PHL > Chicago > Twin Cities

I’m totally America Ferrera.

My life feels like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants right now. Lots of adventure, lots of sentimental and poignant moments. I said goodbye to the city I lived in for 9 years since I was 18. And I got my first tattoo to commemorate it!

I was a little ambitious and decided to have a house concert on my 27th birthday, the night before I left, with some of my favorite Philly artists: Joy Ike, Compas 48, and DJ sonnymandrake. It was a pretty groovy celebration, and at least 100 people or so were up on their feet dancing in West Philly on a Tuesday night! That’s pretty magical and I am grateful. My friend and collaborator said that throwing the party I did was pretty on brand for a Gemini.

My first stop was Chicago, where I attended the second Mystic Soul Conference and experienced beautiful POC centered community around mysticism, activism, and healing. I’m excited to keep in touch with that project! While in Chicago, I was able to catch up with Evan and his fiancé/partner Anna. Evan and I have performed in each other’s work back in Philly and we are kindred spirits. He is full of life and passionate about dance education, gardens at a community plot across the street, and DJs regularly. We had great conversation about love, politics, and being present with people. 

My life was at a whirlwind the week after I left Philly. I drove from Chicago to Minneapolis Sunday night when the conference ended and started training with Ananya Dance Theatre the following morning. 

The Shawngram (meaning resistance) intensive is a 3 week program, and I knew that having some routine for a few weeks would help ground me in the middle of all the changes I was processing.

At the end of the first week, I feel empowered and I feel at home. The technique Ananya has developed is called Yorchha, which draws from Odissi (classical Indian dance), yoga, and Chhau (martial art form). The training feels amazing on my body. It is rigorous but the technique demands that you access your inner strength and to dance from a place of lived story. I love the way Ananya trains her ensemble – they are precise and strong and they are completely grounded in who they are. 

Ananya is fierce. She cultivates that same ferocity in her ensemble and her students.  

Ananya is a robust artist and scholar (professor at University of Minnesota) who is also cultivating a roster of artists in her space. Part of her dream for the Shawngram Institute was to serve as an incubator for artists of color, and this weekend Orlando Hunter of Brotherhood Dance and Gabrielle Civil presented their interdisciplinary performance art. 

I have really enjoyed being in the Twin Cities. There are a lot of artist-activists in this area, celebrated indigenous community and leadership, an active salsa community, and many local and grassroots arts and culture offerings. I’m already convinced I could live here! 

My time in the Twin Cities has been about rigor, rest, and research. 

When I’m not in training Monday thru Friday, I’m taking naps and cooking. Feeding the chickens and cat at my host’s house. Catching up with old friends and making new ones.

And I’m reading authors like Octavia Butler, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Maree Brown, and more in preparation for my time at Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute next month.

Yes, I am homesick for Philadelphia. But I know I have the opportunity of a lifetime: training with the country’s leading women of color artist-activist choreographers, road tripping across the United States, and setting myself up to thrive in a community of Los Angeles based Afro Latin artists. I have tenderness around leaving what was comfortable, familiar, and what I loved. But I couldn’t be more grateful to be growing into the dancer and performer I always knew I could be. More reflections on decolonizing dance and healing through womxn of color centered spaces another time.

Like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I feel deep love for the support system that has held me this year and I know that sharing each other’s adventures from afar will only build our love and kinship. 

Upcoming Travel Dates:

July 12-21: New York City

July 24: Los Angeles

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