3 months later, I feel like myself again

Honduras 2015. Was I already creating a move to LA?

Long story short, my mental health took a toll this month. And my main takeaway and lesson learned is this:

What makes any project successful is time and relationships.

But by leaning into the pain, I worked through deep underlying fears holding me back, regained clarity about who I am as an artist, and took active steps to reclaim my JOY through dancing and renew my commitment to training.

As as an empathic healer type, I felt broken open. Homies who were fully there for me, my full gratitude goes out to you. I found more spaciousness for gentleness and patience while I dizzily processed the ways in which I realized I was actually rebuilding what feels like everything about myself from the ground up. It makes me really look forward to what is possible with plenty of TIME invested. Tenderness is real, but I know I am sturdy at my core.

Softness helps me balance it all out.

I had a big energetic release through an acupuncture appointment which allowed my body to access the deep rest and ease I needed to feel closer to my sense of wholeness and empowerment. I experienced one of the most magical, inspiring, sacred weekends of my life in LA so far which included a Pacific Ocean sunrise blessing. I’m going to process the depth of healing and joy that I held for a long time.

View from the 134 Westbound lane.

I am continuing to take inquiries for my independent projects as an artist-organizer, and it’s deeply affirming to know that I stand on my body of work. I am writing residency applications, developing new creative modalities, and challenging myself to apply to a “reach school” grant. I am refocusing on my personal health, ongoing spiritual contemplation, and moving from a grounded place of inner strength.

And on the other side, projects are steadily falling into place and I am rebuilding.

I’m glad I’m in LA. If I stayed in Philly I wouldn’t be growing. And in the midst of pushing back against the forces that feel destabilizing, I’m trying to find balance between healing and meeting challenges. Rigor and self care.

My skyline, rear view mirror, and sense of belonging has changed more drastically this year than it ever has. But I’m so proud that I made it this far and that I’m committing to deepening my compassion for humanity and myself through any challenge. I’m cultivating an inner resilience and it makes me feel more fearless. My soul feels stronger. I’m so excited to take in the soil of where I am, a kind that I deeply needed.

Insight into people with big feels:

“Being an empath has incredible benefits: greater intuition, compassion, creativity and a deeper connection to other people.  But living in this state of high sensitivity also comes with its challenges: becoming easily overwhelmed, over-stimulated, exhausted, or absorbing the stress and negativity of others.”

The Internet

#Goals Require Commitment

…and nothing will humble you more quickly than actually putting in the work.

The way dancers train in LA is making me rethink my whole approach to body, technique, history. I see how much time I have to give to know the forms I want to know. It’s not just about staying in shape. It’s about knowing these traditions and finding myself within them. I am gradually and i n c r e me n t a l l y on my way there. I am surrounded by the kind of skill and ferocity that I’ve challenged myself to step into. I have to own that I am an LA dancer now.

I have a pretty good technique foundation but I am being stretched in precision, power, crispness, fearlessness. The kind of performance I want to do requires a level of personal transcendence. I’m grateful to have found community in the spaces where I train.

It’s a blessing that I had such a rich community in Philly and I’m lucky that I already have peers and mentors in LA. I’m excited to continue to develop collaborative relationships. But having come from a time in my life where I was a medium/big fish in a small pond, turning down job offers, and had a good history with many local organizations, I’m reminded again that it takes at least 2 years to begin to be familiar and belong to a place.

It takes time to be known and trusted.

And I can’t let any anxiety or ego get the best of me. I can’t hide behind my skills and what I know. I have to learn from who is here. I have to take my new community in and be seen at a relational level. I have to know that my daily needs are met. I have to be present. Which can be a challenge after a time of life where I was used to knowing what my calendar would look like a good 4-6 months in advance and saving money on a regular basis.

