SF State Dance major Johan Casal dances with guests at “Netflix’s A Bridgerton Experience: The Queen’s Ball” in San Francisco on Sept. 14, 2022. (Ashley Hayes-Stone / Golden Gate Xpress) (Ashley Hayes-Stone)
SF State Dance major Johan Casal dances with guests at “Netflix’s A Bridgerton Experience: The Queen’s Ball” in San Francisco on Sept. 14, 2022. (Ashley Hayes-Stone / Golden Gate Xpress)

Ashley Hayes-Stone

Gator Talk: From the classroom to the ballroom

September 17, 2022

Welcome to Gator Talk, the Xpress podcast that brings city perspectives to local, regional and national news.

SF State student, Johan Casal, dances as one of the main leads in Netflix’s Bridgerton Experience in San Francisco. Casal received this opportunity through SF State connections. As this production comes to an end and Casal works towards further ambitions, he reflects on his own experience balancing school life, work life and overcoming imposter syndrome all while chasing his passion.

Check out the story here on Gator Talk.


Isabella: Hi, this is Isabella Vines, diversity editor of Golden Gate Xpress and welcome back to another Gator Talk, the podcast that never leaves you out of the loop. 

With me today is Ashley Hayes-Stone, Xpress photo editor along with today’s guest.

Ashley: I’m excited to be here and can’t wait to spill the “high” tea with the guest.

Isabella: Hold on, don’t give them away too soon.

For more information and coverage, check out goldengatexpress.org OR @GGXnews on all social media platforms.

Preview of the show

Isabella: Ever wondered what it was like where individuals attended balls? Where they dawned petticoats and intricate, beaded gowns? Well, now you can. We interviewed an SF State dance major Johan Casal who is one of the main leads in Netflix’s Bridgerton Experience in San Francisco.

So, let’s get into it. 

SF State Dance major Johan Casal dances with guests at “Netflix’s A Bridgerton Experience: The Queen’s Ball” in San Francisco on Sept. 14, 2022. (Ashley Hayes-Stone / Golden Gate Xpress)

Main Story

Isabella: Netflix’s A Bridgerton Experience: The Queen’s Ball allows fans of the show to step into a world where white gloves, sparkling tiaras and top hats are the best fashion accessories. Guests are completely immersed in the world of Bridgerton where they can take photos with the costumes of the show, bow before her royal highness and watch several dance numbers.

Ashley, you’re a fan of the show and you got a chance to speak with one of the main dancers who is also an SF State student.  

Ashley: I just want to say, I am a huge Bridgerton fan. It was one of those shows that got me through the pandemic. Well, that show and Tiger King and playing Animals Crossing all day. But anyways, I loved the show to the point where I even hosted my own tea party with my family, so when I heard the experience was coming to San Francisco, you know I had to get a ballgown.

Isabella: How did you come across Johan? 

Ashley: Well, our amazing managing editor, Myron – shout-out – gave me Johan’s contact after finding out that I went to the experience. Johan is in his fourth year here at SF State; like we said, he’s a dance major and a cinema minor. I was able to catch up with him on his way to one of the last shows on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, my Wi-Fi was down so I had to interview him on the MUNI on his way to the show. Audio quality isn’t the best, but it shows how he’s always on the go. When I asked him how he got this opportunity, he had a pretty cool story.

 [interview audio begins]

Johan: I was on my way to my day job – I work at T-Pumps, the boba place. I was already late. I was running late. It was my first time really doing a morning shift, so I was pretty late. And then, I got this message from Nekai. I didn’t really read much because I was driving. So, I just saw, “hey,” “Bridgerton,” “message,” “person.” And those were like the keywords. And I was like – and I interpret it as, I know you work in Bridgerton, maybe it’s just that you want to meet up someday after your rehearsal at Bridgerton. And then later I get a call and I pick it up and it’s like, “hey, this is so and so from the Bridgerton Experience, your friend Nekai had recommended you to fill the position that we’re currently looking for.”

[interview audio ends]

Isabella: When he got the role for this show, it must have felt amazing.

Ashley: Oh yeah, he said he felt humbled and excited about being part of the show. This again is his first professional job role and he killed it in my opinion. Since he got the job a week before the show started, he didn’t have time to really audition. He had to learn several dances in such a short amount of time. One of the dancers, who is also an SF alum, vouched for him. He definitely said he experienced something I think we all felt at one point.

[interview audio begins]

Johan: These people coming from tours and other places, working in Vegas, working in national tours like my coworkers, I’m like, oh, I literally am starting school in two weeks, I mean two months. So, I don’t know if I should even belong here. As a lead dancer who did begin training only three years ago in such technical dance.

[interview audio ends]

Isabella: Wow. How did he balance going to school and working professionally?

