Q: How did you first become involved in dance?
I mostly remember really dancing starting in second grade. I initially did it because it was fun and my friends were doing it, but I found that I was really ambitious about how I could constantly become better. Originally, I kept dancing in my life because I knew it would get me to the college I wanted to attend. I attended the LA county high school for the arts (LACHSA) and while i was there, somehow dance really took over my life and once i got to UCLA, I recognized that dance was not just really important, but definitely the career path i wanted to follow instead of just a stepping stone to academia. From age 13, I started dabbling in performing professionally, but still always for fun. At the age of 18, that changed. I danced with BODYTRAFFIC, where I met Barack Marshall, who has been a very important pillar of support in my career. Because of him, I learned so much about Israeli dance. After working together that one time, he immediately had me assisting him and workshopping/creating pieces with him. I helped him develop and stage “Green Bride” on BODYTRAFFIC right around the time I was finishing up a very speedy college experience. I stacked my courses to condense my studies into 2.5 years so I could join a company.
Q: What has dance taught you that you have applied to your everyday life and how you engage in the world?
Dance has really taught me that hard work pays off, especially when you are really clear on what it is that you are doing. If you do something from an authentic place your hard work will be recognized in time. I try to remind myself, even when it can be challenging, that failing is good and we can all learn so much from failures to become better, stronger, more adaptable and creative people. Anticipating what might be the next thing that would be asked of you, (like we anticipate or are ready for a musical cue or movement sequence) or what next thing you could potentially provide (as we are good at partnering and thinking how to help others who rely on us bearing weight or even thinking how we can position ourselves to help others move more seamlessly through choreography) without having to be spoon fed. Trying and failing until you succeed. Also not to be afraid of diving head first into things unknown. Whether that be administrative things or whatever you can always figure it out.
Q: Has dance helped you overcome any hardships in your life?
Yes and it's also brought a lot of hardship i would say. I think that the hardest thing I constantly struggle with is how the nature of the dance structure can cater to a feeling of not being good enough or knowing/owning your worth. Always as a dancer you want someone to give you that praise, whether that is a choreographer or teacher, so i find myself trying to be a chameleon.
As a certified Gaga teacher and someone who has trained in the movement language for about 10 years, it was through years of ups and downs and overcoming fears and learned habits that i started to find my voice as a teacher and improviser. It took a VERY long time and is still an ongoing process. Walking into a dance space, I am constantly trying to shed the mirror of my teachers/choreographers from my past by embracing myself and my research and growth. Over time, this is helping me come into my own, a big hurdle that will always exist, even if just faintly. It can be scary, especially if you leave a company to ask yourself who you are? It's a really big challenge to hold that standard.
Q: What other interests and passions do you have outside or inside of dance that influence and inspire your artistry?
A passion of mine is meeting things I don't know. I have a lot of friends who are not in the dance world and my conversations with them regarding making art is so inspiring. I transitioned into working in film, more recently, mostly music videos. I think getting into the heads of other creatives, whether it be directors or musicians, has been enlightening for me. They always offer little bits of knowledge or inspiration that I didn't necessarily see. I'm addicted to working on these collaborative projects because it constantly shifts my perspective and inspires me to consider and search for different sorts of inspiration. I'd say that's a big change for me. I read, knit, play with my dog, being in nature, but as a passion outside of dance, working in multimedia with people and seeing things through different eyes is very inspiring for me.
Q: What have been some challenges in your pre professional and professional career?
My body. The expectations of the dance world and what it determines a dancer looks like is debilitating sometimes. I'm 5'1', stocky with a big butt and thighs. At LACHSA, I was constantly told,” oh you will do choreography or be so good in arts administration.” Always being steered away from actually being on the stage led me to constantly compare myself to those who were being championed and I felt inferior. More recently, even though every now and then I lose sight, I constantly remind myself that it is important for me to pursue my passions wholeheartedly because I can be the image and representation for someone else who is shaped like me. More importantly, I realized a few years back, midway into my professional career that everyone has these outlined tracks that people have followed like “You go to this school and then this intensive and then these two companies and this will lead you to the future you want” and we just follow like sheep. It took me some time, but I finally acknowledged and accepted that just because this outline works for 100 people doesn't mean it is bad if it doesn't work for you.