I’m putting in a lot of Emergent Strategy principles in practice: Building at the pace of trust. Moving with and through change. Fractal thinking. Nonlinear and iterative change. Resisting the pace of capitalism and surrendering to the pace of rhythms and cycles to reveal clarity and deeper truth.

I spend a lot of time reflecting on what kinds of foundations I developed in Philly, and what was missing. I chose to leave and grow because I realized how disconnected from Afro Latin diaspora forms I felt, and how much I needed and desired that to be a strong part of my practice in order to move solidly into my mid career years and future goals. To re-member and re-claim my movement roots.

Being an independent choreographer made me very cerebral. I got comfortable in theatrical and performance art approaches to making work. Now I’m deepening my practice within the movement roots that call to me.

Training will make me a better at everything else I do. It will make me a better organizer. I am grounding my analysis, research, theory, practice in my body. I needed to do that. And I know there are other skills that will be made better by deepening into my training, like production and organizing.

I think it’s attention to detail and commitment to precision and high quality that will continue to show up in the rest of my artistic and organizing life.

Maybe the thing that has made this transition as overwhelming as it has been is the process of deconstructing my practice. Literally asking myself – Who am I? What is grounding me and igniting my inner fire? Staying curious about where my creativity is most active across modalities and subject matters. Committing to weekly training.

Showing up. Showing up. Showing up.

I’m learning a lot about myself and who I am in a collective, what I have to offer to a group.

I’ve learned about which friends influenced me the most based on what my new friends see in me.

I see all that I have brought to California which has been influenced by Philly and the northeast.

I see new spaciousness for my process of creative/life formation.

transformation in progress.

From My Most Painful Rejections to Discovering My Potential

Rejection put me on a path of discouragement and insecurity. Deep listening brought me to a journey of alignment and empowerment.

If you told me two years ago that I would move to LA to be a dancer, I would have looked at you in disbelief and insisted, “But I love Philly!” Honestly, I did feel comfortable because I knew the city so well, I was asked regularly to share my gifts, and my social life was poppin’. On the other hand, I did feel burned out over and over again from work and I had a hard time understanding how to stay balanced when I was spread thin across different kinds of projects. After 9 years, I knew I did as much as I could for the early part of my career and I knew it was time to take a risk, leave, grow. And that choice has been affirmed by all the doors that have been open to me since then.

I haven’t ruled out going back to Philly later in my life – part of me wants to “settle down” there, whatever that means. A big part of me wants to work bi-coastally, but that might take a few more years for me to figure out. All I knew was that I saw myself so clearly in the community here and that has been affirmed by all the connections I’ve made during my first two months.

Finding my wholeness as a dancer feels like a process of rediscovery and empowerment. I feel like a seed cracked open, putting myself in the soil I need to thrive. But being able to vision for that didn’t come without painful circumstances as a younger dancer that made me question whether or not I should be a performer at all.

I was always a passionate mover and I had good opportunities for pre-professional training, mostly based in ballet and modern. It took me longer to find the interconnectedness of Latin and African forms in a contemporary performance context. And before I could really see that for myself, my confidence went through years of painful setbacks. Here are a couple of those…

One winter, I auditioned for a pre-professional training program in Philadelphia. I was at the audition with several of my college classmates at the time. I was accepted into the training program the previous summer, but because I had already committed to an internship I decided to turn the opportunity down. So I expected to be accepted into the program during the next cycle. I know I performed well and the panel did say, “Alright, everyone here can dance.” But they continued and said,

“If you’re serious about your dancing, you need to be serious about your weight.”

…and they proceeded to call out a list of audition numbers who would be cut from the program. Mine was the last number they called. I was humiliated. I was in front of my classmates. In a moment that was too quick for me to process I swallowed a deep sense of overwhelming shame. Maybe that’s what led to underlying depression during my second year of college. I was totally disempowered from believing in myself. I felt like I was inherently inadequate for this craft I wanted to pursue.

