"I Truly Believe That Me Being a Dancer Is No Coincidence"
I truly believe that me being a dancer is no coincidence. As Martha Graham put it, "I did not choose: I was chosen to be a dancer."
I started dancing before I could even stand, as my mom likes to tell me. I grew up in Munich, where my dad used to give concerts on the weekends playing a Senegalese stringed instrument called the kora. Whenever he practiced at home, I started rocking back and forth, enjoying the rhythm.
Photo by RJ Muna
I found pleasure in the hard work. I loved when my teachers lifted my leg up all the way to my ear, only to let go a second later and yell at me as it dropped down rapidly. I learned quickly that once you achieve your goals you set new ones even higher.
Sometimes I feel like the older I get, the more I find to work on, and I wonder why. Shouldn't I be perfect by now, or at least have less to worry about? But I find new things to improve because I have come to a higher level of fine-tuning, of understanding my own body.
Being at LINES opened my eyes to a whole new kind of awareness. Instead of focusing on matching the dancer in front of me, I now get to focus on exploring space, and on strengthening my attention to every body part and their many ways of moving. Working with Alonzo King has shown me how much more there is to dance.
Photo by RJ Muna
I spent so much time using dance to speak that I didn't take enough time to listen. One often has a clear idea about how the steps should be executed, but by listening, I've learned that there are usually many more possibilities. Sometimes the in-between movement is more interesting than the end result.
To finesse your dancing, you want to find generosity within yourself so you can give and share. That's the beautiful part of ballet as an art form—we share it with the audience. We take them to places they might not have been to before.
One of the things I love most about my profession is the ability to inspire. Inspiring people to find the dancer within themselves, because it is inside of each and every one!
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
Social media has made the dance world a lot smaller, giving users instant access to artists and companies around the world. For aspiring pros, platforms like Instagram can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the life of a working performer. But there's a fine line between taking advantage of what social media can offer and relying too heavily on it.