Hi, Chad Could you please give us a brief introduction, as to how you got from modeling to being a professional dancer and executive producer of a renowned contemporary dance company?
My careers have taken on many forms. I began training in dance in Temecula, California through my brother, George Ortiz when I was 14 years old. George also introduced me to my first modeling agency when I was 16 in San Diego, California. Wanting to pursue a professional dance and modeling career I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20. I already began working as an apprentice for Nickerson-Rossi Dance, an internationally renowned contemporary dance company at the age of 19. I climbed the latter from apprentice to company dancer, then a principal dancer. I proposed running the dance company’s social media to extend our audience on a wider scope. Michael Nickerson-Rossi, the Artistic Director, instead hired me as the company’s Educational Director. Working internationally with grade schools and universities, I pushed forward the Nickerson-Rossi brand through comprehensive educational and professional dance programming. I’ve worked with over 25 High Schools, 30 Universities and have coordinated over 40 professional companies and choreographers. We have over 15 community partners nationally and are currently working with three foundations. 2019 I was promoted to Executive Director when we made a shift with our festival in Palm Springs, now known as the Palm Springs International Dance Festival. Weaved through all this time is my modeling career. I am currently represented by Mint Model Management in New York City. The agency was eager to represent me because of my dancing. Nigel Solan, my agent, has commissioned me for different underwear, alcohol and clothing brand campaigns since 2018.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a dancer?
I realized I wanted to be a professional dancer and model then I was 16. I think a majority of those who participate in the arts or sports during their youth have a difficult time understanding how to pursue it as a career. The arts has the notoriety to have narrow opportunities and no money. Fortunately, because my brother had an incredibly successful career in dance I never look at dance in this light. And I still do not see dance in this light. I don’t believe in being a starving artist, but a thriving one.
As Principal Dancer and Executive Director of Nickerson-Rossi Dance Company, how do you see the company and your work within the national and international dance scene?
I believe where an arts organization can lack is within their branding. They get lost in being creative and forget the logistics behind marketing and strategic planning. Nickerson-Rossi Dance has gained it’s national and international credibility simply because we produce exquisite work. To support the work is thoughtful brand identification. People are starting to recognizing what we look like, what we say and what we believe in as an organization. I’ve been working closely with Nickerson-Rossi Dance’s board member, Laurie Bianchin. She was instrumental in marketing and branding for international multi-million dollar corporations. Working with her has been incredibly enlightening even beyond what I do with Nickerson-Rossi Dance.
Dancing is one of the most difficult professions, where constant demand for
perfection is required. Along with the blood, sweat, and tears, you have left on stage, what have been the biggest sacrifices you have made in order to be where you are now?
“Dancing” isn’t my entire life. It’s what people see the most, but not exactly what I do the most. Besides taking dance classes, training at the gym and rehearsing for programs, there are additional hours of sitting behind the computer, driving and flying all over the nation and constant and never-ending hours of pushing our brand out into the public through various marketing efforts. I also produce content through photography, videography, graphic design and cinematography. It’s time-consuming. If we could live 25 hours a day 8 days a week I would. I love what I do. I am my own boss, scheduling and managing my day. But it is a constant sacrifice of my time and energy to keep this engine going.
You have worked in some dance programs, like Nickerson-Rossi’s uNdeRstanD Program, in which dance serves as a tool to help people (from different ages, races, cultural backgrounds, sexual preferences) express their emotional issues and to develop self-confidence. Given the important weight that emotional health plays in today’s world, how have you seen the impact of this type of program in helping today’s youth?
Nickerson-Rossi Dance has an arm to the company known as the “uNdeRstanD Program.” This program is simple but vast in how it can be the approach. But it can be narrowed down into two main ideas. One is using dance as a medium for emotional and mental health. Understanding that dance isn’t just about being pretty, but how it can develop social skills and discipline to provide structure for youth. We honor many programs for youth who may be exposed to harsh environments and poverty. We have private donors and plentiful community partners that aid us in providing free or affordable dancing programs for students in need. Many people fall in love with dance because they can express themselves without having to speak. I believe when one experiences emotional trauma, the last thing they may want to do is talk about it. This is found in adults who are suffering from cancer, PTSD, HIV, mental illnesses and other ailments. We become bottled up and isolate. This leads to loneliness and depression. Then followed by poor choices or suicidal tendencies.