Maybe one of my academic friends can remind me – who is the scholar who talks about how ballet is made to make you feel like failure at ballet is failure at all of dance? So this feeling of never being quite good enough compared to my peers was ongoing. My tender little dreams were crushed and it took me years to recover.

I experienced a lot of this brand of discouragement throughout my early college years. Another time, I was invited to understudy for a graduate student’s thesis performance. After the first rehearsal I was dismissed from the process. Gently so, but I was dismissed. They said it was because of the budget for performers, but I knew I also didn’t perform to their expectations in rehearsal. And this one was hard because I especially looked up to this person as a performer. If someone you admire isn’t willing to cultivate with you, they’re probably not the right mentor.

As a recent graduate I would audition for local choreographers here and there and be told no, with feedback for further training but without the opportunity to train directly in the process. I admired the work of local touring companies and ended up in plenty of regular company classes, but with those directors using totally Eurocentric bodies in their work I knew I would not meet their selective criteria.

And the type of discouragement seeded in body shaming started even before that. With my early training based in ballet and modern, at times I was made to feel as if I didn’t have a dancer’s body and the dancers I admired would regularly reinforce this belief. I was always creative. Raw. An improviser. A maker.

Now, I know those ideas about the ideal dancer’s body are complete bullshit.

Not only am I in the best and most versatile shape I’ve ever been in, but I’m constantly surrounded by bodies of all shapes, colors, sizes. I know now that I have every physical capacity to meet my goals as a performer because I have identified the training that will set me up to create within those forms.

There were so many times I felt like I didn’t have people who believed in me. But I finally started to believe in myself.

While in Philly, some of the forms that always made me feel good about my body were capoeira. House. West African. Salsa. Bachata. Postmodern. Even a former professor noticed that I was more confident in my body when I started training in Afro Latin forms. And what I did get from working in Philly after graduation was many creative residency opportunities. I had a lot of good projects as a maker and collaborator. I still see so much potential in myself for this. And during that time, I learned how to take care of myself, where my limits are, and I know how to build community.

Most important for my growth, I stopped being intimidated by surrounding myself with dancers who are better than me. And I found myself closer and closer to mentors and role models who aligned with where I was going and what I was deepening into. Throughout my training, I had fantastic teachers who affirmed the potential for skill they saw in me, but the leaders who aligned with my creative vision came a little later.

I remember the first time I took a master class with Maria Bauman, who was a company member of Urban Bush Women at the time. I was 15 years old. Even at that age I knew I was surrounded by kindred bodies. Fast forward to 2017 when I had the opportunity to train with Maria at Gibney Dance. I felt so affirmed in my body and spirit through her pedagogy and process and she took time to affirm where I was in a really generous way. That intensive influenced the way I taught class for a whole year.

In 2018, I did my first training with CONTRA-TIEMPO. That’s when the intersection of all my dance vocabularies started to make sense, when I saw an established company creating work at the intersections of African diaspora forms, street and social dances, and western contemporary dance. I saw exactly what I wanted to grow into in the company dancers and surrounding Afro Latin community. I knew I had a place in the Los Angeles Afro Latin community. CONTRA-TIEMPO inspired me to root more deeply and fully in Afro Latin diaspora forms. And by committing further to training in salsa, bachata, house, and técnica cubana I began to feel the communal and sacred power of dance.

Dance is an expression of reciprocity, abundance, and liberation. It is our technology for organizing, healing, and resistance.

I was heartbroken leaving Philly but I had to leave to find the mentorship I needed. This was affirmed when I studied with Ananya Dance Theatre. Ananya demonstrated through her pedagogy how it’s possible to feel power and love and connection with people through dance, and she taught us the responsibility of the artist: chiseling pathways to transformation. The whole company truly embodies people powered dances of transformation. And it’s all through rigor and discipline in training. I’m also taking the time to reflect on how I show up as an organizer. Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, a program that has thrived for over 20 years, showed me what it looks like to build empowered communities. It takes time, radical honesty about power and privilege, building transformational relationships, incremental growth, and long term commitment to excellence.

