Tell us a bit about your background, as a dancer, a company member, but now also as a choreographer.
I was born in Durham, NC. Studied with Jennifer Potts and Nina Wheeler. They both were very supportive of me, and worked to introduce me to as much dance as possible. I received my first of three scholarships from ADF (American Dance Festival) where my eyes were opened to modern dance, the pioneers, and the importance of history and the ability to make change with the art I love. Those experiences prepared me for what was to come.
What interests you most about being a dance maker?
I truly believe I have always felt I need to raise my voice to be heard. As the only dancer in a family of educators and professional singers, I found my honest voice through this art form.
The interesting thing about making dances now, is I have the ability to share hurts, frustrations, and struggles, knowing someone can or will possibly benefit from my lessons. I don’t believe this is new, as nothing is new under the sun, but I have found the courage to share.
Do you have multiple programs/projects or dances in mind at once?
I often begin by putting the overall idea in context with original writing or poetic verse, which I often, but not always, include in the final work makes the movement less abstract and more personal—many tell me I am saying/demonstrating what they wish they had the courage to share.
Lately I have been starting my process on paper. I like the idea of keywords and those words begin to unpack the story, or feeling I want to approach. Next I form a structured cadence using those keywords; which motivates the building of a movement vocabulary; which then forces a development of movement phrases toward rhythm and sequence; all of which become the foundation for the work to grow.
How do you “start” a piece, and when do you know it’s done, or do you continue to change, interpret?
Yes, I often have many ideas rolling around in my head at once, but a friend told me it’s best to write them down, because “…the only thing in the way of a great idea, is another great idea.” I make sure to take notes, with keywords which help keep the relevance of the “great idea” alive.
Is there a commission, an idea or a particular work that you want to stage?
Yes, but they are still secrets I won’t tell. 🙂
Would love to hear about how you have expanded your toolkit during the pandemic.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women, told me how important it is I know enough or how to do (I forget exactly which way she phrased it) anything I would pay someone else to do. Of course I don’t want to build costumes from scratch, but I can set up a sewing machine and make costumes if I absolutely have to, which I have in 2021. The seams weren’t straight and I had many do overs, but when it needed to be done I could do it.
I have a not-so-secret passion for technology and I am the always inline for the next new thing. There is something sweet about the progression I’ve witnessed from my grandfather’s cordless phone which had a range of 50 feet, to the latest Apple anything.
I am often heard saying, “When I win my Oscar…” (we must say it to believe it, right?) true. Being on the creator side, I love seeing my vision come life, as a choreographer and as a filmmaker. This is something I really believe is within my reach. It excites me in a different way, like the younger me, who was hungry to learn new things.
These last few months have been some of the most trying in my adulthood. We all get older, and with age is wisdom and all that stuff, yes, yes, yes. BUT… when I don’t see things as clearly, or when I am not as flexible as I once was, and my clothes don’t fit they way they once did, I must stop and take note of what I could be doing, and realize I am changing. Now, we often make ourselves feel like it is bad, but it’s not. #ItsJustLife and to tell the truth, I’m much better now—a more thoughtful thinker, a stronger teacher and educator, a clear and focused speaker, and ultimately, I’m a better artist. I simply must continue to give myself permission to accept Hope as I am. I can and will encourage myself, but I must love me before I can show anyone else love.