A good example of a program we’ve done in the past is with “The LGBTQ Center” in Long Beach, California. Michael Nickerson-Rossi volunteered for an eight week program. This program focused on youth, most in their teens going into early adulthood. These young men and women have been shunned, shamed and forgotten with the reason revolving around their sexual orientation. They started the most critic part of their lives on the wrong foot. Nickerson-Rossi came in with the goal of emotional liberation. Legally, Nickerson-Rossi couldn’t ask vocally what traumas they were experiencing because if they were to share anything with him, he would have to inform the councils immediately what was shared. Nickerson-Rossi feared to break the trust between he and the youth. So instead, he communicated through dance. Nickerson-Rossi asked, “Don’t tell me how what is happening in your life or how you feel about it… show me.” The LGBTQ Center said they never saw such a breakthrough in these youth members. Some members broke down crying after they danced. Harboring so much grief and guilt. For it to be shattered by the welcome of people who love, understand and are opening a door to communication. Communication that can be trusted and heard. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is to sit there and listen. Or in this case, watch and see. This is the power that dance can have.
We are currently in discussion with implementing another program similar to this at the Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, California working with cancer patients and the professional dancers of Nickerson-Rossi Dance.
The second part of this program is professional development. I’ll keep this short and sweet as the goal is simply connecting youth to professionals in the industry. Dance companies, producers and universities. We partner with programs to provide scholarships and grants for students who excel in dance. This program highlights equal opportunities. Providing scholarships for two types of students. Students who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage and students who prove to have an excellent ability of dance technique.
We are partners of Riverside County’s Office of Education in California. This covers 430,000 students from K-12 grade. We are the dance arm. Providing quality programming to these students through the “uNdeRstanD Programs” we produce.
Other partners include: Johns Hopkins University Peabody Institute, Irvine Valley College, College of Charleston, Pennsylvania Ballet, Francisco Gella Dance Works, Versa-Style P.E.C., Helix Charter High School and we are currently in the process of constructing bridges to provide opportunities to dancers in Puerto Rico.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The most challenging part about my career path is I’m many different people and responsible for a large quantity of work. Not only do I dance and work for Nickerson-Rossi Dance and model with Mint Model Management, but I work with other businesses to build their marketing strategies and branding through my company known as “Transparent Compositions” and I founded my own lifestyle brand known as “Willpower Magazine.” Which is a digital, semi-annual print, magazine focused on the contemporary male aesthetic. Through Willpower I am creating a men’s activewear line, cologne, and shop that connects you to other artists and entrepreneur’s products. When you add in the fact we need to eat, sleep and be mindful of our own physical health IT’S A LOT!
And the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of all this madness is seeing the thread start to sew together. All of these parts of my career can seem like little pieces distributed far apart from one another. But what I’m actually doing is creating a powerful brand. It all connects and supports each other. It’s a slow process, but I have a vision, I see the goal and I am gaining momentum. Haha, think of me as a power ranger, except I’m every color.
As a professional model, do you think that talents such as dancing can not just
influence the career but also lead to a career as a professional model?
My agent, Nigel Solan, revealed something interesting to me about the modeling industry as I was signing my contract with Mint Model Management. I asked him why he wanted to hire me. Nigel said that the industry is interested in people. Real people. Doing real things. I believe models (and in general – people) only look at the end result and don’t think about the process. Modeling is more than just being “pretty.” They want to commission talent and bank off of your audience and uniqueness. People who surf, skateboard, play football, even those who are activists causing movements! Like a Greta Thunberg. Kylie Jenner. Kobe Bryant. Clients want to attach their brand to something. So in my case, something is dance. We all have seen dance whether it was in a commercial for a car or bike. People love to dance. It has played the biggest role in my modeling career. Even when doing test shoots, photographers always want to capture me dancing. It is one of the main reasons I am a Mint Model.
