Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Current city: Brooklyn, New York
College: Western Michigan University, BA in dance and a Minor in music
How you pay the bills: Working with Abraham.In.Motion (AIM) has been primarily paying my bills for the last 4-5 years.
All of the dance hats you wear: Dancer, choreographer, teacher, musician, stylist, music/video editor
Non-dance work you do or have done in the past: I've been a retail worker for about 7 years, mostly focusing on visual merchandising. For four long days I worked as a construction traffic controller. The money was great, but the days were long and I spent them all on my feet without anything but a monetary reward at the end. It didn't feed me.
The first two years after college:
Immediately following school, I took a job in Minnesota for a month. At the end of it, I had no plan but knew I wasn't going back where I came from. I ended up buying a one-way ticket to NYC --- with no job, no home and no idea where it all was going to come from. Within that first year I did work study at Broadway Dance Center, freelanced a bit and made it into my first NYC dance company, SYREN modern dance, although my first dance job in the city was go-go dancing in LES. I found a home amongst some beastly movers and art makers, working tirelessly to create the kind of art we love without the promise of pay. Because we love it. I spent late nights in studios with ChristinaNoel & The Creature. I worked with Detroit-bred choreographer Nathan Trice.
Within the second year, I freelanced more and began working retail again; that first company gig wasn't paying enough to live in this expensive city. I freelanced more and took as many new classes as I could. That led to another freelance gig that put me in the same room with a second degree tie to Kyle Abraham. That year I began working with him on "Pavement."
Five years after college:
This brings me pretty much to where I am currently. I left WMU in 2010; now in 2016 I have found myself going through lots of very different dance circles and experiences. I have now had two years experience signed to a talent agent. I've shot music videos and choreographed and danced for a great friend and openly gay rapper, Will Sheridan. I've made it on America's Got Talent. I've remounted and helped create a dance film with Katherine Fisher, a beautiful friend and Lucinda Childs dancer. I've seen a fair amount of the globe, and I've had talks with foreigners about the state of America both through conversation and art. I recently had the privilege of returning to my alma mater to set some of Kyle's work on the dance department with my friend, colleague and classmate Matthew Baker. I've toured Italy with Alessandra Ferri doing the work of a choreographer I admire, Aszure Barton. I've found a home for my art in night life, with other queer artists who do it for self revelations and political conversations. Thank you Hotfruit. I've taught workshops overseas and in New York --- to kids, pre-professionals, professionals, and non-dancers.
My mother - a survivor and caretaker with absolute grace
My father - for his working hands and his unflappable nature
My sister - for her independent strength and hustle instinct
Sacred Geometry and patterning
My circle of friends who also make art, near and far. I learn by observing, and my learning keeps the progression wheel turning. Staying forever inspired by people and things within my reach.
The art of listening, through sound, sight, and touch.
Did I say music?
Night life and social dance. There is a whole world of art outside the concert realm that also feeds my soul and heart.
The art of touch.
(These movers and/or their choreographers have influenced my learning of dance very much.)
2017 is starting the same as my past five years --- it will begin with showings of Kyle's work at APAP in New York City. I have some teaching/choreographic opportunities coming up: a group youth ensemble, a college senior solo, and a few advanced contemporary classes at Peridance. Hopefully this is only to name a few coming up during the year. AIM has a new work set to premiere in San Francisco in May and a New York premiere sometime in June, then its off to tour these works and some previous works we have been working on to get back in performance condition. My fingers are crossed, hoping that we make it to Tel Aviv this year!
Getting into Abraham.In.Motion:
I met Kyle through a friend I was working with at the time. I had spent several months freelancing and working retail and managed to book a gig building an off Broadway musical with Brice Mousset. A friend in the show suggested I take Kyle's class with her because her roommate was working with him and figured I would enjoy it. Indeed I did! This was around the time Kyle was premiering "Live the Realest M.C.," so after class I thanked Kyle for class and took a flyer about the show.
Later that night I looked him up on Facebook and sent a friend request along. Because of the gig I was currently working on I didn't know if I would make it to the show, but I was sure that I wanted to stay in contact. The next day I received a FB message from Kyle asking if I was available to come into a few rehearsals and play around with some new material. He had begun thinking about his next work "Pavement" and thought I may be a good fit. I, in fact, was not available for those rehearsals because of my current work situation and regrettably so, couldn't accept his invitation. I did however express my interest in him and his work and asked to consider me for future opportunities.
Before I knew it I was sent a schedule of rehearsal dates and was asked if I might be available for a two week residency outside of NYC. I was available for those two weeks and a few dates prior to that. Once I was I in the studio with the dancers and Kyle, the rest became history. I've been here ever since...
