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Rick Tjia

Choreography Online leverages technology to provide tools and services that help dance and performing arts professionals succeed in their respective enterprises. We emphasize efficiency, education, innovation, and working in a socially responsible manner whenever possible.

Our mission is to have a significant, positive, and hopefully lasting impact on the performing arts industry.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a person who is driven by imaginative ideas that lead to concrete strategies and plans. I’m into realizing dreams in as realistic a way as possible. No dream is too big. However, I do believe in research, I believe in planning, and I believe in testing where necessary.

This being said, I am also an artist, so yes, sometimes I do throw things to the wind. I believe that a balance between the chaos that sometimes comes with artistic vision and the organization, efficiency, logic, and planning that comes with cartesian thinking is the key. That’s what makes strategy, and I consider myself a strategist. I know most people tend to be towards the artistic side or the cartesian side, but though there are tendencies that are natural, part of this one-side tendency is a choice to push oneself to learn the other side and change one’s habits. You’ll never change your nature, but you can improve upon performance in all things. Learning new things takes energy and effort, and unfortunately, it does take breaking old habits. And that learning is a never-ending cycle. You’ll never “arrive.” But then again, what makes life valuable is the process of getting closer, not actually arriving. But I firmly believe that the more of both sides of the brain we use, the faster that journey and the more new and interesting opportunities open up before us to learn, embrace, integrate, and enrich life. This is why we’ll never “arrive.”

I got into dance with tap at the age of eight or nine, after my mom noticed I always imitated the tap dancer on a show they used to watch, The Lawrence Welk Show. At nine, I did my first recital on stage, then never left it until I retired at the age of 36 or 37.

Since that first time in tap class, I’ve studied and worked professionally in classical ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary dance, hip hop, tap, and tango. As principal dancer with La La La Human Steps for eight years, I toured and performed in over 25 countries and 100 different cities. Before then, I worked in the movie industry in Los Angeles as both a dancer and actor, and I also danced with various ballet companies both as a company member and as a guest artist.

In 2004, I joined the Cirque du Soleil Casting Team as an Artistic Talent Scout for all styles of dance, where I remained for a little over 16 years. I’m also a dance and acrobatic choreographer, having choreographed for Utah Ballet, Dance Alive! National Ballet, and various independent projects, including Cirque du Soleil’s Volta.

Throughout these years, I have also been a writer and have written for various blogs and online magazines, among them Dance Magazine, Dance Informa, DanceLife Australia, and Red Bull (there is a list of publications on my LinkedIn profile).

In 2018, I began working with two partners on creating Choreography Online, a cloud platform that acts as an Amazon-type store for choreographers to sell performance licenses for their dance pieces. The plan was to build this core business and then diversify into other services that revolutionize the way various processes are undertaken in the dance and performing arts industries.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Don’t be afraid of making a fool out of yourself as you try new things. The path to excellence is through feeling stupid.

What problem does your business solve?

Choreography Online

Our business solves four main problems, depending on which of our products/services you are talking about. I’ll explain.

Choreography Online began as an online platform that sells performance rights for dance choreography on behalf of choreographers worldwide. Access to choreography in this industry tends to be complicated and complex and can get extremely expensive. Choreography Online set out to make that process easy for consumers and, at the same time, offer choreographers the chance to make passive income off of their work.

When the COVID-19 lockdown happened in March 2020, we were just about to go to market with the Choreography Online platform. In fact, our go to market date was the second week of March 2020 – the exact week when lockdown happened.

So we pivoted and created the International Online Dance Competition (IODC), an online dance competition that received entries from some 20-odd countries in its first year and published a public-vote Gallery of Finalists that received 110,000 unique visitors from over 120 different countries and over 550,000 video views of IODC Finalists. The competition also serves as an international audition for dance and production companies searching for dance and choreography talent, alleviating the burden of expensive travel costs for dancers who must travel in order to be seen by hiring companies.

We then started an online Diploma in Choreography Programme in collaboration with International Performing Arts and Theatre (I-PATH) in the U.K., which is the first accredited choreography course ever to be taught online. Once again, based on over 30 years of analyzing, testing, observing dance processes, and comparing with other disciplines, this course is probably among the most comprehensive approaches to learning/improving choreographic skills while also providing insight and tools into project, team, and career management.

And one year ago, in partnership with Launchpad6 in Australia and Gig2Gig in the United States, we began producing JamarGig, which is a state-of-the-art online casting and audition management software. Leveraging our collective of over 30 years of experience in the performing, casting, and technology sectors, we’ve created software that revolutionizes professional proprietary performing artist databases and artist submission portals.

Prior to 2020, most casting in the industry was done the traditional way, on paper, cattle call auditions, post-audition storage, and organization of audition videos, CVs, and photos. Largely manual, this took an immense amount of time. Then for the next project, usually, the whole process would begin from scratch. Everything done in previous castings would basically be thrown away, and the process would begin again from zero.

