Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Enter Dancing: The Inexhaustible Erica Brookhart

That's Erica on the left

Erica Brookhart lives for stories. She tells them through dance; she tells them through words; she tells them through video. If you sit down beside her over a glass of pinot noir, you might find yourself sharing lurid family secrets. Thanks to evolving technology, Erica can continue to make her living by running a dance studio for kids, while also churning out children’s picture books (like Chico Learns Ballet) and contributing a deeply-moving documentary to YouTube. I met her in Zumba class, where she’s a twice-a-week mainstay. Being Erica, she has recently turned the foibles of our classmates and instructors into a short comic film, Save My Spot, to tickle the funnybone of Zumba lovers everywhere.

Erica started out in Colorado. At college she majored in journalism, gaining communication skills and learning her way around technological gadgetry. Then, upon graduation, she toured Bosnia, Kosovo, and other European hotspots as a dancer entertaining American troops.  She toted along a small digital camera with which she hoped to shoot footage for a documentary. That didn’t work out, but later she used her skills to record the bout with cancer faced by her close friend and roommate, a fellow dancer. When Ercia started filming Trycia, the plan was to chronicle a survival story, showing how this vibrant young woman beat the odds. Alas, it was not to be. Over the course of five years, Trycia weathered many challenges, living long enough to bust out the dance moves  (along with her new groom) at her own joyous wedding celebration. But Erica’s camera also recorded her friend’s decline, leading to her death in 2012. The result is sad, but by no means somber, showing how to live life to the fullest even after being handed a death sentence. Erica’s finished documentary, Enter Stage 4, has racked up 70,000 views on YouTube. Says Erica now, “I didn’t make the film to make it big, but it’s been helping people all over the world.”

Her most recent YouTube project is a great deal more upbeat. Once she put out the word that she was making a fifteen-minute short, friends stepped forward to offer equipment and services like camerawork and production design. She persuaded her mother and sister to take feature roles, and herself played the bubbly sis of the central character. To skewer the obsessive nature of Zumba folks, she also recruited one of her own teachers, Ali Cesur, to vamp his way through a routine. (Of course he’s an aspiring actor – this is SoCal, after all.) Then she announced in class that she needed Zumba enthusiasts to dress crazy and shake their booties. More than twenty of them showed up at a borrowed gym on a weekend, and stars were born left and right. No, you won’t find me there: I was away on a speaking engagement. But I love seeing my gym rat pals strut their stuff.

You can find out more about the very sparkly Erica Brookhart on her website: http://ericabryn.com/  There you’ll see her dancing onstage with Michael Jackson and performing her Britney Spears tribute routine. (Video has many uses in her life.) And her next big project? Well, she’s about to get married to a fitness instructor-turned-sports-equipment-salesman. His name is Rob Robinson, and so she looks forward to becoming the new Mrs. Robinson. She stays in touch with the parents of her late friend, Trycia, and plans to incorporate fabric from Trycia’s gown as part of the “something borrowed” in her own wedding ensemble. The dancing there should be show-stopping.  

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