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Meet Trailblazer Melissa Adao

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Adao.

Melissa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Most female trailblazers have unique journeys that are far from simple. Shared characteristics include a willingness to work hard, can power through life’s challenges, and continuously evolve to be positive contributors to the community.

Present day, I am a dancer, choreographer, and educator in San Diego, specializing in hip hop and urban dance. For the last three years, I’ve been repping as much as I can in the breaking (breakdancing) scene as a bgirl. In addition to immersing myself in the culture as much as possible, my goal is to eventually pass preliminary rounds in any of the high caliber breaking competitions around the world before I turn 50.

I started dancing when I was 17, and this June, I will be turning 40 years young. For the last 23 years, I have learned amazing life lessons by being involved in the dance scene. I am able to share and pass along that knowledge and experience to my students, peers, and colleagues. Along the way, I try to be a better version of myself. My journey is unique because it involves walking the road less traveled, can sometimes feel lonely, and one of the deepest lessons of changing my perspective from “why me” to “why NOT me”. Being the best version of myself is a daily practice, and I recognize that in order to give the dance culture, and myself, the love and respect it deserves, it is important to be patient, embrace, and evolve.

Has it been a smooth road?
I used to respond to adversity feeling sorry for myself and ask, “why me”? It was only recently that I changed my perspective from “why me?” to “why NOT me?!”

I truly believe that the universe brings challenges in my life to prepare me for something greater that is about to happen. It’s hard when I can’t see the reason or what I’m being prepared for. I had to practice trusting that there is the reason, as well as being patient for that new chapter that’s about to arrive in my life.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am known for being a long time active member of our dance community and training future generations to acclimate themselves in the current state of our dance culture. I am most proud of simply enjoying the dance scene for the last 21+ years that I have been in it, being able to stay relevant and active, and maintaining and building relationships with pioneers and innovators who are respected and keep the scene alive. I’ve also learned that in order to be a great educator, I must also be a great student. Once I changed that perspective, I noticed my class culture “leveled up” significantly. I consider myself a community builder with strong roots and integrity – I am thankful that other community leaders and builders who keep this culture alive trust and respect my work ethics to continue working with me.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I may be an anomaly, but through my years, I’ve experienced minimal barriers and struggles as a female in a male-dominated dance scene (both urban dance and breaking) that have prevented me from succeeding. It might be from my subjective experiences or the fact that I accept life is about “working from the bottom”, but so far I’ve been given the same opportunities as men were given. In fact, I see an increase of support and effort in highlighting bgirls in the breaking scene. I am grateful to come in during the rise of bgirls.

In terms of the physical challenges of dance, breaking in particular, I know females have a more challenging process getting “power moves” (or the flashier moves the general public recognizes breaking with such as windmills, airflares, headspins, etc.) because our center of gravity is heavier on the hips. While this may be true, most females seem to connect with the music and dance a lot better than males because we understand how to use our hips. Although I have no control over my body structure, I’m happy putting in extra hours to become the best girl I can be. No one ever said that being great is an easy process, and I’ve accepted that I’ll be putting hours on this journey for my entire life.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Adrian Burlaza, Voices of San Diego, Espero Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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