What sparked your interest in dance?
I’d always loved to dance and been a performer in my house. There was an understanding from my parents that this kid had to have attention! There was a New York City Ballet special on PBS, and I became hooked seeing Albert Evans dancing Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels – I had never seen anything like it. Then I got a gift for Christmas of NYCB in The Nutcracker – and beyond the costumes and amazing dancing, it was the snow scene that was captivating to me. One of the snowflakes was Black – she was really good, and I spent the whole time watching her. She gave me permission to say: I could be up there too.
Was it easy to make the decision to pursue a career in dance?
In retrospect, I didn’t know what it meant to be a dancer. My path to pursuing dance and being here at Houston Ballet has always been a search for community. The dance studio has always been a place where I could turn the volume up to 10 on who I am. It’s equal parts wanting to be the best dancer I can be, but also searching for a place where my identity and who I am can be at maximum.
How did a pair of very high, pink heels and a gym treadmill launch your social media career?
There was a group of openly gay boys in the company at the time – it felt like a golden age, but we were probably so obnoxious! One of the boys was leaving the company and walked into the gym one night with two pairs of giant pink heels. We wondered what would happen if we wore them on the treadmill, and one thing led to another. It was very impromptu – we filmed it, I posted it and turned my phone off. When I reopened my phone there were a lot of likes and comments. It was a wake-up call to the power of social media. I thought, now that I have people watching I want to bring them into my world as a classical dancer.
How have you carried that forward?
One thing I’ve learned through my social media career is that visibility is currency. Not necessarily monetary, but the power to show people that they can do it. What I try to do with my social media is to lean into what makes me happy, and if that inspires other people to take that first step then I feel I’m accomplishing something. The series [about previous dancers of colour for Black History Month in the US] I did on social media is my way of acknowledging the dancers who were doing it first – I feel I owe that to them.
Why does dance matter to you?
I feel I would have answered this differently a few years ago. But right now, dance is about a legacy for me. It’s so important to be confident, unapologetic, authentic, fabulous in what you do. I’m not just doing it for myself but for so many others. Dance matters because I want to continue that legacy. And it’s also really fun to do!
Why Dance Matters
Why Dance Matters is a new podcast from the RAD – a series of conversations with extraordinary people from the world of dance and beyond. We hope these insightful personal conversations – hosted by David Jays, editor of Dance Gazette – will delight and inspire you.