Now I’m actively training in LA. By focusing on house with teachers like Jackie “Miss Funk” Lopez (Versastyle) and Emiko Sugiyama (Open House LA), and Afro Brazilian (Viver Brasil & affiliated artists), I’m soaking in so much. With underground and ancestral forms, there is a deep commitment to knowing the form and its history, reverence for elders of the practice, freedom and liberation in feeling and embodying the dances.

Rigor. Discipline. Excellence.

This is what I am living by to become the artist I am meant to be. And I’m experiencing it all through forms that embrace my body. Ananya said over and over again to be generous with the hips. The rhythm and weightedness in Yorchha made sense to be and felt so nourishing and satisfying in my body. House begs me to let go of any and all fear. I’m still getting there, but I feel how much I have to let Spirit take over and FEEL. Kyle “JustSole” Clark says it all the time:

“House is a feeling.”

This is all very humbly in progress for me. Incremental growth and commitment to excellence means a lot of patience and honesty about where I am. But there is a spaciousness to rebuild myself, fellowship, and create new community through that. Time to gently cultivate trust and tenderness with my peers and new friends – people who I’m dearly fond of. Opportunity to rediscover family.

Sure, I wish this kind of growth came earlier in my 20s, but I really am in the right place at the right time. Throughout my early and mid twenties I was still so tender and it took time to develop the tools and support mechanisms I need to be most fully me, at my best. I learned what it takes for a community to be healthy and how I have to show up. And I am fully ready for these years ahead. All my potential is in me and ahead of me.

7 things I learned from deactivating Facebook for 2 years

Two years ago, I deactivated Facebook after a residency I had in Philly. Mainly, I was burnt out from promoting the production on social media and I needed a break. I wrote a righteous little post about the joys of being off Facebook here.

It’s funny that I’m back on the platform. My friends know I’m so adamantly against it. I think I’m homesick for Philly enough that seeing my friends on Facebook lifts my spirits. And I’ve learned how to use social media in a way that works for me, so I’m not concerned about it taking over what matters to me. Here’s what I learned from being off Facebook for two(!) whole years:

1. How to protect my energy

Sometimes on digital platforms, whether it be email or social media, we lose our ability to be soft and compassionate with people when we disagree. Digital communication makes it easier to be polarized over disagreements. Ever had an argument in status comments with a friend of a friend or an acquaintance you lost touch with? It’s an unfortunate habit. Words on a screen are the tip of the iceberg of a person’s context, life experience, worldview. In my opinion, engaging a conflict only makes sense if I have a relationship or shared project/community with the person. If we’re not actively sharing a community or vision, it’s more likely that we won’t cultivate mutual understanding and a generative way forward. Digital disagreements usually foster agitation and defensiveness.

2. How to budget my attention

Social media is designed to be addictive. Because of the sensory experience of newsfeed, the refresh feature, endless scrolling, sounds and colored, animated flags with our notifications, it’s easy for hours to go by passively consuming without a focus. And isn’t capitalism all about passive consumption? I recently set a time reminder on my Instagram, so that I can avoid using it for more than an hour a day. My working plan is to only check Facebook once a week. If anything is time sensitive, people who need to get in touch with me can contact me directly. There are other things I’d like to do, like read, take naps, develop projects, cook, listen to podcasts, rest, dream.

3. How to detox digitally

One of the most beneficial books I read this year was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. If you’re not familiar, it’s kind of like a 12 week workbook with tasks, prompts, practices, and inspiration designed to give you a deeper spiritual connection with your creativity. It’s effective and I highly recommend it. This book was written in the 90s-one of the weekly tasks is to abstain from all reading. Cameron talks about the ways newspapers and magazines can be distracting, and challenges the reader to reflect more abstractly without so much constant stimuli. I interpreted this as a social media fast. Facebook especially loves clickbait articles, candid time lapse videos, and provocative screenshots of tweets. Social media likes reaction. There is more spaciousness to be a human apart from the digital pollution of content curated in algorithms for us as if it was fast food.