Your favorite modeling experience up to date?
My favorite modeling experiences were in New York City. When I look back it wasn’t really the jobs that interest me, but being lost in unknown territory. At the time I was incredibly stressed, always took the wrong subway and made expensive mistakes when eating and traveling the city. But now, it’s something for me to laugh at. I cherish making mistakes. It’s how we learn. New York taught me a lot about myself and made me realize I am capable of anything I set my mind to. I met some of the most incredible people. Even if they were only in my life for a moment. It also made me realize New York isn’t everything. There’s an entire world out there and New York is just a small bubble.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is like a chameleon. Constantly changing as a result of the environment I’m placed in. Even geographically my style will change. How I dress in Palm Springs is very different than how I dress in Philadelphia or New York. I would say 50% of the time you will find me in activewear. The other 50% of the time I could be in casual business wear like Brooks Brothers, I can found being “Palm Springs Casual” in Park and Ronen short shorts and a polo or dress to the nines in a Ralph Lauren suit if going to a ball or large scale event.
What are some of your favorite brands?
My favorite brands to wear would include the ones I just mentioned: Adidas, Nike, Brooks Brothers, Park and Ronen, Ralph Lauren and Levis.
Brands that inspire me are the people behind the Californian brand “Rufskin” and Asian brand “OMG Sportswear.” Solid examples of brand awareness met with captivating content and fabulous products
What’s some advice you would give to young men and women hoping to follow in
My advice for anyone following in my footsteps is to be unapologetically you. I think we live in an age where social media influences us to compare and contrast too often. We try to be like other people in an attempt to achieve success in our life but have no clue those people got there. And most of those people are frauds of their own lives! Discover who you are, what you love and abandon any fears that may hold you back. Because if they fall freely into something they absolutely love, they will find a way to make life work for them. Make sacrifices when they’re young. Do the hard work now.
Besides modeling and dancing, you have your own marketing and branding
company, Transparent Compositions. Could you please tell us more about it?
“Transparent Compositions” is a branding and marketing company I created in 2017. I worked with a few fashions, dance and small businesses throughout the years guiding them on a path to find and commit to consistency in their brand, identify who their target audiences are and how to reach those audiences through different marketing agendas. Some people don’t have the business know-how, but I find most of the time I am hired because people don’t have the time outside of the monotony of running a small business to focus on expanding their consumer body and wealth. This can be tricky because there’s a large difference between direction and management. My goal is to teach and guide business owners (direct) so they can learn to grow on their own and less of content and brand monotony (management) that never goes away in any business. Transparent Compositions has recently begun to morph into a bigger enterprise, “Willpower Magazine.”
Any upcoming projects?
“Willpower Magazine” is a magazine I founded this year (2020). It is about the journey. People tend to forget that success has a beginning. We focus on the contemporary man and the different health, career and lifestyle choices he makes by interviewing hand-selected men who have dedicated time to a craft or skill. This lifts the veil of perfection that social media portrays to reveal the challenges these men faced to find success in their life. It’s about positivity and motivation. That you can too and this is how “he” did it. As I build an audience through this magazine I am also developing different products like an activewear line and cologne that fit the lifestyle of this brand. Willpower has me pulling together every skill set I’ve learned over the past 8 years to apply them together to create something meaningful, useful and unique.
Your life motto?
I have a few life mottos. But right now mine is, “I Will.” And when I say that… I mean it. The mind is everything. I read somewhere that humans are capable of lifting a car, but it the doubts in our mind that keep us for accomplishing the task. I’m not completely sure how true that it, but the idea stuck with me. Everything starts from within. The power of belief is the generating force that changes the thought that I can’t too I will. It could be when I am cramped for deadlines behind the computer to pushing a heavyweight at the gym. When I am confronted with a challenge I accept it headstrong. This is how I will grow. This is how I will learn. That is my willpower.