Danc­ing up the charts

New Zealand Listener - - CON­TENTS - by Clare de Lore

One of the big­gest stars on the in­ter­na­tional dance stage has learnt to be just as sure-footed in her pri­vate life.

One of the big­gest stars on the in­ter­na­tional dance stage has learnt to be just as sure-footed in her pri­vate life.

Par­ris Goebel was only 16 when she set her­self four am­bi­tious goals. The South Auck­land high-school dropout would one day have her own dance school, be­come an in­ter­na­tion­ally known chore­og­ra­pher, marry, and travel the world. With one ex­cep­tion, it was mis­sion ac­com­plished within four re­mark­ably short years.

The ti­tle of Goebel’s re­cently re­leased au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Young Queen: The Story of a Girl Who Con­quered the World, re­flects the 26-year-old’s drive and self-be­lief. Pho­tographed in a fur wrap and with a crown on her head, Goebel is dance roy­alty, com­plete with her own “palace”. The book’s cover lists her celebrity clients and friends, in­clud­ing Ri­hanna, Nicki Mi­naj, Jen­nifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and Janet Jack­son, and a ban­ner pro­claims the 2017 KEA World Class New Zealan­der Award she re­ceived for her con­tri­bu­tion to dance. Such is her global ap­peal that her dance video of Justin Bieber’s Sorry has had 2.9 bil­lion views on YouTube.

Goebel’s fa­ther, Brett, whom she de­scribes as “this big white man with bright blue eyes who loves dough­nuts”, is a huge in­flu­ence in her pro­fes­sional life; her mother, LeeAnn, who is of Samoan, Chi­nese and Scot­tish de­scent, holds the fort at home.

Goebel, the adored baby of the closeknit Mor­mon fam­ily, has one brother, Jarek, and sis­ters Ken­dal and Narelle. She man­ages The Palace, her South Auck­land dance school, and nur­tures its emerg­ing tal­ent, and com­mutes ev­ery se­cond week to Los Angeles to chore­o­graph and di­rect dance videos.

Goebel strug­gled at school un­til her par­ents agreed she could leave at 15 to chase her foot-tap­ping dreams. Self-taught, she and her dance groups Re­Quest, Soror­ity, Bub­blegum and Royal Fam­ily won in­ter­na­tional hip hop cham­pi­onships year after year.

Her big break came in 2012, when she and a friend, Kyle Hanagami, posted a video on YouTube of their per­for­mance of Etta James’s I’d Rather Go Blind. JLo saw the video and re­cruited Goebel to chore­o­graph a ver­sion of it for her tour, and from that time on, Goebel has never been short of work.

Is it fair to say that had you done well at school, you might not be where you are now?

I took that risk of leav­ing school and started this work younger and it got me go­ing on my dreams. Peo­ple of­ten have to go through uni, try dif­fer­ent cour­ses, be­fore fig­ur­ing out what they are re­ally pas­sion­ate about.

“I am still try­ing to find my­self, to make sure my spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence is for me. Ev­ery­thing I have been taught in the church has made me who I am.”

When you talk to young peo­ple these days, what do you tell them about school and ed­u­ca­tion?

I don’t talk to kids much about school. I don’t get asked about it, and I nei­ther en­cour­age them to drop out nor en­cour­age them to stay at school. I en­cour­age them to find what is best for them, not for their par­ents. The sooner you can find your pas­sion, your drive, the quicker you can chase it.

By the time you were 19, you’d es­tab­lished The Palace and were work­ing all hours, to the point of burnout. How are you man­ag­ing to avoid that hap­pen­ing again?

I have learnt how to bal­ance life bet­ter. At 19, I hadn’t learnt to say no to things, and I thought the harder I worked, the more suc­cess­ful I would get. But suc­cess doesn’t mean any­thing if you don’t feel good in­side. You could have a mil­lion gold medals, but if you are not tak­ing care

of your well-be­ing, it doesn’t feel like suc­cess. I started to take breaks, say­ing no to things I didn’t want to do, and I lis­tened to my­self more.

Are you still hav­ing fun?

I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun any more. I feel like I have done so much, I feel suc­cess­ful al­ready, so there is no point in just tick­ing things off any more. I do what I want to do, whether it is be­ing part of World Vi­sion or help­ing kids here in New Zealand.

What’s your in­volve­ment with World Vi­sion?

I am the am­bas­sador for the 40-hour famine and I am go­ing to Uganda next month to visit a refugee camp that cares for peo­ple from South Su­dan. World Vi­sion wanted me to see it for my­self, to see these fam­i­lies who have lost a lot, to see how they live and to have my own tes­ti­mony to en­cour­age peo­ple to sign up.

When you were 16, you set out four life goals. The one you haven’t yet achieved is “get mar­ried in the Tem­ple” – is that still in your plans?

I am sin­gle now, but doesn’t ev­ery kid have that dream to get mar­ried and have kids and live hap­pily ever after? Get­ting mar­ried in the Tem­ple means get­ting mar­ried in the church [of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints]. I grew up very re­li­gious and it is im­por­tant in our church to find com­pan­ion­ship. All my sib­lings are mar­ried with kids, so it is still a goal of mine. I am ex­cited that one day I will be a mother and wife, but I un­der­stand the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties more than when I wrote that list, and I am tak­ing time for me be­fore ded­i­cat­ing my­self to my own fam­ily.

What does your re­li­gion mean to you now?

I am still try­ing to find my­self, to make sure my spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence is for me. Ev­ery­thing I have been taught in the church has made me who I am – all those stan­dards and all the qual­i­ties that I have been taught by my par­ents have been spe­cial.

