Interview: Maia Charanis
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Q: What has been your professional dance journey, and how did you come to dance with Kit Modus?

This is my second year with Kitmodus dance company. I graduated with a BA in dance performance and choreography from the University of South Carolina. After college in 2018 I floundered a bit. I went to auditions and very little came from that. I then moved back to Atlanta and I ended up taking classes. I ended up taking a class with Jillian Mitchell through a summer intensive. I loved the class, I felt I was pushing beyond what I was used to. I reached out to her through instagram and said I would love to be considered and to take class with the company. Before I knew it I was a part of the company. We work three days a week, rehearse three days a week, and we push through the season and create as much as we can.

Q: Do you have any mentors or important people in your life that have shaped the way you dance and or think about dance?

Absolutely. It has been a strong collective effort. I grew up in a small esteemed studio and that set the standard for working hard and pushing to the best of your ability but also preserved my love of dance. In college I worked with Shannon Volk Ludlum, formerly with American Ballet Theater; Stacey Calvert, formerly with New York City Ballet; and also Tanya Wideman Davis, who has her own company, Wideman Davis Dance. My college training was an informative part of how I became the artist I am today. They instilled in me a sense of drive and to continue to push the boundaries. I was constantly asking myself who I am as a dancer not just what I am supposed to look like. Which was really important for me to push into the territory of becoming an artist.

Q: What have been some challenges in your pre-professional or professional dance career?

It always varies between what is perceived and what is real. I am a smaller dancer so I struggle with my height, even though I know a lot of places want a smaller dancer. My height felt like it was something I had to overcome. I remember being a student and not getting parts because I was too short. Just like a lot of dancers I had a lot of body image issues as well. That created obstacles.  As dancers we start to think what we are supposed to look like and that would get hard. Instead of thinking any human body dances. I would also say that I struggled with mental feelings of “I'm not good enough” or “I'm not right for this” instead of thinking of what you do have. For me, when I started thinking of what I do have instead of what I don't have and stopped comparing myself, that changed the way I viewed the way I dance… but also changed the way I viewed myself as a dancer.

Q: Do you believe dance can be a platform for social justice topics? If so, how?

Absolutely, In college I experienced more of that social awareness side. Dance is a form of expression — people can create these visual images and movements that are so profound to the audience. It is a deeper understanding of the message that is trying to be put forth within a certain topic. Tanya Widman, who I worked with in college, choreographs about the Black experience. As a white woman, that is not necessarily something I understand because I am not living that experience. However they taught us to look deeper and to listen to these narratives and that was eye opening for me — that it is imperative that you listen to these stories and that these stories are heard. So I think having that visual resounding image for audiences it's kind of like, see it to believe it. We have this power to show something with our bodies that is so human and also transcend that human experience to something greater.

Q: What inspires you and drives you forward as an artist and a person?

The complete love and need for movement and everything that comes along with that. That is what we have been shown throughout this experience [the pandemic] — no matter the environment we all have this need to move to let our bodies express something. There are certainly times dance is frustrating as well. As someone who struggles with words, dance has always been a way for me to express parts of myself in the best way I can.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist?

Right now our company can not rehearse or take class. We dance at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center which is a non-profit and they closed their doors for the health and safety of the community. So now we do not have access to a dance space. We are still offered classes online; however, it is not as good as the real thing. We have been put on a hold for creating new works. I also teach as a main source of my income. I teach at four studios and they are all shut down. Some have a hopeful reopening date and some are saying indefinitely. That is a source of income that has been interrupted. I have been in contact with a studio to stream classes online so I can teach to maintain some kind of income and stay connected with my students who I deeply care about. I am also a brand social media person for a dance brand but because we work directly for stores we have been trying to figure out the best way to support local businesses because they are suffering the most. I am responsible for Eurotard Dancewear social media. We have a brand ambassador program so I am also in direct contact with the ambassadors. For me, our messaging for social media is keeping it positive, supportive, and letting our retailers know we are supporting them as well as being supportive of our dancers.

Q: How do you think we can continue to create and share art during this time?

I think that the platforms we do have are being used to some of their best abilities. I have seen such a positive outpouring of support through classes and communications online. I think it is amazing that larger companies are putting out works that can be watched and it's a super wonderful resource for younger dancers to see what is out there. As a teacher it is so important to let our students know what is out there. Despite theater shutdowns, these companies are doing such a selfless act of putting their works out there and offering it to the public for free and that should not go unnoticed.

Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic?

I think it is still a little early to tell and tell the long term consequences. I do believe there have been positive consequences in that people are more willing to share more about themselves. I know kids are at home with their families and they encourage their siblings to make dance videos with them. The more we can include people outside of our community, the more our community will grow. I hope that the more readily available dance is to audiences, the greater understanding of how important it is to support the arts. We just can not survive without the audience. I hope that we have more financial support for smaller businesses. I would like to see more support for the arts. You can not have what we have as entertainment without us the movies, music, tv shows and I hope people are seeing that.

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