Q: How did you begin dancing?
I started later than most people, I was around 9 years old. My best friend, who is now a company member with Ballet West, brought me to a dance class in 3rd grade. I immediately told my mom I had to dance. I started at a small, local studio and then got involved with the competition team. I was there for two years before I moved to a more well-known studio and competed all the way through high school. I did all the conventions too. Solos, duets, all of that stuff. Growing up, I didn't have any knowledge about contemporary, modern dance like Twyla Tharp and Trisha Brown. I auditioned for Booker T. Washington High School and didn't get in. So, I did public school and drill team. I did all kinds of random, versatile dancing growing up.
Q: What has dance taught you that you have applied to your everyday life and how you engage in the world?
It has taught me everything I know. It has taught me how to be well rounded in situations that don’t even pertain to dance. When I graduated college, I didn't dance for the first year. I worked in an office for a dance convention. My work ethic is truly grounded in the way that we were taught and raised in the studio. Everything I work on and work towards, I try to do it the best I can. Overall, it has taught me work ethic. Everything deserves the same amount of effort and energy. Through personality, you can tell the difference between a dancer and someone who didn't grow up dancing. It doesn’t matter if you ended up being a professional dancer or if you stopped after middle school, I think you can tell by the type of person. Dancers are often open-minded and try to grasp everything they can in any situation. I also think there is an advantage because we use our bodies. It has something to do with the way we react to different things. I think too, with dance, I have been fortunate to travel all over the world. With that, it has taught me how to be a very respectful, open-minded human. I take everything in and see it as an opportunity rather than being judgmental.
Q: Has dance helped you overcome any hardships in your life?
Yes. Dance has always been where I go. Dance doesn’t leave me. It's always there. Different things have happened in my life. My father has been sick, on and off, for years. Being able to have the consistency and comfort of the dance studio and everyone always wanting to move together, it's so special. Once I get there, even though there are other bodies in space, I can move physically. And maybe that day something hits me differently and I can express how I feel. One day to the next is always different.
Q: What other interests and passions do you have outside of dance that influence and inspire your artistry?
I am very passionate about teaching and helping younger dancers be more knowledgeable in their bodies. The way they work, how to use them correctly, etc. I am currently dealing with an injury I’ve had for two years. In physical therapy, I have learned simple things that make a huge difference. I have learned ways to move my body that no one ever taught me. I am passionate about expressing how important it is that our pelvic floor is engaged, or which glute muscles you need to squeeze when you stand in first position. How everything in the body is connected. I have a labral tear in my hip and everything stopped working on the left side of my leg. I thought it would go away if I kept strengthening and it just didn't. I am really passionate about educating people well. I want them to know what everything in their body is about. In the company, I focus on my body and that changes my dancing. I can better execute the work with the knowledge I have gained in my dancing career about my body and how it works.
Q: What have been some challenges in your pre professional and professional career?
I would say being an underdog, as silly as that sounds. For me, growing up and even in university, I was never put on a platform. I think that also molded me into the dancer I am today. In my pre-professional life, there were things that put me down and it was hard to overcome. Things such as not always making the piece everyone wants to be in, not getting cast, or not being in the level 4 ballet class. But I never gave up and in the end it eventually worked out. I don't want to sound like a pity party. Looking back, especially in high school and college, it was almost like people didn't believe in me. I am quiet, short, and small. People would say, “she is a ‘good’ dancer.” But everyone says, “don't be a ‘good’ dancer, be a ‘great’ dancer.” I used that to get to where I am today. I had people who eventually really saw me, which was nice.
Q: How can dance be a platform for social justice issues?
