"I Choreograph Because My Own Story is Untold; I Need to Dance it Into Being"
I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?
The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.
The largest obstacles placed in my path were gendered expectations—bathrooms and changing rooms at dance schools, studios and theaters; binary-gendered dance roles and costumes; strictly-and-only-ever heterosexual partnering; and never having a single trans dance teacher, role model or mentor.
We all have a deep need to hear our story told and to see ourselves reflected back to us. This is why I choreograph dances rooted in trans and queer experience. I choreograph because my own story is untold–and so I need to dance it into being.
I choreograph because I am in love with movement and language. I am a choreographer; I am also a writer and a storyteller. My dances spin together full-throttle movement, text-based sound scores, luscious queer partnering and original music.
I choreograph to bring forward missing stories. I created my most recent full-evening work, THE MISSING GENERATION, after recording 75 hours of oral-history interviews with trans and queer longtime survivors of the early AIDS epidemic.
As we perform the work on its 20-city tour, we also host intergenerational LGBTQ community forums on HIV/AIDS, and teach free trans-friendly workshops.
This year, I launched a new national program through my trans arts nonprofit Fresh Meat Productions: TRANSform Dance. It responds to the crisis of the almost-total absence of transgender and gender-nonconforming bodies, voices and leadership in contemporary dance through our performances, workshops, trainings, leadership development and education of the field.
It all comes back to the body. Love, fear, trauma, loneliness, awe, rage, joy, delight … these parts of the human experience live in the body, and so I believe that they are best reflected back to us through the body.Telling stories through dance crumbles our defenses, opens our hearts and allows us to connect deeply. Gorgeous, glorious, spinning, sweaty trans and queer bodies in motion are an exquisite revolution the world needs.
Afro Flow Yoga is a body-and-soul awakening. Created by dancer-yogini Leslie Salmon-Jones and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Jones, the dance form melds yoga with West African diasporic dance.
The majestic entrance into Sky-Mind Hall, an exquisite 3,000-square foot floor-to-ceiling-windowed studio with breathtaking views of the Playa Guiones along the Pacific Ocean, at Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Nosara, Costa Rica, recently introduced me to the practice.
Preparing pointe shoes is a highly personal process. Each pair requires seemingly contradictory qualities—that they be supportive yet soft, that they be strong yet quiet, that they show off the foot while providing enough structure for balances. So it's no surprise that the quest to get it right is an ongoing experiment.
Three professional ballet dancers shared the secrets of their own prep routines, mistakes and challenges with Dance Magazine.