Q. Where are you from?
A. Gosh, I’m a little bit from everywhere. I’m originally from Los Angeles, I lived in Detroit for a little while, I did high school and college in Ohio and then I lived in Chicago for a bit as well.
Q. What are some unique characteristics of the towns you grew up in?
A. I’d say each of the places I’m from are uniquely different and influenced who I was tremendously. I will say that the first place I moved by myself, like as an adult, was Chicago and there was something unique about it. It was so clean and nice, and people were still very Midwestern in a city that’s not necessarily considered that Midwestern.
Q. When did you start dancing? What’s your dance journey?
A. I started in high school, I had no dance training prior to joining my high school dance team. So I literally learned what a pirouette was, which by the way involved no technique, in a school gymnasium. And I did that for two years and I really liked it and thought I should stick it out so I took my first ballet, tap and jazz class at 16. After another two years of taking class I thought ‘I wanna do this for real’ so I applied to a bunch of schools and auditioned and just hoped for the best. I went to Ohio University, I joined their school of dance in 2009, I auditioned that winter and I got in and it was like, ‘alright, I guess you’re doing this!’
Q. That’s such an amazing story, to start so late and be able to make a career out of it.
A. Yeah, it was a lot of practicing on my own, like while my mom was making dinner I’d be over by the counter practicing tendus. I felt like I was playing catch-up, especially those last two years of high school, thinking ‘I’m really going to do this, so I really need to jump ahead.’ I didn’t take a lot of class outside of school, I was in a school-to-college program where I was able to get my dance classes to count towards my high school education. So my actual dance classes only happened between the hours of 12-3 during my junior and senior year of high school. It was a lot of self-practice.
Q. How are you enjoying dancing for Bodystories: Teresa Fellion Dance?
A. Oh I love it. It’s nice to have a voice, it’s nice to be heard, it’s nice to be able to move like myself, and have a space to codify that, to feel and to discuss it. To really be able to feel out the movement and speak about the movement.
Q. What is it like to dance in a company that is mostly comprised of women?
A. It’s always empowering, it’s always beautiful to be in a space with not only women but strong women that have an opinion, that have something to say, that feel passionate about this particular thing that we’re doing. So that is always exciting, to know that I can come into this space and be with like-minded people.
Q. How do you, as a dancer, approach translating the complex emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s work? What is that process like?
A. It depends. In the beginning that process was trying to embody those words and to produce exactly what I thought she was wanting me to produce. I wanted very much to be in tune with what she was saying and what she was trying to draw out of us, as a group and as myself as a part of this group and as we’ve gone through the rehearsal process a bit more I think I’m trusting myself and the idea that what she’s saying, she wants me to interpret back out. A little less giving her what she wants, or what I think she wants and more what can I as a person give back. It’s turned into kind of a call and response, she can call it and I can respond and she can call it again or we go from there.
Q. What has the process of creating Agawam been like?
A. It’s been exciting! It’s been hard, hard in a good way. I feel like as a group we’re being challenged. Being with a new group of dancers is always a learning experience and we’ve had to really jump in and say, ‘alright! I’ve got to trust that I can throw my weight on you, cause this is what we’re doing!’ We’ve really had to dive in, it’s been a fun experience, and it’s been a learning experience too.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of dancing Agawam?
A. It requires a lot of stamina. Right now [January 31st] we’re very movement heavy, and I think with editing the piece it will have more shape. But right now it’s very movement heavy, which is great, I love to move. But once we finally got all these pieces to kind of chunk together, I was like, ‘that’s a long 8 minutes, that’s a long 8 minutes y’all!’ I was like, ooh I need to take a spinning class after this just to get my endurance up cause this is gonna be a 20 minute piece and mama can barely make it through 8. So, yes stamina!
Q. What is the most rewarding aspect of dancing Agawam?
A. When those pieces do come together, when they finally do gel and we’ve kept the integrity of all these small pieces and we’ve found a way to weave them all together. I think we just accomplished that today in rehearsal and it’s just a feeling of, hallelujah, that works.
Q. Agawam examines the post-depression working family and family life, although we may be decades removed from that time, how do you feel that idea, and the piece, can resonate today?
A. I mean I kind of think those ideas date back to the American dream. Families coming over here, immigration, huge troves of people trying to be who they are, live in that moment and find who they are in this new unabridged culture that is the American culture. I remember Teresa mentioning that she comes from an Italian family that came over during that time. You know, we’re still such a young country, we’re all within generations of being an immigrant. My culture is the American culture, but for my grandfather maybe it wasn’t necessarily that way for him, he definitely lived through a different time period than I could ever relate to.
Q. In our current political climate with so much uncertainty, what do you think the role of dance and art will be?
A. We’re gonna have to keep making and spreading the love through it, that’s so cliche and everytime I say it I think it’s cliche, but I had this really resonating moment after the election. I was in shock, and the night after my roommate and I actually collaborated on a piece that we did at Ready Freddy’s?! in Brooklyn. It was called “Is You Woke,” and it was a racially charged piece, and my roommate made this really awesome video to go along with it. It kind of dealt with my own feelings on all of this, as a black American, as someone who was confused as to why this was going on. And it was amazing to dance in this space and not be judged, to just put all this out–how I was feeling about racial tension, and immigration tension and everything else. To just be in that space and have people come up to me after and say ‘thank you.’ There were no words, you didn’t even need to put it into anything, sometimes it was just a hug. I think dance will continue to be that physical embodiment of all those things that I can’t say, or describe, those feelings that keep me up at night. Maybe it won’t change your mind, but maybe you’ll understand a little more, maybe it won’t be an argument.