Interview: Eric Parra
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Q: What has been your professional dance journey, and how did you come to dance with Limon Dance Company?

I started dancing and performing with a Colombian folk group in my high school. I went to Union City High School and I took dance classes there. This was my first take at technique. From there, my high school dance teacher encouraged me to audition for dance programs even though that was not something that I had planned at all! She ended up convincing my parents to convince me to let me audition for these programs, and I ended up attending Montclair State University and got my BFA in dance performance. This was my really formal training. As I started to progress and learn more about dance, I started to realize how much I loved it and wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I graduated college in 2017 and that summer I auditioned for Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company in New Jersey. That was my first full-time company job out of college. I was there for one season, then in summer 2018 I auditioned for Limón and was hired. It was my second time auditioning — I had auditioned the summer before as well. Now this is my second season with the company. It has been an amazing journey. Not only do I get to perform with the company but I have also been involved with education and teaching open classes in public schools through Limón.

Q: Do you have any mentors or important people in your life that have shaped the way you dance and or think about dance?

My closest mentor is Fredrick Earl Mosley, who is the director of Diversity of Dance. I met him in college my freshman year and went on to do the summer intensive EMIA [Earl Mosley Institute for the Arts], a two to four week program which focuses on different techniques. I have known him now for six or seven years, and as I continue to grow as a dancer he has really been there alongside me. He has year-long things that kept me busy — during the winter he has a repertoire showcase with different emerging and well-known choreographers in the NYC area, and all the funds that are raised go to the American Cancer Society. He also has another intensive, Hearts of Men, which is just for men age 8 and up — there’s no limit. It is open to everyone, not just dancers. Throughout all of those things, I was really able to keep close with him and from there grew a relationship. Now I work for the organization and teach for the summer intensives.

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

The pre-professional to professional transition was hard. I started training later than most. I think that constantly playing catch up and adapting and learning and physicalizing things that others already knew was a challenge — and getting over the fact I was around dancers who had been training their whole lives. Professionally, I would say a challenge that I am still working on is consistency. I am lucky enough to work in a dance company that gives us at least 22 weeks of work, but that means there are 24 to 26 weeks with no company work. We have to look for work as freelance artists, having to figure out the hustle and the side gigs. Filling in those empty spaces of income can be challenging. 

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?

Yes. I am a firm believer that art reflects life and contemporary art reflects the time we are going through. Throughout history and now there are always different social justice issues going on, and really being able to communicate that through movement is something that I think that is really special. Being able to drive audiences to see dance works that mean more than just people moving on stage — that are really about a bigger message — is really special. Another one of our staff members at the Limón Foundation, he said this is difficult for us right now because we have been taken away from what we use to make sense out of life, so in that same way, choreography and dance-making and dancing is another way of us to make sense of a lot of things in life, like societal issues.

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

A lot of things inspire me. My peers and my colleagues inspire me. Gathering with a group of people who all have a common purpose in mind that is healthy and good for humanity is something that inspires me. I love to pay homage to those who came before me — my ancestors, my older family members, my Colombian culture, and the things I have seen throughout my life have molded me into who I am and inform my art. I look at those things to move me forward as well. I think inspiration can be unlimited, so I think it is special to search for inspiration wherever you can find it. I think especially my colleagues and fellow contemporaries who have the same drive to show passion and community through dance inspire me.

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

I think it's affected me tremendously, especially being that we were supposed to be working right now. We were supposed to perform at the Joyce Theater from March 31st through April 5th, and obviously that was cancelled and that was heartbreaking. That is what we had been rehearsing and looking forward to those special performances. Additionally, I was looking forward to traveling to Paraguay in April to teach Limón master classes, and also to Mexico where we were supposed to perform at a dance festival. There was also a high school dance festival that happened at my old high school in New Jersey and I was going to teach and perform there — that was cancelled as well. I was going to use the last few weeks in March to gather work for May and now there is not much opportunity for work for us right now, so that is hard to plan. I am just not sure what will happen in the future and right now I have no income for the rest of April, so that will be challenging.

Q: How do you think we can continue to create and share art during this time?

I think we can continue to share and create art in a lot of ways. Obviously right now the biggest platform we have is social media, and I am happy and lucky to be a part of the Limón family because we have come together as a company to organize a virtual performance season next week. That will be new for us and we had no plan for this, but at the end of the day, it’s all about sharing, and I'm excited for that. Currently, I am enjoying my walks and I like to take a second and improv listening to my body and move as I need to move, even it's just for a few minutes. I just take time in my day to address my art. I find therapy through that short improvisation. Also, there are so many classes online right now, and I've been using Zoom to tune in to get togethers with friends and co-workers. I workout and take class or use this time for research, too. I have a Limón memoir that I am reading now and it is time to learn through artistic research as well because my physicality is limited. Limits can be a great thing for creativity and sometimes the most creative things are built from our most limiting moments. 

Q: Do you think the pandemic will make us a more socially conscious society? If so, how?

I really hope so. I think especially being that it is 2020 and technology is available… we take interactions for granted, because we are always on the run or always moving so fast. This is a nice time to kind of hone everything back in and center ourselves as individuals and ultimately bring humanity together and be more present when we are together. I think not taking a conversation with a stranger for granted — the simple and routine, especially in a city like NYC, it is so easy for people to go from A to B and have tunnel vision through our days — I hope this breaks that for everyone so people can tap back into our humanness and our art.

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.)

Like I said before, with technology things become so accessible, and it is easy to see something on your phone. I hope that after this pandemic, people get more excited about seeing live art and experiencing things on stage. Being a concert dancer, I think something that is brought up a lot is how there are less and less people coming to shows as technology gets more and more advanced, because it gets easier to access something from your home. I hope that this time inspires people to want to see art and people and make life and art and connections more tangible with each other. We have all been confined as we quarantine, so I hope people get to experience and investigate the infinite openness that the world offers and are able to support industries that are really struggling during this time. Being able to go take a class or donate to an organization or come see the shows — actually taking time to physically be there for people and artists — is kind of what I hope to see come out of this. 

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