Durell Comedy
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Q: What have been some challenges in your pre-professional or professional dance career?

Comparison. It is so easy to look at other people and say why not me, why them? And to not celebrate your own unique gift and voice. Also perfection. While perfection can be a strength, it can also be a weakness because it can prevent you from celebrating where you are. I guess not the pursuit of perfection, but the motive behind trying to achieve perfection can be debilitating, because you will never get there. I ask myself, why do I want to be perfect? To be better than other people? For me that has been the biggest challenge. Because I want to be perfect and be better than everyone else in the room, but it is accepting the fact that will never happen and there is always something you can work towards. It’s being humble enough to celebrate yourself while also celebrating everyone else. It is learning to celebrate my achievements but celebrating others as well, especially when other people achieve goals I wanted to achieve. Last night was a prime example, I saw one of my good friends get appointed to be artistic director of Limon Dance Company. I danced with him my whole time there and I was so happy for him. But there was also part of me that was like Durell, what are you doing? You were doing the same thing he was doing? Why not you? And then I had to remind myself that I have my own path, I can still celebrate his path and his achievements and still keep pursuing what I’m working towards.  

Q: Do you believe dance can be a platform for social justice topics? If so, how? and/or Have you used your art form to make a difference?

That is always hard for me. I am not a person who doesn't believe in justice, who doesn’t want to see it happen or manifest, I am just not passionate about it in my art making. I think what dance can do is create a space for people to communicate about justice and injustice. I don't know what goes on in the mind of the artists to utilize their art to impact someone through justice. I don't know that process because I have not been wired to think that way.

My wife is the justice queen. I see it through her. I am having to learn how that mindset operates. My wife is an actress. I have seen it more in theater because of the articulation of words. Movement is definitely a language, it is just harder for me to connect with it personally. I equate it with poetry. Poetry is so off the market for me, I don't get it. It is so legitimate, I know it is, but I just cannot connect with it. I know it is a legitimate platform, but my personal connection to social justice through dance is hard.

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

The first thing that comes to mind is music. It’s hard to say “good” music because that’s so subjective. But for me, music that is logical, that makes sense, that has a clear direction, something that you can follow. I am very heavily influenced by music. I would also say what else inspires me is transparency among other people and vulnerability. Just recently, people have been vulnerable and transparent with their experiences (during the pandemic) through their art, using social media, because that’s all we’ve got right now. It makes me feel like I have something to say too and it is ok to put yourself out there and see what is happening within you and create the space to be able to do that. Music and other people really inspire me. Also my faith. My faith walk and my faith journey has been something that causes creativity and self reflection and self discovery. And with discovery it can either drive you to create or you can be overcome by it. I have chosen to have life come from self evaluation in regards to my faith relationship.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist?

It's affected me in a positive way. I will say that because I haven't been performing in my normal capacity for the last year. I officially retired (from Mark Morris Dance Group) from the performing world last March. What it’s done is inspired me and given me space now because the world is shut down. It has forced me to make a decision of whether dance is still a valuable part of my world and if so why haven't I invested in it and explored it more and how can I apply it now. It has pushed me to say I can't deny this part of my heart anymore. It has caused me to go back to my journals. I think this is the best time to create a production I have wanted to put together for years now and to move around and perform in a way I never thought I would. Let me do it because now I have the time and the support to be able to do it. This is the happiest I've ever been. It is sad we are losing artists to this virus but when there is death there is also life and there are opportunities for new artists to be born, to manifest in that absence. That is the cycle of life. When something dies something arises in its place. I am fortunate to be on the side of birth and life. I celebrate the life that is here and manifesting itself as a result of the virus.

Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic? Or how have priorities shifted?

I am discovering how much people really respect our authorities. I am discovering the importance of leadership and how people value or not the direction of the government. I would like to say for the most part there is a seriousness to the restrictions and guidelines, and I’m seeing a lot of people be way more selfless. Those who I thought were selfish are now becoming selfless and saying, “I don't want this to go longer than it needs to and I will do whatever it takes to make this end.” I am seeing people be respectful who I never thought would be respectful. And I’m finding that change in my own heart as well. Realizing your decision has an impact on so many people, and how one decision can impact so many others. And then the people who I thought were selfless are being selfish. Both are happening but I would say mostly selflessness is coming to the forefront. I'm seeing family time become a greater priority and creativity being a great privilege that people are recognizing. I am also seeing community. The apps and all the social media platforms are taking the world by storm and the different ways we can connect with people through the arts. Zoom! Now that Zoom is such a hot topic it's blowing up. I feel we are discovering more possibilities of how to use this time rather than using this just as a time to be isolated. We are using it as a way to think about how we can recreate our world.

Q: Using the idea of “worldmaking” how do you imagine the performing arts world after the pandemic? (Worldmaking: How you can re-imagine the world in your own terms, the way you want it to be. Using this tool one can construct new worlds and write themselves into narratives that have excluded them and systems that have disabled them.)

I would love for performing arts to be way more accessible and supported. It just seems like it's not accessible because there isn't support for it. I live in a city that isn’t dead in the performing arts aspect but it is limiting. The quality for a good performing arts outlet is limited just because there isn’t as much easy access. New York City is a good example of a lot of access. I would like people to realize that expression and creativity is literally what has kept the world going during this time and, whenever this is over, we will need this all even more to celebrate what we endured. The ballets and the operas and the Broadway musicals that will be birthed from this, people will need access to view it, not just be a part of it, but to have a seat and be able to look at it and go through the journey of that, seeing the fruit of the labor. I would also love to see more opportunities to not only be a part of the process but also to view it and see it manifest. There needs to be a support for the arts so it is not so taxing on the viewer financially, so it is not too expensive. I am not trying to remove the value, but I wish there was support to say all are welcome and pay what you can to see the show, or make it accessible through technology. That would be my hope in worldmaking. I would want to make my world in such a way that the performing arts are so accessible and so supported that they will never die and we will never be thirsty for more because it will always be there and it’s importance will be recognized so the support will come.

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