“You could have a mil­lion gold medals, but if you are not tak­ing care of your well-be­ing, it doesn’t feel like suc­cess.”

South Auck­land is a big part of you – where do you see the next Par­ris get­ting their start or their in­spi­ra­tion? A lot of my stu­dents at The Palace are from South­side. When they walk in the door, they of­ten don’t have much. It is awe­some to see them travel and com­pete on the world stage know­ing where they came from and with so lit­tle. I see so much po­ten­tial in our young peo­ple, and it breaks my heart to know that there is so much more we as a coun­try could of­fer them through the arts. It is con­stantly on my mind – the tal­ent in our Māori and Pa­cific Is­land kids and our South­side kids, but the op­por­tu­ni­ties aren’t there for them. What are the bar­ri­ers for them pur­su­ing ca­reers in hip hop com­pared with, say, bal­let? Money. The bal­let has fund­ing but hip hop doesn’t. We ap­ply for fund­ing wher­ever we can. DANZ [Dance Aotearoa New Zealand] has been awe­some, but in gen­eral, there is not money for us. New Zealand is so far away from ev­ery­thing, APRIL 14 2018 LIS­TENER

and we need to get these kids over­seas to com­pe­ti­tions or to get the right train­ing. It takes six months of fundrais­ing to get to the World Hip Hop Cham­pi­onships. Our sports get so much money; if you are the best at sport you get taken care of. Rugby teams are flown all over the world. We are not only the best in our coun­try but we are the best in the world.

In your book, you write that after be­ing daz­zled when you met JLo, you de­cided you wouldn’t let your­self be star-struck again. Is there no one who could make you feel that way again?

Oprah [Win­frey] – I would drop to the floor if she walked in. She’s my favourite ever. Grow­ing up, I didn’t re­ally watch kids’ TV shows, but I would watch Oprah. She teaches peo­ple so much with­out even know­ing the lives she touches.

Who is the great­est dancer or chore­og­ra­phy?

Michael Jack­son. And have you heard of [1940s and 50s Hol­ly­wood dancer] Cyd Charisse? She was gor­geous, in­cred­i­ble. I haven’t seen any­one like her. Even though she didn’t do hip hop, I am in awe. Janet Jack­son, too, who I’ve worked with. She has a kind of mas­culin­ity to her that I love and take in­spi­ra­tion from. A lot of peo­ple say my style is mas­cu­line/fem­i­nine. Janet is sexy and strong as well. I love that.

Where do you think dance will go next?

Dance is the fu­ture of mu­sic and it is con­trol­ling the charts – if a song is go­ing vi­ral in the dance charts, it is go­ing to the top of the mu­sic charts. So, for ex­am­ple, if Ed Sheeran makes a song and I and other chore­og­ra­phers teach to it and post a video, then the song will go vi­ral through dance. Ev­ery­one watches these dance videos; they get mil­lions of views. The song be­comes so much more pop­u­lar than if it was only on the ra­dio. The mu­sic world is be­gin­ning to see that dance is how you can re­ally make your song peak. Artists are pay­ing chore­og­ra­phers to use their songs. The cool thing about dance is that no mat­ter where you are from, peo­ple love to watch it. It is huge. If this all ended to­mor­row, have you made enough money to live com­fort­ably for the rest of your life? I live com­fort­ably, but I wouldn’t be able to fin­ish work to­mor­row. I want to own a house here in Auck­land and I am work­ing to­wards that. I rent my apart­ment in LA, I don’t own it. I have the stu­dio and a lot of my money goes to­wards sup­port­ing that. Peo­ple think I earn a lot of money, but if I didn’t have the stu­dio, I would be a lot wealth­ier. That is a sac­ri­fice I want to be able to make. There are a lot of ran­dom costs that crop up and it has to come out of some­one’s pocket. I don’t usu­ally talk about it, but it is part of the way I live. Will you even­tu­ally have to move over­seas to keep your ca­reer go­ing? I am not slow­ing down and, if any­thing, things are get­ting more hec­tic. I have beaten all odds do­ing it from here. Peo­ple couldn’t be­lieve I was be­ing booked in pref­er­ence to lo­cal US chore­og­ra­phers, even though I lived in New Zealand. The artists would fly me from New Zealand, put me in a ho­tel; that is how much they wanted me. I was ques­tion­ing, “Can I live in New Zealand and work in LA?” And I can. I got my apart­ment in LA last year be­cause I don’t like stay­ing in ho­tels, but I never stay in LA if I don’t have to. I come home or travel to places I like bet­ter such as Lon­don or Paris.

What do you do dur­ing your time off?

I am quite a home­body. I live here in Auck­land with my sis­ter and my neph­ews who are aged 7 and 5 and they are my world. We stay up late even when they have to go to school. Be­ing at home in my sweat­pants, chillin’ with my fam­ily – that is sim­ple hap­pi­ness.

“It breaks my heart to know that there is so much more we as a coun­try could of­fer our young peo­ple through the arts.”

Goebel (right) and

Jen­nifer Lopez.

1. Par­ris Goebel’s par­ents, LeeAnn and Brett. 2. Par­ris (right) with sis­ters (from left) Narelle and Ken­dal and brother Jarek. 3. A young Par­ris. 4. With her mother. 5. Do­ing a tra­di­tional Siva Samoa dance at her Aunty Va­nia’s wed­ding. 6. With Justin Bieber (left). 7. Goebel (front) and Re­Quest Dance Crew. 8. Goebel and Ari­ana Grande. 9. With Ri­hanna. 3

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