Dancer and Choreographer

Artistic Statement

The nature of dance is ephemeral, disappearing the moment after performance. When we witness dance, we may remember specific images, but we also take away feelings that can be reawakened through our senses.  The stories and situations we see onstage resonate at a visceral level.  I often create work for my own edification as much as the satisfaction of the audience.  Silence serves me well at the beginning of my choreographic process as I call upon memories and feelings to inspire movement.  Witnessing order emerge from disorder in a dance relates to how I navigate chaos within my own life, find wholeness, and establish connection.

My creative work traverses several popular styles and classical forms, reflecting my own eclectic dance training.  Drawing from European and African-derived dance traditions is perhaps a matter of fact for an American dance artist, and I intentionally draw upon these sources. An anthropological lens on dance has been transformative in framing my approach.  Given that facets of my own identity inform how I walk through the world, equipping me with or without certain advantages, I seek to express a postcolonial point of view in which my voice can broaden to include the dancers with whom I work.  In rehearsal, a conversation about microaggressions might lead a cast of dancers to question what it is like to experience microaggressions from a range of perspectives, from being targeted by such behavior to bearing witness.  I often speak to others’ trials in pursuit of social justice and unity, and I am committed to continuing this practice, allowing dancers to try on unfamiliar roles and reimagine themselves in new contexts.

I believe some of the hardest work we do as humans is to embrace change and to surrender control of the moment.  Dance offers a route to embrace our journeys and seek satisfying resolutions to conflict.  If we can create harmony onstage, perhaps we can accomplish it in the larger world.

 

 

James West Photography

James West Photography

Dance Training Narrative

During my career, I have had the privilege of studying with many incredible dance artists. Charthel Arthur and Robert Estner from the Joffrey Ballet provided me a classical foundation at the School of the Grand Rapids Ballet, bringing such notable artists as Paul Sutherland, Edward Villela, Trinette Singleton, Brunhilda Ruiz, George de la Pena, Winthrop Corey, Jefferson Baum, Phillip Jerry, and Jim Snyder.

My modern dance studies began with Linda Graham of Hope College and continued at the University of Michigan Dance Department with Bill DeYoung and Peter Sparling. Later, in New York City, I would seek out teachers who offered challenging new paradigms for contemporary dance, including Ronald K. Brown and Dwight Rhoden.

While on scholarship at Steps on Broadway in the late 90’s, I studied with faculty including Richard Pierlon, Roberta Mathes, and Milton Myers. Jazz teachers through the years have included many members of Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, beginning with Dawn MacIlhargey-Wigert and continuing at the University of Arizona with Susan Quinn, Sam Watson, and Michael Williams. Williams also helped me to develop as a tap dancer, adding to my foundation provided by teachers Don Smith, Roseanne Devries, and Terri Filips.

Moved by a great affinity for dances derived from Africa, I began to seek out classes in New York City with teachers such as Youssouf Koumbassa from Guinea. I also learned foundations of hip hop dance with artists including Jorge “Fabel” Pabon, Anita “Rockafella” Garcia, and Ruben “Fusion” Monet.

At the University of Arizona, I trained with esteemed faculty Melissa Lowe, Amy Ernst, Susan Quinn Williams, and Michael Williams. In the broader Tucson dance community, I began learning aerial dance with O-T-O Dance founder Annie Bunker. I continued to deepen my knowledge and appreciation of African diasporic dances with Dr. Ojeya Cruz Banks, Jade Beall, Roseangela Silvestre, Moustapha Bangoura, Fara Tolno, Rujeko Dumbutshena, and Jean-Guy Saintus.

Gaining the title of Dunham Technique Instructor in 2012, my teachers have included Vanoye Aikens,  Kieth Williams, Albirda Rose, Theo Jamison, Penny Godboldo, and Patricia Wilson.  Katherine Dunham herself conducted master workshops that I attended in 2000, 2002, and 2004.