4. The commodification of digital data

In the recent documentary The Great Hack (available on Netflix), it tells the story of the advent of social media advertisements for political campaigns. In recent years, data became more valuable than oil. In a nutshell, collecting data for targeted advertising through social media is what gave us the outcome of the 2016 election.

5. Being present with discomfort

Vaguebook anyone? Status and story updates make it so easy to proclaim to dozens of people in an instant that something is the matter. I’m guilty of this, especially in my Instagram stories. More recently, I have been trying to sit with feelings of tension and restlessness before posting about it on social media. To use mediation, journaling, or a phone call with a trusted friend (or therapist in some cases) when I experience restlessness or personal crisis/heartache.

6. I can set any boundaries I need, no questions asked

I especially feel this way when I have lost touch with people and the connection no longer exists. No one is entitled to the details and process of my life. Plain and simple. This also includes boundaries for work. Sometimes people really need their social media to be used to share their personal life with their loved ones.

7. Relationships built IRL are the strongest

None of the artists I admire the most became successful by building their social media presence and following. All of the artists I admire the most have thousands of connections by actually doing the work in their communities. People who are bad at social media or are often some of the best to be around. I’ve always noticed a particular energy of clarity, creativity, and well cultivated imagination with artists who limited their social media use or abstained from it altogether. I also think about how some of the strongest relationships in my life were cultivated entirely offline. There was no newsfeed to passively hide behind, we actually did real and beautiful work of discovering each other, asking about our day to day, and building at the pace of trust.

Social media is a tool. It’s not an end in itself. By cultivating a connection with those you love and showing up for what you’re passionate about IRL, life will feel satisfying and balanced. I’m glad to be back on Facebook with more clarity, boundaries, and more grounded sense of my time commitments and priorities. With my newfound focus and self care strategies, I think it will be a lot more fun to use! There are so many wonderful people from around the country now that I’m excited to keep on touch with after a full season of travel and relocating.

One month in Los Ángeles

It was a complete whirlwind of a summer.

Travel was EVENTFUL, and ambitiously planned.

51+ hour route, over 3,258 miles driven, accompanied by two of my dearest friends I can be my realest self with: Lina and John. I laugh deliriously when I look at this map.

I learned a lot about how to pace my experiences, especially when intensive training, travel, and relocating are all involved. I’ve needed full weeks of recovery. Some days all I could do was go to the laundromat and I was spent. The grocery store was the most overwhelming place my first few weeks here.

Being an empath, and feeling as deeply as I do, the sensation of tenderness and stretching in my heart space is normal for me. But this past season was a different kind of expansion that I couldn’t have prepared for.

I worked hard to have closure with people and communities in Philly. I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the visceral upheaval of travel, training, and transition all jam packed in one season.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we prepare ourselves to enter a new stage in life, we will never be fully prepared for the unknown.

But wow, I’m still processing my awe and gratitude for all that has transpired.

In every city I went to, I was known and cared for, generously offered hospitality and friendship. I had room and board in every city I stayed, entirely through my network of trusted friends peppered around the country.

John and I were both going to the Mystic Soul Conference, so he drove to Chicago with me and even got to meet my niece! I couldn’t believe I said goodbye to him when I drove through Wisconsin. I had a blast in Minneapolis, and I can’t wait to be back. 3 weeks later, Lina and I left St Paul with dozens of tamales from Sarah’s neighbor, Maria. I got to know England’s parents and their sweet pups in Harrisonville, MO.

