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, of course. Dance is a visual thing, if you catch someone's interest with what you look like or how you're moving, you will catch their attention regardless of one’s background. Dance is universal. If you choose to make a statement there is a potential for anyone, not just a like minded audience, but anyone to be attracted to what you're doing. You can change and open hearts and minds when you connect to someone through a heart space. Usually when creatives make stuff that is where things come from. When it comes from that space, that is how people open up. I think the only way you can make change is when you open up your heart and that is what dance can do.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as an artist and educator?
The biggest one for me is sadness, I am an emotional person. Because I work with young people, I am so connected to their experience and how I can be there for them in their experience. I strive to comfort and guide them and this is just throwing me for a loop. I’m helpless because I can’t help them in my usual ways. I am not able to tell them a story about how this happened to me before and I am not able to give them comfort in a time of sadness. The youngest I work with right now are my 10 year olds and there is a lot of disappointment for them. For my college students, I have such a strong connection with the seniors. Showcases getting cancelled or auditions that they have been preparing for all year are not happening. The way that that displaces your entire life and your purpose - it is just really hard to wrap one’s head around. The fact I can’t do anything to help my students is so hard for me. I have such sadness for these young people. I usually take comfort in knowing I can help them and now that has been taken away. We are all taken down to the same place, we are all in this together trying to figure this out. In my personal life, I have been lucky that the institutions I have worked for have provided me ways to continue to earn money. I have a daughter that just turned one and being an artist it is a very budgeted financial situation. When that is put at risk it is very scary. I am glad that everyone is providing opportunity but at the same time, online learning has been very stressful. When I have Zoom classes I see about 50% of my students compared to what I was teaching before. It is very emotional to see everyone in their homes, in their personal space or space that doesn't even feel like theirs. Some of these kids are college students that have been displaced back to their childhood homes. It is emotional to see these students in places all over the country. I also have students that have nowhere to go home to and it puts them at risk. Some of my students who could not go home have been couch surfing and it is not an ideal time to do that. As I was taking note of attendance this morning I noticed that I haven't had a single absence from one of my classes since this whole thing started. I was blown away. I had low expectations for people to come to class. I understand kids not wanting to come because they need time to process this, but I am blown away that all the kids are showing up, and it is emotional to see. For Mass Motion I teach a few classes and I had 55 kids in class last night, it was awesome. Everyone wants to be together, show up and use these new opportunities. It is moving and inspiring. It helps me when I am inside my own home all day. It is a nice release to connect and see people’s faces. So far I am financially okay, but when the summer hits I am not sure what will happen. I have employment for the school year, so I usually travel in the summer and do several workshops and competitions. That is a big part of how I earn a living and I just don't know if those things will be viable this summer. I am trying to stay present and go day by day but it feels scary. I have food in my fridge so at a base level it is okay. The sadness gets overwhelming for me and if I think too much about things, I feel helpless.
Q: How do you think we can continue to create and share art during this time?
Again, we are so lucky to live in a time where technology is so disposable. For my daughter, we facetime my parents twice a day. It is cool that we have been able to engage in dance classes through Zoom. It is not the same, but there is something about it that is super special. I am working from a small space and people joining class are joining from a small space - we make it work. We are creatives, we are artists, we are going to be the people that make this work. We know how to make the most out of a small resource - that is literally what we do. We are creative and take inspiration from things. I have been doing it. For example, coming up with ways to use props around the house or condition our bodies in a realistic way. I am not going to teach across the floor but instead do more gestural things. Everyone is getting creative. I just participated in a project my friend did where she created a phrase with a candle and emailed it to 100 people and 55 responded. She then created a big video edit of us all dancing together while apart. It is all about sharing the light and having something to bring us together. As soon as this happened, my friend needed something to help her connect to people because it is vital to her well-being. I didn't have my schedule yet and was feeling really crazy. But, taking the time to learn this movement from the video was healing for me. It has been nice to share it with people. In the wake of the first 48 hours I realized that I am friends with people ... creatives like yourself that are already being creative and thinking of ways to bring us together.
Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic?
There is a lot going on at both ends. I haven't seen my parents in 4-5 weeks and none of us have had signs of being sick, but I want to protect my parents who are more at risk. I see my friends even weeks into this. It is like a no judgment zone, some people are taking isolating to your immediate household very seriously and some people are not. A lot of it is about child care. I have family members who are nurses, and they need childcare while they are saving lives. My cousin has a four month old baby and she has to go to work because she is a respiratory therapist and her mom has to watch her baby, therefore those families are intermingling. Some people have to interact. I see people taking it seriously and people that are kind of intermingling with their pool of people and not taking it seriously. My partner has gone out to get groceries but I haven't been doing that. He wears a mask and gloves and I always ask if everyone is wearing gloves and masks and not everyone is. Again, not coming from a place of judgement, just observation. It is scary to bring groceries home and have to wipe them down before they enter my home. It is just scary. Thank god for my daughter she is one and at an age when she doesn't know what is going on. She is experiencing this like it’s any other day, because for her it is just any other day. She gives me a beautiful perspective. I just look at her and see things through her eyes. I know that this moment is all that there is and everything is okay because she doesn't know what is going on. We try to protect her and ourselves as much as we can. Everything is at a halt. I don't leave the house or go to the grocery store. I go on walks sometimes but that is about it. It is nice to see people out in nature with their families sometimes. I didn't see that before. I would never see all the families out together, the parents, kids and dogs. For the last five years living in my neighborhood I would never see the entire family out together.