Gemma Asfour is Finding Her Footing

Diane W Kelly
8 Min Read
Photo credit: Mary Mason, @fitbymary

Photo credit: Mary Mason, @fitbymary

Gemma Asfour is a dancer and actress who is proving that hard work is the basis for success. This talented teen is balancing school, acting, and hours of dance training yet through it all is staying grounded as she dances her way to the top. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview her about the style of dance she is best known for as well as her podcast, Society Inspired, and her tips on how she’s finding a happy balance in life.

You are a dancer known for Chicago Footwork. What exactly is that?

Even though I am classically trained and do many styles, I am currently most known for Chicago Footwork. It is a style in which our feet move to 160 beats per minute. It originated on the West side of Chicago and has much to do with sound. Arising out of a style of Chicago house music and transforming into its own unique sound & movement style. Really representing the time and environment it arose from. It is a dance battle style with many foundations and so much creativity. Learning about its culture and history is so important to appreciate it fully. It is beautiful to watch people worldwide do it and connect with each other in the root of one style. It definitely has taught me a lot and brought me a lot of new relationships around the world.

How did you find your way to that type of dance?

I found this style the first time I came to LA in 2018. After dancing at a dance convention all day, I went to a dance studio and took classes until late at night. I would take multiple classes, regardless of the style or teacher. There was a Chicago Footwork class happening one of the nights, and I found myself in the class. I connected with it and trained in it ever since. I have been through a lot with footwork, but it has been an escape for me, and I deeply appreciate it and its culture.

How important are Ballet fundamentals when you are doing other types of dance such as Chicago Footwork?

Even though Chicago Footwork is an underground style, understanding Ballet fundamentals or basic hip-hop can be important. Being in ballet brings awareness of your body and having your feet moving so fast in Chicago Footwork, that can definitely come in handy. A basic understanding of hip hop, the groove, and sharpness can also be important. But I don’t believe you need to do either to start learning Chicago Footwork! With Chicago Footwork, connection to the music and style is key.

What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?

Some advice I have for aspiring dancers is to remember why you started. There are so many aspects in the dance industry that can be distracting in trying to accomplish your dreams/goals. Remembering why I started dancing has brought me a lot of motivation. How dancing makes me feel and why I go train every day. Also, eliminate the stereotype that families or society have taught us that art is only a hobby rather than a career. Living in that sort of “lack” mentality can bring a lot of questioning/not believing in yourself.

Photo credit: Mary Mason, @fitbymary

Tell us what you most love about acting.

What I love most about acting is that you can turn any script or monologue into something you relate to. That is something my acting teacher has helped me with. It also makes acting so much more fun and personal! Instead of “pretending” what a specific situation feels like, finding your inner connections and then making them your own is so much more real.

How do you balance acting, dancing, and school?

How I balance acting, dancing, and school is a good question, ha-ha. It is not easy, and sometimes I get overwhelmed. But finding my priorities and setting my schedule is what helps me the most. I have dance priorities that are set in my schedule and acting classes that are priorities set in my schedule. Then school is also obviously a priority, but I am homeschooled, so it is easier to do it at a different time of the day if needed. I just work to hold myself accountable to get it done. Another priority that I might have to work around is scheduled interview times for Society Inspired. Then, if I have extra free time in my schedule, I will add getting things done for Society Inspired, hanging out with my friends, or additional dance training.

Tell us about Society Inspired.

Society Inspired is a social campaign I launched in June 2021. I release conversations I’ve had with different activists each month to work on creating a safe space for discussing various social issues. Being half-Palestinian has taught me that speaking out and having questions and conversations in the activism field can be a bit intimidating. I upload a new conversation every month, with the topic changing every three months to explore more in-depth the nature of each topic. I want to learn more and hope others do as well. It’s up to us to make a change, and I hope these conversations inspire others as much as they do me.

If you could have any guest on your show, who would it be and why?

If I could have any guest on the show, right now, I would say Alyson Stoner. I want to have a conversation with her because she has shared so much insight into the mental health field, especially as an artist in the industry. She is honest & funny, and I enjoy her personality and content! But I am always open to talking to any activist; there is always so much to learn, so many different perspectives and all are valuable. 

Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?

Some upcoming projects I’m excited to be working on are actually some of my own creations. I’m always working on new dance content where I am dancing. But I’ve been working on some concept pieces where I am doing choreography and behind the camera. It takes a lot of planning, but I am putting the pieces together! I’ve also been working on some photography projects I hope to release soon. I also have more amazing conversations released every month on my campaign Society Inspired. You can find all these things @gemma.asfour, @society_inspired, and @snapsby.gem!

Photo credit: Mary Mason, @fitbymary

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