The Taos Initiative for Life Together was the most magical place Lina and I spent the night. As soon as we got to New Mexico, I felt in my body that I was in Latin America.* I knew instinctually/ancestrally that NM was/is tierra mestiza. I felt the anxiety of the northeast completely swept off my body. We breathed in sweet, piney air, splashed in the creek, and noted the burnt trees between the Cimarron Canyon and Eagle Nest Lake. At Todd’s house, I had seconds of chicken and vegetable Thai curry, we spoke about mysticism and activism, and we worked on the farm in exchange for our stay.

*This land was Mexican once, Indian always, and is. And will be again.

Gloria E. Andaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

The leg to Tempe, AZ was the most fatiguing for me because of the intense desert heat but we had a fantastic brunch with Leyris. Driving into California felt epic. Lina and I belted our little hearts out to some great dad rock: U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and of course we lived our best femme lives with Janelle Monae, Beyonce, etc. We celebrated the end of our road trip with a direct trip to the Pacific Ocean to wash away our weariness. I’m bummed that the ocean took Lina’s glasses, but wow what a stellar teammate and comrade Lina is. What a formative time this trip was for our friendship. It was a profound journey, and our friendship has been built on the most nourishing kind of depth and fellowship. I believe in abundance and liberation in no small part because of the way Lina lives. She’s one of those emergent strategy-esque woes that you don’t want to live without.

In Los Angeles, it didn’t take me long to find an apartment to sublet, a house to live in, and available projects as a working artist. With my needs being met and my goals in development, things falling into place like they are is a testament to the power of cultivating relationships. I have amazing colleagues and friends here, and I am going to be a more skilled artist because of them. I’m surrounded by the work I see myself in, what I know I will grow into through lots of rigor and discipline. Excellence will be my new ordinary.

With time, the seeds of what I learned from Summer Leadership Institute with Urban Bush Women will show up in my creative work and organizing. Right now, I am committing to not doing things alone. In Philly, I was very independent and almost always did a lot of legwork by myself. With so many bright and talented souls in LA, I know I don’t have to flesh out my creative visions alone. My collaborators are here.

I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. One of my friends said “We need more people like you in the dance community.” Another friend I look up to said “You will be a beautiful and powerful asset to this community.” [actual tears in my eyes]

I’ve already found family through CONTRA-TIEMPO, Primera Generacion Dance Collective, Viver Brasil, and counting. I recognize the energy of South LA, Highland Park, East LA, Pasadena, and it makes me feel at home.

Processing loss and change will be ongoing. But when I say I feel at home, I’m talking about comadre kinda home. Warm-your-soul hugs, cumbia, house music, bboys and bgirls, wine and tacos kinda home. Desmadre dancing as a technique practice kinda home. “I feel like I already know you” kinda home. “Me too, girl!” kinda home. Being one of many brown womxn/femmes trying to reconcile cultural Christianity, Afro Indigenous spirituality, and postmodern mysticism kinda home.

Philly will always be in my soul and roots. But I can already tell LA is the place to shine.

Two of the dancers in this video helped me get my first jobs here. The lead singer helped me find a place to live. I’m training under the dancer who is a rehearsal director. I hang out regularly with the dancer who had a baby this year.

In Favor Sabbatical

I’m almost done with my first month of a sabbatical period and I’m absolutely loving it. I went to undergrad in Philadelphia and worked there for 5 years afterwards – so it was my home for a total of 9 years. I knew I wanted to relocate to meet some new career goals a year ago.

Downtown Minneapolis.

I’m grateful that I had a full year to prepare for and process this transition, as it was not easy to leave a place where I had so much community, deep friendship, and soul family. But I was ready to go.

To prepare, I saved money, applied for scholarships to training programs, and reached out to friends for hospitality. I worked hard and diligently to organize my summer enrichment, and now that I’m in it I can honestly say that I’m super proud of the season I’ve built for myself. I get to participate in a total of 7 weeks of professional development, go on a road trip across the country, make new friends, and move to a new city!