In many ways. It's a voice. You find all these bodies you want to use to communicate what you go through. Movement really speaks to people. I think it is a great way to get people to listen without words necessarily. It is very powerful within the performance atmosphere. In today's climate it is valuable. It is a useful tool for people to put themselves out there and say what they need to say. Even if it's just two people that say, “Hey, that touches me and now I understand better where you are coming from.” Actions speak louder than words and dance is a really useful tool in that way. You don't always have to listen through your ears but it can be physical and visual.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist? (community, financially, initial reactions, company shift, online class, emotions, initial cancellation reaction)
Drastically affected. As a performing artist, I dance for a company and I am now completely out of work. We had things planned through the end of May. It's the 50th anniversary of the company, a huge year. We were in France when everything turned bad. All of the tour was cancelled. We were supposed to be at the Joyce next week too. As far as performing with the company, there is nothing. Hopefully things will be rescheduled.
Q: What were the initial cancelations like for you?
It was early on a Wednesday morning when President Trump announced the travel ban. My mom and boyfriend were with me in France. My phone was blowing up. People were freaking out. We were going to keep going until someone in France said, “no, we are done.” That raised a lot of anxiety in people, including myself. It was like a game of chicken, how far would we go before someone cancels? It was a surreal moment of, “how is this real life?” We would have meetings in a hotel room and our manager would talk to us and say, “you are allowed to feel uncomfortable.” But contractually, we could not say no to continuing performances unless France was a number 3 threat level or the theaters closed. We were in the first city of the tour, and at the beginning I was like, “what virus?” It was sunny and perfect, everyone was out. And then all of a sudden it starts going down. I still didn't get it because everything was fine in France. My mom and boyfriend left and we were still going to the next city, and then everything got cancelled. Someone in the company is Australian, he had to go back to Australia and couldn't come back with us. That was hard, sad, and traumatizing. We were on one of the last flights out of France. When we got back to the United States, no one wanted to stay in New York City so we went home to our parents. It wasn't until a few days later that we found out the Joyce was cancelled. Being in France during all of that was so bizarre. I still don't even feel like it is real. I am numb to it all.
Q: What is the company doing now?
We warm ourselves up and don't really have a private company class. We have been in communication with Movement Research NYC. We are going to teach class virtually. As a company, we are trying to figure out how to share work virtually. We have two different programs: site specific works and more proscenium work. We just did a work last week called “Roof Piece” and it was performed through Zoom. There was a New York Times article on it. We have been trying to find different rep pieces that are manageable virtually. We will play with one tomorrow to see if we can get something to share. We have another one in the works that will hopefully be released soon. Works don't always have to be on the stage.
Q: What is a message you would like to say to health workers on the front lines if you could?
You are amazing. You are so brave and so strong. I commend you with everything and I support you. I hope and pray that this all goes away, and that everyone who has helped will recognize the bravery on display. I have family on the front lines. It's scary. I thank them everyday and I think what they’re doing is amazing. Fighting a fight that is a virus. We never thought we would be dealing with this and people are losing their lives for it. I praise them and thank them for everything.
Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic? Do you think the pandemic will make us a more socially conscious society?
I think a lot of people have stepped up as far as staying true to social distancing. The online workout and dance classes, I have never worked out this much in my life. Every day there is so much I want to try. It’s great because once we all come back, I’d like to try those in person. Being with family is the biggest thing. I haven't lived in Dallas since I graduated high school. Being with my family has been really nice and refreshing. I talk to my boyfriend and tell him I see people outside with chalk, and riding bikes, and playing catch. It is so cool. In an unfortunate time, it is nice to see how we all reacted and have been dealing with it.
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.)
In my ideal world, and hopefully the real world, I hope that the arts will be appreciated more. And that the level of work and funding that the performing arts needs is achieved. Clearly, right now we can't go to the movies or to a show or a concert. All we do is watch screens. I’m into that, but there is something so raw about the live arts. The arts need to be treated the same as other jobs, like lawyers. We are just as necessary as these other jobs. It is not play, it is not for fun, it is a real job. I hope that is realized. Everyone loves Broadway and Broadway is struggling. I hope that it becomes more accessible for people to find money and it is not such a hard grant process that takes forever.