and now he got to do Basilio too.  I’m pretty critical, but he did a fantastic job!  He got to dance with Victoria (Jaiani), which was amazing.  She was calm, sweet and supportive to him. 

What makes you a good teacher?

No one has ever asked me that before.  I’m really passionate about it.  I’m interested in it.  You have to be interested to keep up and see what’s going on.  You have to have a constant interest and hunger.  I’m never bored with it.  When I first started teaching, I would still dance in class.  I thought if I was doing ok, then everyone else was good too.  One of my former teachers told me to stop dancing, to turn around and see what’s going on.  Observe.  You can’t just give the corrections.  You have to explain to the younger students what you want and have the patience to watch…let them feel it physically.  Do it and repeat it until they understand what you want.  Enforcement.  It seems like a harsh word, but it’s not.  Help them be a healthy, happy person and bring out the best in them.  And, I’m competitive.  I don’t give up easily.  I like to be the best and my students do too.  

What was it like dancing at the Oscar’s?

Insanely crazy!  It’s not like performing in a theater where the audience is in the dark.  There are really bright lights.  You can see them and you know every face in the audience.  Bette Midler was supposed to be there, but rumor was she didn’t show because she wasn’t nominated for “Beaches” (Paris-Gutierrez also danced in the movie).  At the end of the opening number there was a big show and Bette was supposed to walk out, which didn’t happen.  They kept changing it and making cuts.  Finally, at rehearsal on the day of the show, they added a kick line and told the dancers to sing “Hooray for Hollywood”.  We didn’t know the words, so they put up a teleprompter.  It’s time for the kick line and the camera is coming across our faces in a close-up and the teleprompter goes out.  There are no words on the screen!  It got bad reviews, but it was a fabulous experience.  I met amazing stars.  I met Lucille Ball.

Tell me about shooting the video with Jane’s Addiction (“Been Caught Stealing” won the 1991 VMA Best Alternative Video award). 

We met in a hotel room to discuss the concept and I got the job (choreographer).  I also did casting on it.  We did a night shoot at a liquor store in Santa Monica.  It was a fun shoot.  The band was really focused.  It really upped my cool factor with my students.