Q: Can you talk a little bit about your artistic journey? How did you come to be artistic director of BoSoma and open your own studio?
I started dancing at three years old and was crazy passionate about dance from day one. I gained a strong technique and the appreciation for the art of dance from my time at RDS in Dover, MA, and then transitioned into college where I honestly wasn't sure if this (dance) was going to be my path. Then through the different mentors I had like Peggy Schwartz at UMASS, Amherst and Demetrius Klein at the Harvard summer program, I realized that I wanted this to be my life, but I didn't really know how to make it my life's work and make a sustainable living. Eventually I headed out to San Francisco, CA to live in a warehouse space with a group of artists to establish my dance company, but I ended up in Frisco, CO instead after an unexpected detour. Colorado is where I ended up establishing myself as a choreographer and dance teacher, founding my first nonprofit dance and theatre company with performance artist, Shelley Lynn. Realizing quickly that trying to make a living, while working numerous jobs, and trying to run a dance company or establish one was not sustainable. I had to come up with a new plan. I realized through this time in my life that I wanted dance to be the only thing that I did for ‘work’, however the accountant we were working with at the time told me point blank, “Dance is a nice to have thing, not a need to have thing and will never sustain you.” This man’s comments were the catapult to the rest of my life.
Today I live my life with the comment the accountant said in the back of my mind at all times. One of my life missions is to be a part of making the dance industry a NEED to have thing, a valued art in our culture and to never let the art of dance die. So, after years of working numerous jobs and having the opportunity to set my original work on the Patricia Kenny Dance Collection in NYC, I was invigorated to build a dance company in the state I grew up in. I reconnected with a colleague from UMASS, Irada Djelassi and established the BoSoma Dance Company (BDC) in Boston, Massachusetts in 2003. We kept the company going for years producing shows and providing educational outreach throughout Boston and beyond, offering young dancers the opportunity to perform and teach at a professional level, but then of course family and kids and came into play, so I needed to figure out a way to consolidate my life. I could not sustain working all these jobs within the restaurant industry and the health club industry in addition to running a dance company and be a good mom and wife. I wanted to focus solely on the dance industry. In 2010, with my father's business guidance and Terri Gordon’s support, I opened my first dance studio Mass Motion Dance North in Peabody, MA. Seven years later, I moved the professional company and the dance studio to Hamilton, MA changing the name to BoSoma School of Dance (BSD). Ever since this move, the studio has grown immensely, which has proven to me the need for more quality and diverse dance education within our North Shore Community. This growth has allowed me to hire a full time salaried Director, Assistant Director, in addition to offering part time faculty positions to many of which are company members of the BoSoma Dance Company.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about some challenges that you've had in your artistic career either pre professional or professional?
I mean, it goes back to the need to have versus nice to have things. From the professional dance company perspective I still struggle with how do I make the dance company financially sustainable? How do we get more audience members to come to see our work? When new audience members come to see us perform, they all say they wish they knew about us sooner! So clearly the struggle is how to get people into the theatre, since once they come experience the performance live, they are hooked. Back in 2010, when I opened my dance studio I struggled for the first seven years to the point where I didn't even know if I could pay the bills and wasn’t able to contribute to my family's livelihood. If I was still in that stage during this pandemic, I would have easily had to close the doors. Back then I could barely scrape by. Because I have been able to rise to the other side to a place where the studio is now thriving, it's also become my mission to not only hold true to my art through my teaching and choreography, but also to bring together talented, technical and passionate dancers through BDC and through teaching opportunities at BSD that sustain their performative, financial and life goals.
How do we keep dance alive in our culture? How do we draw people out to see live performances? You know those are the challenges that I think are embedded within every decision I make for the school and piece of work I make for the company. Each dancer that has been a part of the team has helped influence and form where we are today and who I am as a director. Working with a team of individuals that are just as committed as I am to keeping dance alive in our American culture is invigorating and inspiring. We pour our hearts and souls into educating our students and inspiring our audiences. We strive to reach more of our community in hopes of giving them new ways of feeling, thinking and seeing life. I think that's the bottom line for me and is what keeps me moving forward.
Q: How can the performing arts be a platform for social justice issues?
The performing arts forces an audience member to sit in silence and listen. I feel like a lot of what has been going on and continues to go on is us not listening to each other. We all have different perspectives, ideas, political beliefs and religious beliefs, but if we can't find a way to come together as human beings and live in this world together in a cohesive way then we will continue on the track we are now. Whether you create political work or not, there is value in going to see live dance, so that we can take a moment out of our busy day and reflect. Listen to each other, before we debate, then have real conversations while understanding both sides.
Q: Can you talk broadly about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected you as an artistic director as an owner of a studio and as a parent?
I think it's hard to talk about it personally because everyone is going through so much right now. We all have our own stories and we’re all still treading water on this wave of 2020 which feels like the twilight zone. I think the biggest thing that we all have experienced is loss in a way that's like the seven cycles. I look back, even just three months ago and it was at a point where it was the sheer disbelief and anger that this is happening. Then the panic and deep sadness of feeling that I’m losing my business which I worked 15 years to build all while losing my identity. Then compound that with the fact that I’m having to educate my two children on a platform that their teachers and us parents struggled to figure out. In addition to having to tell all of our students at the studio that everything they've been working for the past six months is not going to happen. The number of shows and planned experiences that we've had to cancel was beyond overwhelming and devastating. But on the other side of that, it's amazing how much stronger and resilient we are. Nothing will ever be taken for granted in the future and the day we get back to the stage will be an empowering experience.
Q: Can you talk about what a day or a week looks like for you right now? Also anything you've been working on currently with the company or school?
Shortly after the shutdown, back in March, the dancers and I chatted over zoom and the reality was that with all the unknowns, we just needed some sort of consistency. We committed to four days a week of Zoom classes in order to keep their focus on maintaining their muscular and cardiovascular strength, their dance technique and to stay connected as a company. With our students we offered the same thing, weekly free Zoom classes in all idioms, ages and levels to keep them moving and connected as well. As far as the company itself we hope to get back to rehearsals sooner than later. We have a company of only seven. So it's a very small group and we have a larger studio. Our goal is to take the time to reset some classic BDC repertory relevant to our present time and tak the time to explore new work, all of which will be brought to the stage whenever it is safe to do so. Our time within the studio with our students and company members will now and forever be more sacred than ever.
Q: What would you like to see change and shift in the dance world after the pandemic ends kind of in terms of what you were saying just making dance like acknowledging it as necessary. And this is kind of your ideal world scenario. It doesn't have to be super immediately tangible.
I hope that when we come out on the other side of this, that people feel the need to get out and experience live dance, music, and theater not only to help rebuild our performing arts industry but to also invigorate their soul through the visceral experience of the theatre.