A few companies had the foresight to save all of that performer information in multimedia artist databases, which facilitated leveraging talent previously seen and assessed, saving a lot of time and eliminating several manual processes.

What COVID-19 did was push the industry to realize that they absolutely needed to be able to continue to cast their projects when the opportunity to run live auditions was greatly reduced. So everyone is scrambling to find a solution that will help them receive submissions online and effectively manage them. But though online casting management is part of our wheelhouse, for the industry as a whole, it is only three years old. Most systems built to receive submissions for hiring online were never built to manage multimedia and quick multimedia recall. So this is the complex problem Jamargig is here to solve.

Because of the timing, we could consider this a COVID-19-era service model, but the reality is that COVID-19 did not create the need we are trying to fill. COVID-19 simply exposed it: whereas before 2020, private performer database usage was unique to Cirque du Soleil and maybe two or three other companies. COVID-19 threw the entire performing arts industry into a panic and had nearly every company in the industry scrambling for an online submission and database solution.

So COVID-19 was just a catalyst for the inevitable. But because of it, the industry now realizes the advantage of online casting and assessment.

So much so that the practice is now becoming an industry standard and will not be going away any time soon because live auditions are such an expensive endeavour. It makes more sense to filter down online first and invite smaller numbers to live auditions – auditions with fewer but higher quality candidates.

So Choreography Online has become an umbrella of cutting-edge services for dance and the performing arts, which was what we set out to do. What COVID-19 did in our case was to push our diversification plans to a much sooner date than originally planned.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

As I mentioned, our mission is to have a significant, positive, and hopefully lasting impact on the performing arts industry, as well as to leverage technology to provide tools and services that help dance and performing arts professionals succeed in their respective enterprises.

The impetus behind this is the observation that the dance industry (and, in some respects, the performing arts industry) has a tendency to be a bit resistant to change, and it is this resistance that keeps people doing things in a less efficient manner than is possible with the simple adoption of a different process or the use of different tools.

In business, we know that time is money, but in the artistic world, I don’t think that that concept always registers. In the arts, we tend to only see the price tag of change without actually calculating the larger benefits of spending on the right tools. As a result, we often continue to do what has always been done, not realizing that we are actually spending a lot more time and money than we would if we made the effort to adopt an informed and well-thought-out investment.

There is a quote from Professor Charles Xavier’s character in the film X-Men that goes, “Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.”

What inspires us is the belief that we can contribute to jump-starting this evolutionary leap in the performing arts industry.

What is your magic sauce?

Ah, the “magic sauce.” The magic sauce is in the simple understanding that an idea alone means absolutely nothing. There are many who spend a lot of time and energy protecting a great idea they have. But an idea is not even a copyrightable entity; if it is not developed into something finite and concrete, well, then it isn’t worth much by itself. Anyone can have one good idea. A good idea does not make one innovative, nor does it make one even creative.

Highly creative people tend to have more ideas than they even know what to do with. To say someone is creative is to describe a personality, a way of being. Not an act of having an idea. The most creative people I know tend not to be so overprotective of an idea (unless they’ve already begun investing in it) because there are many more where that came from. But even if you have 1,000 great ideas, they still mean nothing until they are developed. Ideas are easy; development is hard.

We differ from the competition in that we don’t actually have competitors (or not many) because, so far, we have created services/products that did not exist before. Our main competition is actually inertia: people not actually making the move to better their lives and careers with what we have to offer. Change takes effort, and that effort (or, rather, the perception of effort—most of what we offer takes very little effort) is our main competitor.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

In five years, we want to be known worldwide as a forward-thinking brand people can trust to always be coming up with a new way of pushing the industry forward. I have said that if you have 1000 great ideas, they still mean nothing until they are developed. We aim to continually make the development of useful and creative solutions, as well as to continue to develop the ideas that were responsible for the products and services we already have today.

In very little time, we created three solutions for industry problems that were firsts at the time they were created. We are now going to market with the JamarGig casting and audition management software, which also differs from anything that has existed before. The plan is to continue to create towards the betterment of the performing arts industry in all its forms and to strengthen both the company and the industry by doing so.

As to the vision: I repeat what I said before: to have a significant, positive, and lasting impact on the performing arts industry as a whole.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge was timing: trying to generate clients/revenue in an industry that crumbled to the ground and went to zero activity for about two years, right as we were going to market. Literally, the same week we were going to market, as I mentioned before.

How can people get involved?

That is pretty simple. For individuals, it would be to use the services we’ve provided to this industry for individuals. For companies, it would be to take advantage of the sponsorship, casting, and recruitment opportunities we have provided. The services we provide to the industry are unique and diverse— and we hope to continue in this vein, using our “magic sauce,” so to speak.

Our effectiveness in our respective markets can only be at maximum if people use the services we provide through our websites. We can be contacted through IG (@choreography online), LinkedIn (@choreographyonline), Facebook (@choreographyonline), or by email at [email protected].