My teaching comes from movement styles rooted in an Africanist aesthetic. I grew up dancing in jazz classes, hip hop cyphers and nightclubs where the music was loud. I fell in love with complex rhythms and heavy base moving throughout my body. As I continued dancing in studios growing up, I felt limited in what my body could do because the training I received in class seemed like a more restricted bodily experience than I had when I was out dancing with friends and family. As a young dancer, it took me a long time to find that the two worlds could coexist. For much of my career I have been balancing and investigating my expansive training history as a studio baby and my extensive training history that took place at home where music was played loud and bodies were producing full on rhythms, groove steps and had a pelvis that was always dropped. These qualities are found in my classes as well as my choreography with a bouyancy, joy, and thrill of learning that keeps me deeply intrigued in what our bodies are able to produce.
My class begins with a series of follow-the-leader groove steps that are meant to help get us into the earth and get us moving around the space; connecting the pelvis to the bass of the music in order to find a clear drop to the floor. Here we have the chance to scan the room to see the people we will be sharing class time with and get the juices of the body flowing with warmth and possibility. Like moves found in club spaces the steps are not overly complex. The goal isn’t in the execution of the moves, but in how the bodies in the room are connecting with one another. What I’m doing in the warm up that extends through the balance of the class is creating community and environment, the space in which black dance has always functioned. I guide myself around the room with the students, calling for them to be alert and aware of when the movements are changing. While there are many elements of fun, content changes quickly - once a step is perceived as mastered we are already on to the next.
Directionality, rhythm and physicality are key components of moving across the floor. This part of class provides an opportunity for self-investigation and witnessing of others in the room. In these moments of pausing to watch in between the doing we learn the many ways that different bodies can move through space. Through this learning I hope to push students towards understanding greater potential in themselves for their own work so they may be specific with their intentions. It is with this clarity that we transition into phrase material rooted in club/funk culture and heavily influenced by the jazz/hip hop aesthetic. The pelvis is the motor; it is here that class energy collectively rises as the bodies are fully committed to pushing through physical exhaustion and turning up their brain power to learn specific timings and executions to achieve qualities that have been built throughout the structure of the class.
A teacher is an inventor, mediator, observer, participant, facilitator, sharer of knowledge. My best teachers were the ones who never quit. Who always pushed me further, who made themselves available for critical conversations, who wanted to see me succeed, who didn’t scare me away with their power. Being a teacher is one of the most vulnerable positions to be in, but requires the most confidence. So much is at stake; there is the pressure to perform well, to pass on knowledge to students, and to help them realize their purposes. I want students to recognize the aesthetic histories and importance of the African diaspora so that when they engage in dialogue with their peers they know the stakes of what is were doing in the classroom. So that they know that the rigor I push for in the classroom comes from a long line of dancing to heal, dancing to survive, dancing to find oneself in a world of no possibility. My goal is to create a domino effect of great leadership through encouraging investigation, limitless possibilities and the importance of individuality. I believe everyone has the ability to push themselves beyond the perceived limitations of their bodies. Part of my role as a teacher is to help them realize this. And to realize that their presence, the energy coming off of their body, plays a role in knowledge, culture, and community building.