Julia Sykes
Edited by: 
Katelyn Besser

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you first began dancing?

I started actually kind of late - I was nine or ten when I started at a local studio, Center Stage Dance Academy. I did ballet, tap, jazz, all different types of dance when I was younger.  Around my sophomore/junior year I realized I loved dance more than just as an after school activity. I played pretty competitive volleyball in high school too, but I decided that I wanted to go to college for dance. I majored in dance at Long Island University in Brooklyn, and to make a long story short, I’ll cut to the present: I eventually joined BoSoma Dance Company.

Q: How did you come to dance with BoSoma?

I completed the four year program at LIU and earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance, which was an awesome experience. The dance program is amazing. Our dean was a former principal for Alvin Ailey, and she is so talented and taught us so much, along with all the other faculty. One of the biggest things we learned about was dance wellness. The dance wellness program taught us how to dance safely, stretch, and roll out our muscles properly to allow us longer dance careers. Her whole mission was to get us to realize that you can still keep dancing, but you need to figure out the ways to rehab yourself. After college, I didn't really know exactly what kind of dance I wanted to do. A lot of people were suggesting I try commercial dance, so I danced one summer on the dance team for a minor league baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. It was a great experience dancing for thousands of people on the field, and a great consistent job, but I knew I needed more fulfilling movement. My mom got sick in 2014, so I stayed in New York for only a year after I graduated in 2013. I ended up moving back in 2014 after I met my husband in New York (who is also from my hometown in Massachusetts!) and also because of my mom’s sickness as well. I moved back and didn’t really know where I wanted to dance. I just knew that I wanted to do some kind of concert modern dance. So I floated around a couple companies, and eventually found BoSoma, which was my saving grace because it was exactly the type of fulfilling movement I loved and needed. I'm really grateful that I found Katherine and BoSoma.

Q: What has dance taught you that you apply to your everyday life and how you engage with the world?

I say this jokingly, but dance is sort of my religion. It's my church! The biggest thing it has taught me is discipline, structure, and how to work towards a goal. It fit with my personality; I like being regimented, not in a crazy way, but more so in having something to work towards every day. To me, dance is the perfect blend of physicality, emotivity, and spirituality. By going back and doing something day after day after day, you learn that if you put your mind to something, you will get better. If you want to jump higher, you just practice jumping everyday, and eventually you start jumping higher. I love how dance is the physical manifestation of hard work.

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

It’s as simple as this: dance is for everybody. It takes place in all countries all over the world. So if people want to make a statement socially, they can use dance as a universal platform to do so. It’s similar to music in that people understand music even if they don't understand the words. People understand a message through dance, even if it doesn’t even pertain to them. I think it's an amazing way to get your message across without using words, because words are often misunderstood or taken out of context.

Q: Can you talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected you as an artist?

When everything first started happening mid March, I went through a few stages. The first week was intense anxiety. There was one day I only slept four hours (which is not normal for me personally.) I was amped up with this really nervous energy. I was nervous about not being able to pay my bills but also about getting out of shape dance-wise. Because I’m usually so regimented, my schedule being thrown off really threw me for a loop. I had super irrational thoughts that I was going to get completely out of shape and was going to lose all my years of training, which is insane! So the first week of quarantine, I worked out like a maniac. I wasn’t even dancing, I was doing two a day HIIT cardio workouts, and it was crazy. My body was exhausted and it was not even healthy. I knew I was going to hurt something, and towards the end of that week, I calmed down and everything kind of settled. I thought to myself, “Okay. The only thing you really need to dance is your body. A studio, marley floors, mirrors, and a sound system is great, but all you need at the end of the day is your body”. Once I realized that, I knew I was going to be okay.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about when the pandemic first started to shut down the US, what did that look like for you?

The first big let down was BoSoma’s spring show being cancelled. We were supposed to have a show at the end of March, and that’s obviously right when everything started to shut down. We had been working all winter long for our spring show, and tried to reschedule in May, but obviously that wasn’t happening either. That was tough, because we had to stop rehearsals two weeks away from our show. The good thing is, we aren’t planning on having another show until 2021, so we have a lot of time now to work on new pieces, reset old ones, and work on technique.

Q: How have you seen the dance community come together during this time? What have you been seeing online?

Honestly, it’s been awesome. No matter what happens in the world, as long as there's human beings on the Earth there will be art. Unfortunately, in our society, arts are usually not viewed as the most lucrative career choice. I think right now people are starting to see the true value of art, because everybody is taking online classes, watching movies, painting, reading, and doing all of these artistic things that most people probably didn’t value before. The dance community is stepping up to the plate in terms of being resourceful. You can take any sort of dance class you can think of online now. It’s obviously not the same as dancing in a studio with a group of people, but it’s better than not dancing at all.

Q: What has BoSoma been doing to keep the dancers in shape during quarantine?

We've been meeting with Katherine Hooper, our Artistic Director, what started as twice and built up to four times a week. We do a great mixture of Pilates, strength, cardio, and plies/tendu/basic technique. Her thought process is to keep rehearsals online and keep the group getting together in some form or another. We’ve gone over choreography for a couple of pieces to keep them in our heads, but for the most part we work on keeping our bodies strong.

Q: What does the daily routine look like for you right now in terms of just regular everyday life?

It depends on the day, but I'm very active Monday through Fridays. I teach 2-3 days a week online on Zoom, and I’ve been lucky enough that I get to go to the studio to film. But most of the week it’s been Katherine’s classes, YouTube/online workouts, ballet barre, and a Cardio Dance class I teach online on Wednesdays. One benefit of online classes is that I’ve been able to take Graham technique classes, which you can’t even find in Boston! So that’s been a silver lining to the situation. When I’m not working out or taking class, I’ve been taking the dog to the park, reading, baking, and getting more quality time with my husband, family and friends.

Q: What would you like to see change and shift, specifically in the dance world after this pandemic?

I would love to see dance and performance jobs viewed as equal to any other trade job. In many countries in Europe, for example, being a ballerina is considered a full time job. No one asks them what their “real job” is. Dance is their real job. It’s an incredibly hard working job that takes an extreme amount of dedication and commitment. We as dancers were only able to survive the pandemic because of the unemployment extension, which will eventually run out. It is horrible to think that so many hard working dancers will have to suffer financially due to unemployment and theaters being shut down because their job doesn’t qualify for unemployment, or they have nowhere to perform and make a living. This is a tough question because it brings up a whole other can of worms about how America views art. It would be really interesting to see if we could unionize or somehow combine forces to increase pay.

However, I will say a silver lining of this huge transition to online is that we are able to take classes we couldn’t normally take. So I hope that in the future, even when we are able to meet again, people continue teaching online classes as well. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons, and dance styles you don’t normally dance and learn techniques that aren’t available to take in your area.

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