Ashley: I think every student including myself struggles with balancing the school work and actual work. It feels almost impossible at times but Johan, he’s used to doing multiple things at once. Throughout middle school and high school, he was involved in several curricular activities including school band and musicals. He says that how he is able to balance all of this is…

[interview audio begins] 

Johan: I schedule out my week, schedule my day seeing things months in advance. And being really realistic with myself.  

[interview audio ends]

Isabella: Well, organization is the foundation to success. Before we continue, let’s take a break.


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Cont. Main Story

Isabella: And, we’re back.

Ashley, could you talk more about what the show is about and the vibe of the experience?

Ashley: Oh my god. The show is based on novels written by Julia Quinn. It is based in 19th century London high society. What I love about the show – besides the fabulous costumes –  is the diversity of the cast. You definitely see that in the experience as well. The element that I love the most at the end of the experience, the queen picks a diamond like how the queen picks a diamond in the show. However, unlike the show, the individual isn’t selected to be the desirable maiden to marry. They get to stand in the middle of the dance floor on this circular stage and the best part is they get glitter confetti rained on them. The crowd just goes nuts and starts cheering on the diamond. Then, at the very, very end, everyone gets to get on the dance floor before we get kicked out. 

Isabella:  That sounds like a lot of fun. How does he feel knowing that the show is coming to an end?

Ashley: Ugh. It’s bittersweet for him.

[interview audio begins]

Johan: It’s going to hit me hard when the show’s done because I’ve never had a performance last more than four days. So for me to do like my 45th show tonight, 44th show tonight it’s crazy. 

[interview audio ends]

Isabella: Speaking of that, what is next for him? 

Ashley: Oh, he’s definitely staying busy being a cinema minor and a dance major. He has upcoming dance shows, he’s working on a film for his cinema class and he’s also reshowing one of his films, and I believe that’s in October. His advice for anyone who wants to pursue their dreams is this:

[interview audio begins]

Johan: You know due time will come, divine timing, you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else or their time.

[interview audio ends]

Isabella: Wow. It’s inspiring to see an SF State student set such an amazing example of hard work and ambition. 

Ashley: Oh yeah, I completely agree. And so, the last Bridgerton experience show is this Sunday; however, you can watch Johan perform at SF State in October. We’ll link all of his upcoming events down below.

News Brief

Isabella: Before we go, let’s catch y’all up on what happened this week.

SF State baseball player Garrett Jensen earns CalHope Courage Award for overcoming a life-changing diagnosis. After battling a tumor in his spinal cord in addition to dealing with other health complications, Jensen is finally playing baseball again. 

Mayor London Breed loses oversight over San Francisco police. In a 4-3 decision made on Wednesday, Mayoral appointee Max Carter-Oberstone was elected vice president and Cindy Elias president of the Police Commission. As a result of this decision, Mayor Breed no longer has the power to discipline officers, set policy or choose leaders of the SFPD. 

Tropical Storm Fiona has the potential of reaching the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend. According to the National Center in Miami, this storm formed Wednesday evening and the U.S. National Hurricane Center has issued tropical storm watches for the Caribbean’s easternmost islands. 


Isabella: And that’s all for today. This is Isabella Vines, diversity editor.

New episodes will premiere every other week, so keep an ear out. 

And with that, see you later gators.

Ashley: Bye.

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About the Contributors
Photo of Ashley Hayes-Stone
Ashley Hayes-Stone, Photo Editor
Ashley Hayes-Stone (she/her) is the photo editor for Golden Gate Xpress. She's an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been published in the Sacramento Bee as well as the Sacramento News and Review and Comstock's Magazine. She's currently a contributor to Advocate News in Fort Bragg as well as Comstock's Magazine. Previously, Ashley was the photo editor of her college campus newspaper, The American River Current, for over two years. She has experience in various types of photography including sporting events, bands, landscape, portraits, animals and more, and in writing on different topics such as news and profiles.
Photo of Isabella Vines
Isabella Vines, Diversity Editor
Isabella Vines (she/her) is the diversity editor for Golden Gate Xpress. She's a senior at SF State, majoring in communications and journalism with a minor in race and resistance studies. Isabella is from and resides in the Bay Area. During her free time, she likes to travel, read and spend time with loved ones.
Photo of Myron Caringal
Myron Caringal, Engagement Editor
Myron Caringal (he/they) is the engagement editor for Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine. He is a transfer student at SF State majoring in journalism and minoring in critical social thought. Myron is originally from Orange County, California, and currently resides in San Francisco. He previously served as diversity editor and then as managing editor for GGX. Myron hopes to transition into the digital engagement side of the media industry as a current intern for KQED's Audience Development team. During his free time, Myron enjoys traveling, trying new foods, attending music festivals and binge-watching series.

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