I think the biggest issue I had is related to the people at the front of the room and the power dynamics. People forget that when you are leading a rehearsal or a company, you are given a lot of authority and your words carry so much weight. I had so many conversations with colleagues about how “it's not what you say, it's how you say it.” It is so easy to sting and scar dancers with statements that seem benign, but due to the setting can be detrimental. Unfortunately, the battle against insecurities and self doubt was present in every concert dance dynamics i have experienced. Every day that I choose dance, I actively work to undo these wounds. These days, as I approach more work as a choreographer and teacher, I actively am working on how to balance the hierarchy instilled in dance spaces to boost a more positive work environment. It takes being diligent and an awareness and consideration to how you communicate with people when they are being vulnerable in the very personal act of artistic exchange.
Q: How can dance be a platform for social justice issues?
Research and awareness. First, the aesthetic of what is typical/traditional for viewers to see on stage needs to be redefined to incorporate more diversity in size, shape and color. Second, conversation and time need to be provided for companies and collectives to actually consider these topics in a real way that doesn’t get lost in pretty aesthetic and impressive movements that then slaps on it’s purpose in the program. The main problem is concert dance does not have enough money to buy the time to actually research, but that conversation (both verbal and physical) is essential. Additionally, concert dance is not accessible to all demographics because it caters to those who can afford tickets. By offering more opportunities for dance to exist outside of the theater and make it more accessible on online platforms, more people will become part of the conversation.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist?
All of my work has been cancelled. It's been pretty rough. There are up days and down days. Some hours are bad, some are good. For me, I normally teach quite a lot and had a lot of performances scheduled through the fall. Sadly, live performances have been cancelled indefinitely- I was supposed to perform in Paris and complete a commission to stage a work of mine here in LA, among other things. I feel like i’m constantly mourning the loss of my former life and met with so much uncertainty in the field of dance for months and even years potentially. We are in a format that is so connected physically and the online format is no where close to the same.
Q: What were your initial reactions and emotions to the shutting down of the US?
I have been following this crisis since January. I was creating a piece in Florida and had to recertify for Gaga in Israel right at the time it was starting to hit China hard, so I started to really track it to make sure I would stay safe. I was so grateful to have finished my creation in Florida just in the nick of time before everything shut down. Honestly, my initial reaction to the shut down was that it should’ve happened sooner, but then my secondary reaction was shock and disbelief at how long it might potentially persist and how many might die.
Q: Have you been continuing creating during this time? If so how?
Yes. luckily i have friends who have pushed me to. I created something with the UnMuted Self Tapes platform with Alexandria Gavillet. It was nice to create when my emotions were so raw. Other things I was privileged to do during this time include performing in a Zoom music video for Thao and the Get Down, choreographing and performing in a dance film, randomly assembling with some friends to create short visual escapes and a few movement directing jobs here and there... It’s a difficult time, but i know it’s essential to keep this part of myself alive and active.
Q: What is a message you would like to say to health workers and other essential workers on the front lines on the front lines if you could?
Gratitude. I think about it often. Anytime I am struggling with being bored, uninspired or even nervous about my career, I remind myself that there are people seeing things that they shouldn't have to see and are making extreme sacrifices.
Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen the performing arts community make during the pandemic?
I have definitely seen generosity with people offering free online classes by people releasing footage of shows that were cancelled, etc. I think those gestures are amazing and essential. I see a lot of grant support programs trying their best to raise money and get that to people. I can feel the community really struggling, while trying to stay generous, which is commendable.
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.)
After this pandemic I would like baseline funding and more accessibility to performing arts for both artists and patrons. I think there needs to be a union or something of the sort for dance. I really feel that we are all kids without parents. We need someone to set our standards, ask people to uphold them and be available when we are in need. I would love to see a dancer’s union of some sort. Dancers need a safety net and education in how to stand up for themselves in some way and I don't know what it looks like, but it's time.