Original Production, Writer, Director, Choreographer
In my fascination with the consistent discoveries of ancient civilizations it led me to questions of what would be left behind of this time and our modern manifestation of this desire to preserve and record... What am I currently leaving behind artistically, professionally, personally, spiritually? We are still learning new things about Egyptian peoples thousands of years ago everyday, and I wonder what stories will be told and discoveries made of us.
Wrapped in this collective journey lies my personal fears of death and my longing to 'matter' in addition to my yearning to be heard as an artist, the importance of the creative expression of the virtues present in my life and work, continually enriching the voice of my own perspective, this deep capacity of compassion for the human spirit, and a mission to shape my own spiritual legacy.
In February of 2016, the world premiere of RUINS, my then latest original work, marked the beginning of a new journey for me as an artist, creator, and dance maker. It was one of those ‘big shift’ moments in my perspective on life and the creative process. The culmination of many years of living and making, RUINS was inspired by my yearning to create a legacy in a fast paced world that only seemed interested in the ‘last’ thing I’d done. It led me to deep questions about what matters and what was I leaving behind. Does any of it matter? Will any of it last?
My fascination with Egyptian culture, history, and mythology became the foundation in my creative quest for what legacy and ritual looked like for me at that point in my life and career. Thinking of Egyptian pyramids that still stand thousands of years later. Egyptian stories and myths that still inspire and mystify. What are we making now that will last that long?
As always, I look first within myself. That required a look back at what I had done up to that point. I watched hours of videos of past work searching for themes, shapes, and ideas that seemed to be recurring, that spoke out in some way. That began the conversation of rituals and the connections between movement, dance, and ritual. What makes something a ritual?
That led to conversations about intent and that led to the creation of nine shapes/movements that seemed to be the core of the language I was creating in terms of communicating meaning through movement. These shapes became known as VIRTUES and these movements became the rituals that I have spent the years since exploring, questioning, redefining, and expressing in various ways. For the first time in my career as a dance maker, I was interested an ongoing conversation that I could commit to long term and investigate through many years of engaging with these symbols/shapes/rituals/ideas in the creative process.
I realized through this journey that it was my creative process itself that mattered most. THAT was what I was leaving behind was engaging in meaning, connection, and truth with others. Establishing community over and over again. Empowering the community and then creating from that place. I now see these VIRTUES as the core values of my business, my work, and the entire “Learning How to SHINE” ecosystem. These aren’t just ideas I’m exploring creatively but things I truly believe in and live by. They are pillars of my language and ideology behind creating and engaging in community.
Ultimately I realize now that the answers to the meaning behind my work or my ‘aesthetic’ or my purpose as an artist are ultimately inside my understanding of ‘ME’. The re-defining of my identity as an artist is being fueled by my newfound acceptance and understanding of myself as a human being. I am an artist and that is my contribution to the planet. My art. And how I see the world is through that perspective of being a vessel, a divine channel through which time passes and takes new form through my thoughts, words, sounds, and movements.
Carving creation into space and time. Telling new stories as long as they’re mine. Reflections of my human experience. Churning our understanding of ourselves. The rhythm. The cadence. This pursuit is our nature. And belonging and meaning are my eternal quest. Together we give power collectively to what will ultimately matter.
Lately I have been learning to embrace stillness in my life and in my work. Having found a much deeper connection to and understanding of myself both as a man and as an artist, it is no longer about proving for me but about speaking. Investing in my truth knowing that wisdom begins with knowing yourself. So in my never ending pursuit of success and moving forward in my career and work, it is also important to me that I am moving forward as a human being with an awakened appreciation for reflection and the power of perspective.
My work has always served as an anthology of my experiences of the world and some of the most powerful moments of change in my life have happened through the process of creating. This anthology is part of what I’m leaving behind. I’m working to shape my own personal legacy through my work as an artist. And not just in the work itself, but also in the energy exchanged in the creation of the work.
I found myself in some very difficult personal and global conversations recently and was awakened by the difficulty in actual change. I became exhausted by the over-use of words like ‘diversity’ in conversations around me. Maya Angelou once said that words are things. Sometimes it seems to me like words don’t mean much at all. Have we passed the ability to have depth in the meanings of our words? Are we using words only as labels? Does it matter? With so many words how is it that actual conversation is still so difficult? How can we be so consistently and at times purposefully avoiding things that are right in our faces? How can the conversation of race still stop some of us dead in our tracks yielding us unable to bridge the gap in our understanding?
In the beginning stages of writing and creating the world of Ruins, I couldn’t escape this seemingly endless list of questions. An obsessive conversation in my head about what matters and what if anything is lasting. I think about the immensity of structures built by Egyptian cultures thousands of years ago and that inspiration still has me in awe. Knowing that the great pyramids of Giza are still standing today is mind blowing to me and I ask myself what if anything are we making today that will last that long? Then I am reminded of my responsibility as an artist to tell my own stories. Carving creation into actual space, time and moment.
Community based work and ensemble building has been in the fabric of my work and process from the very beginning. And now I’m beginning to learn the power of my perspective as an artist on the world and not just on how I create my art. Through many years of working as a teaching artist with almost every facet of the theater and dance communities, my goal with each project is always to first create a community, to empower that community with purpose and then to create together from that foundation.
My mission as an artist is to create change and healing in the world through art. TOdanceInc isn’t just a new brand, it’s a movement. Dance for your Soul. Dance for your LIFE! Each of us starting from exactly where we stand and then moving forward together. Shining light with each new collaboration.
And after making a choice to take a break from creating for a while in order to listen, I realize that if my work truly is to be my voice then I need to only speak when I actually have something to say. And if my work is to be a means of creating light in world, then its important to me what I am saying and that I shine first from within. I’m learning to be an oracle of my own truth and how to walk in that truth every single day. And it’s from these understandings of self and purpose that I create.
When fast-paced media and instant gratification are the norm, how do we even imbue meaning in the words we are using? An intersection of cyber text crossing a dated lexicon with reflections of old misunderstandings. In the wheel of a monstrous society with posts, updates, tweets and snap chats telling us how fast things are changing and how behind we all are, is it still true that some things never change?
Celebration is only positive. Only addition and multiplication. No Subtraction and no division. If we are encouraging there’s no room for offense.
Taking full responsibility for the power of the poets. Churning my complexities and wearing them as my complexion.
Human beings have always had a fascination with recording our experiences but what changes when these reflections are stored in a virtual cloud rather than inscribing them on stonewalls? My work is my effort in some way to connect to this great legacy and move ideas and mankind forward. Carving creation into actual space, time and moment.
And much like my favorite musical artist, I appreciate their new albums and releases in connection with those albums that came before. More and more it seems to me that people are more concerned with what I last did rather than a comprehensive all of what I’ve have done, where does that leave the perspective of crafting legacy? And Ruins represents that very conversation. Rather than answering the questions, I chose to create a universe where the ideas could all be expressed and exist together and challenge each other in the moment.
I’m trying to craft a legacy through my work as an artist creating my own anthology of the world and my experiences but it seems sometimes that my relevancy is only based on what I did last or most recently rather than a collective of all the work I’ve done. I see statues and names on buildings of people whose work is immortalized in that way for centuries.