I earned $1,100 in scholarships to train for a total of 7 weeks with Ananya Dance Theatre, Urban Bush Women, and Contra-Tiempo, all directed by some of the most relevant, nationally recognized artist-activists and womxn of color choreographers. I see what I want to grow into in their respective work and approaches. I’m thrilled for the timing and opportunity to be based in Los Angeles later this summer where I will be surrounded by a community of Afro Latin movement artists.

For me, taking the time for a sabbatical has been worth it for two critical reasons:

1. I am finding artistic mentorship that I wasn’t finding in Philly.

The Philadelphia arts community has a strong peer and collaborative network. There are venues to self produce. Independent artists are creative, resourceful, and inspiring humans. But it wasn’t the place for me to have the opportunity to join an established touring company that aligned with my values. There are dozens of established independent artists that deserve to be generously resourced by local and national foundation money.

What I see in the leaders I am training with, that I don’t see from leaders with touring companies in Philly, is that they are cultivating a younger generation of empowered leaders, taking risks, and engaging their audiences around social justice and transformation.

2. I need to rest.

After years of working as as a teaching artist, adjunct professor, curator & arts based organizer, I didn’t have the breadth of time I desired to cultivate myself as a performing artist. I gave and gave and gave and gave and gave of myself to youth, young adults, and creative organizing projects as I emerged into my post graduate years. The majority of my time commitments were output, not personal cultivation.

What I did gain during that time was wonderful and formative experiences, especially through foundation and grant programs for professional development. Shout out to my friends from the Bartol Foundation! They are groovy people doing incredible work supporting community arts education all over Philly. Another huge shout out to the Painted Bride for all their support during the BrideNext residency in 2017! It was a formative project that significantly shaped the trajectory of my dance theater work.

Taking sabbatical for me means claiming space for a more authentic expression of my life’s mission- right now that looks like cultivating with people who are at the intersection of arts-activism. And right now I’m rooting this in Afro Latin diaspora movement. Seeking mentorship and taking a necessary break from leadership is bringing me to transformative enrichment, all progressing to a more realized and robust expression of my gifts and passions.

To folks following this blog, it means a lot to stay in touch and to have your moral support from a distance – it’s never been easy for me to move. Don’t hesitate to write and call!

For more updates and day-to-day content, follow me on Instagram: @alvarezmovement

For my peers who are considering sabbatical, here’s a checklist for ways to get started:

  • Identify what you would like to research and grow into
  • Seek mentorship
  • Travel to be in proximity with teachers and/or community you want to learn with and from
  • Rest your body, mind, heart*

*This is huge. Autumn Brown talks about sabbatical in her podcast, How To Survive The End of the World, about a some key things during sabbatical. Things like taking care of your nervous system. Drinking water. Sleeping and reading. Ample time and space to unravel.

Here’s a list of practical ways to support your time away from a current role or relocating:

  • Save money
  • Ask your network for gifts to go towards a specific project – outline the costs and what the community’s gifts are going towards
  • Apply for scholarships to training programs
  • Contact friends for hospitality to save on room and board
  • Use flight tracker apps to find affordable plane tickets (I like Hopper – I saved close to $200, compared to current prices, on my round trip flight to NYC by tracking)

Books to support personal deconstructing, deep reflection, and reshaping of core values:

  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – This is a 12 week workbook facilitating a deeper spiritual connection with creativity and caring for the child artist within. I found morning pages to be a very effective exercise and there are beneficial tasks in each chapter!
  • Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown – This book is based on the question – How can we make justice the most pleasurable experience? It’s a great read for listening for a “yes” from a deep place within, and using that to guide life pursuits and organizing. The curation of essays and practices shared gave me a vivid image of interconnectedness between pleasure and justice.
  • Emergent Strategy Adrienne Maree Brown – This book is great for thinking about how we show up in the world and how to shape working together in collectives and organizations. Also a great way to think about how all interactions, starting with awe of fractals in nature, lead towards the vision of a more liberated world.

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