Kyle builds material generally speaking from an improvisational base, and I immediately connected with that. My dance experience at the time, and even now, isn't as in-depth as my colleagues, and the improv base made it easy for me not to feel left out or uneducated about any particular vernacular of dance. He used them all, but the steps didn't string together the same way they would if he was just using one style of dance. He spoke with us a lot in these rehearsals too, asked us our opinions and worked with our abilities to create. As a "rookie" dancer in the room I still felt heard. Almost six years later and I'm still a major part of the collaborations. Consistency is gooood!
Current training practices:
I don't take class as much as I would like or maybe should, however, we almost always have company class when touring and with bodies from different dance backgrounds working in the same room (i.e. the company), on any given day rehearsal can be just as good as a dance class. I also spend a fair amount of time at the gym. I run, sometimes row, and lift to keep strong and counter issues that come up from certain works. In "Pavement" I run to the left a lot, so I may find a track and train running to the right. Being born asthmatic I have found a deep deep love and appreciation for yoga; it has helped control my breathing in some of the worst performance conditions...25min of straight dancing on a stage in Denver, yikes! But I made it! I also enjoy swimming. This year I plan on getting into kickboxing and rock climbing as well.
I have been getting into teaching more and more this year, still looking for more opportunities to build on my teaching style. I've had quite a few opportunities to teach at Peridance, and it has been an incredibly inspiring experience. For AIM I am the designated primary workshop teacher, which essentially means I am the one to teach workshops when we are out on tour. We do a great deal of community outreach. While these classes may not be to experienced movers, they still feed me in many ways, and I do hope that the participants gain something from the experience. Though I've never taken a class, I am moved by the Gaga idea of communal class. I try and bring those ideas into my classes.
Jesse Zaritt was one of the first teachers who made me excited about both taking class and wanting to teach. He used words and imagery in a way that made moving about more than just making steps happen. The incorporation of sensation and dynamics to movement from the beginning to the very end of class is something I try and keep present in my own classes. Also I am very moved by improv and the idea it presents, that as Kyle's favorite yoga teacher says, "Everything you do is perfect." And how that can affect the psyche of an insecure dancer. Also I take a note from Kyle and play with the sounds heard in class, sometimes pairing familiar movement with unfamiliar sounds, continually asking the dancers to stay open and available to new circumstances.
Collaboration in art making:
It wasn't until I looked back at all of my art making experiences that I realized they have all been based in collaboration. That realization led me to the thought.....it is actually collaboration in art that feeds me. I have no desire to work or to create alone; I also have no desire to live alone. Those parallel ideas are what drive me to be a better human and artist. It is in knowing how to work with others where we find the knowledge and power to make great changes in the world. Collaboration in art is a safe space to trial and error collaborative tactics. From that, you can build and create works that connect with others. From that, you can translate those efforts in collaboration to everyday life, and when people finally start listening we can make great strides together. But together will we grow; structures don't grow when they're broken apart. One should not, even though he can, do it alone.
Last show that inspired you:
I've had the chance to see Crystal Pite's work twice, and both times it left me ogling at the stage like a little kid watching Disney on Ice for the first time. Most recently I saw "Betroffenheit" in Seattle. I very vividly remember the visceral connection I had to it. Her mix of full-bodied, athletic movement with codified steps and ethereal artistic direction make me eyes salivate. It's encouraging to see her work, and I feel like she's built a realm in which imagination and Fantasia can live for the mature adult, while also tending to a suspension of disbelief that I find so intriguing and playful.
The next five years:
I plan on dancing through and beyond these next five years. I also would like to have put a heavy hand down on choreographing and possibly artistic directing. I'm open to how this plays out; maybe it means grad school, maybe it means a brief relocation, who knows!? I'm open to the future and what it brings, but I know for sure that I have some knowledge and experience that I would like to share with others and eventually dive into researching and growing with. Somewhere farther down the road I would like to start an artist co-op of some sort. I would love to find a piece of property (preferably in Detroit) that I can house artists in and hold dance classes in. A literal home to artists and art making within a community.
Advice for dancers moving to New York City:
Don't come here with too many plans. Know what you love to do, and continue to ask yourself why you love to do it. Stay open and available to the universe. Trust in your artistic interests, and allow your curiosity to guide you. You'll find there are more options and people in the same boat than ever anticipated here.
As we approach these next four years it is my hope and firm belief that the creatives in the world will play a large part in how we come out on the other end. There is a responsibility, same as it has always been, now with higher stakes, to speak for those who cannot or are too afraid to. To speak to those we are afraid of and afraid for. To make bold choices, to provoke thought, to introduce other, new and old, perspectives. I read a quote in college once that said, "Art is art if it provokes thought." It has stuck with me over all these years, and now it rings in my head louder than ever. Promote art, for it provokes thought. Enough thoughts will provoke conversation; the right conversations help implement change and growth. Growth is what we need.