Interview: Akoiya Harris
Edited by: 
Kamyron Williams

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you started dancing just the very very beginning?

Dance has been something that's always been in my life, whether watching or doing some combination of both. My mom was a dancer, so I started like literally from the womb. She has stories of teaching ballet class with baby me in her arms.

Q: What inspires you and drives you forward as an art as an artist?

I definitely say people inspire me. I love people watching, and just kind of looking at how we relate to the world and ourselves to each other. People are very interesting to me. As far as what drives me, I think the idea that I could create change in someone else. And that I could create conversation and expose people to a point of view that they may have never thought of before, without actually using my voice, and just using my body. And the fact that dance is this kind of universal language that anyone can understand and you don't have to speak a certain language to understand what people are trying to communicate on stage is very driving.

Q: What interests and passions Do you have inside of the dance realm? And what I mean by that is do you teach Do you choreograph?

I think at this point in my career, because I'm so fresh and so new, I'm interested in doing other people's choreography and seeing where I can find my voice within someone else's bigger vision. I see down the line teaching and creating but just not right now. I want to develop and discover myself in this aspect of performing dance before I get to sharing my skills with others.

Q: How do you think dance can be a platform for social justice issues?

I feel like all dance, whether it's just aesthetically pleasing or a dance that is specifically about  a movement or an issue or anything can be social justice. I think the aesthetically pleasing dance can bring people joy, and sometimes we need that and sometimes we don't, you know, think about heavy things or think about light things sometimes we just need joy to keep us going.  I believe Dance is a perfect platform for Social Justice because again the universal language connection thing that anyone can understand what we're trying to communicate. And that dance can be something that can make people sit back and think about their point of view and their place in the world, their place in relation to other people and how their actions affect other people just by seeing something on stage or seeing something. However, you may consume dance.

Dance is also a platform for artists to talk about what's happening in the world that we all exist in whether you're an artist or creator, or just a regular person. I feel like because we're all a witness to what's happening in the world,  and we have this ability to create and platforms to create, then we should be creating about what we're witnessing what we're experiencing, especially because different people of different backgrounds have different points of view on the world so we can create a broader dialogue when you see different points of view on the same world being experienced in dance.

Q: When the U.S first started to shut down what process you were in, what did that day look like, how did the company communicate with you What were your initial reactions to that?

On the Friday right before, it was kind of just like in conversation and murmurs. You know we're all like oh my gosh this is crazy is this really happening. Life is shutting down, and other companies and parts of the world. And then that Monday, we all came into work and we talk about a lot of things, and we spent a lot of time talking before we decided to make or before artistic and executive directors decided to make the decision to cancel rehearsals and quarantine. We had about a two-hour discussion about how it's our social responsibility to not come into rehearsals

because of, the threat that we could spread the virus to others or we could contract it. Even if we don't get sick, Someone else that we know or a loved one could and it can be detrimental to them. We just spent a lot of time talking about what's going on, how we will be affected by each other and then with the Artistic Director. When the decision was made, our day was a half-day, that day, and then about a week later we picked back up the Zoom rehearsals.

We've also started a project so that our audiences can get a little more familiar with who we are by Highlighting our dancers on Instagram. It's done in three parts, Who are you, what brings you joy and there's one other question. And then as far as what we've been doing. We've been having Zoom rehearsals, and talking a lot about our process and how we create work. Because the process that we do at Spectrum is very unique to Donald Byrd. We've been dissecting what it is and how the conceptual process applies to actual dance and dance grading. Then, otherwise, we've just been staying in communication talking about you know, how our days are trying to stay happy, sometimes we do a group fitness classes or group dance classes just to keep semi-active semi-positive, you know

Q: I think that this is a really good time during this giant pause where we can sit and really examine in the dance world that happened been working, especially in regards to inclusion. my question for you is after the pandemic, what would you like to see change and shift in the dance world?

It’s something I've noticed is, everything's become way more accessible. And I hope that that is able to be maintained, like with companies sharing videos of full-length works and professionals and teachers teaching classes online for free, which I'm sure you know you can't have free classes forever but the idea is nice.  I hope that stays because I've been able to see people who normally can't experience dance, whether it's them taking a class that they've never thought about taking before or them seeing a production by a company that either they couldn't afford to go to their show in person. Or like companies don't travel to every city or every town in the country. So I hope we find a way to keep dance, or this form of dance that accessible. And I definitely hope that we see more, or hear more voices from people like us that aren't always the forefront of the dance world. Definitely more minority voices more female voices more non-binary voices. Just because the world is made up of diversity, so the dance world should reflect diversity.

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