OSUdance

reflection/my body is a church.

you don’t want no problems with me // it feels like blessings keep falling in my lap // i wish i could tell you it’s ready, tell you it’s ready today, but they don’t give nothing away. you gotta fight for your way // all my days, i’ve prayed and prayed, and now i see the finish line. oh i’m gonna finish mine // cuz at the end of the day [art] is all we got.

*cue praise dance*

Chance the Rapper has literally written the song[s] to this season of my life on his album Coloring Book. He inspires me in more ways than I can even articulate right now. Literally every single line above has been an affirmation, a prayer, a word for me when I have needed it most. The Lord has given that man the platform to change lives, and folks are being redeemed because of him. Beyond that, Lil Chano from 79th’s words has been especially applicable to my journey through my senior year to the piece that became known as my body is a church. Or, where the dance becomes sacred.

you don’t want no problems with me. “‘No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 NIV

More than anything, this is an affirmation that my safety is in the Lord. God’s got me. You don’t want no problems with me because the One who is greater than us all is my shield. Don’t ever play yourself, homie. *DJ Khaled voice*

it feels like blessings keep falling in my lap. Really, truly. It seems like everywhere I turn, there is some new blessing that I don’t deserve. Opportunities that I didn’t know existed have been opened to me. Things that I didn’t know I was capable of, I am now doing. In the most unexpected ways, people keep speaking life into my dreams and goals and visions.

i wish i could tell you it’s ready, tell you it’s ready today, but they don’t give nothing away. you gotta fight for your way. This is such an affirmation for my future and an acknowledgment of how hard I’ve worked to get where I am today. My time at OSU has been the result of dedication, tenacity, and sacrifice from both me and my entire family. There have been people that told me that my artistic voice/vision wasn’t unique enough. There are people who don’t get it and who don’t want to. To get here, I’ve had to push them to the side and keep it moving. To get where I want to be, I’ll have to fight too.

all my days, i’ve prayed and prayed, and now i see the finish line. oh i’m gonna finish mine. When I tell you I heard these words pouring through my headphones the weekend of my senior concert and cried… Ya’ll. This senior project has been gestating within me for two years now. It’s incredible and surreal to me that I have this amazing, tangible thing to show for the seed that I have been nurturing. Beyond that, I’m about to graduate from college Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance and a minor in Creative Writing. I’m only the 2nd generation of my family to attend and graduate from college. My parents’ generation was the first. My grandparents don’t even fully comprehend what it is that I’m doing all the way up here in Ohio. They’re just proud of me because I’m doing something that they literally never even dreamed of doing. That’s why this finish line is so important to me. And when I become the first in my family to receive a masters degree and PhD, I’ll be doing it for them too.

cuz at the end of the day [art] is all we got. I’m so excited to be able to pursue my art full time. To be able to pour my time and energy into changing the world with my art. This thing that I just started on a whim when my family moved to South Carolina is my passion now. It’s my heart and soul.

I cannot express what a blessing it’s been to share my heart with the world. The Senior Concert was an absolute success for everyone involved. My classmates are truly incredible, and I can’t wait to see where we all go from here. Folks keep asking me if ‘my body is a church‘ is over, and for me that’s such a confirmation from the Lord that he’s not done with it yet.

Catch me next at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum on March 29th. I’m now writing my distinction thesis paper and will be defending my thesis later on in April.

My senior year is literally a month and a half away from being over. The journey has been amazing. See some amazing images from my senior project, my body is a church. Or, where the dance becomes sacred, below. Photo Credit: my lovely classmate, Hana Newfeld.

Love and Light,

Kylee

 

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Finally, A Sisterhood

I’ve spent the last few days completely surrounded by pure Black excellence. Inundated and wrapped up tight in it.

This was my first time at the International Association of Blacks in Dance conference , and while I was very excited to go, along with a group of 7 other students from my Department, I am struck now (as I am writing this on the plane back to Columbus) with how important IABD & spaces like that are, especially for young artists like me.

Yesterday, I sat in a workshop led by the indomitable Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild, one of my personal idols and a pioneer of Black dance theory, & a panel of five other Black women. One had just received her doctorate from Temple University. Another is a professor at Appalachian State University. Gaynell Sherrod, from the dance department at Virginia Commonwealth University was there. Zita Allen, one of the best dance critics to ever enter the field, and a pioneer for writing about Black dance/Black dancing bodies, spoke. And Vershawn Sanders-Ward, graduate of Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and founder of Red Clay Dance Company in Chicago shared as well. There were so many other important, notable dancers and artists in the room…

…and everywhere I went. I took class with folks who had studied with Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham personally. Folks who travel all over the world to work with royalty. I sat in the room with some of the primary figures is Black dance — Karen Brown, Cleo Parker Robinson, Joan Myers Brown, Lula Washington, to name a few.

But as I sat in that circle of women, I found myself becoming emotional. All these women are where I want to be one day. They have lived the life I want, walked in the places I hope to go, and are sharing their wisdom with me. I sat there choking on tears as woman after woman spoke life into me, thinking, I want to know you all. I want you to be my aunties and mothers and sisters. For the first time in my dance life I felt like I had a sisterhood. I felt supported. I felt loved by a group of women who didn’t know me, or know anything about me. I wanted to stay in the safety of their embrace forever, and the truth is, I can.

That’s why all Black art spaces like IABD are important. There are the people who know, who understand our common struggle. There’s no cliché in our truth, there’s no doubt about the validity of our stories. I’ve spent so much time wondering whether my stories are okay. Whether it’s okay that all I want to talk about, write about, make about is completely wrapped up in my experiences with race, class, and gender. And at IABD, I was reminded very clearly that my artistic voice and perspective is valid.

I’m so grateful for this experience. It was such a necessary blessing.

Love & Light.

Commencing 

Well, year three is in the books.  I am sitting at (my new) home, in Utah, still sort of in shock over the fact that I have completed yet another successful year at The Ohio State University.  OSU has actually become more home to me geographically than anywhere else.  It’s where I have spent the majority of my time and energy over the last few years.  I remember the first time I actually called it “home” and how weird that felt. Now, I have one year left until I will be making a new home somewhere in the world.  

I titled this post “Commencing” because a few days ago, I finally began work on my senior project.  It eerily became real because now I am actually doing all of the things I have been talking about doing for the past year. (You can click this link for more information about my project) The end of this past semester was full of so much confirmation that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I took two classes that paralleled my interests in blackness in dance and helped me to explore blackness more generally in America and musically throughout the Diaspora.  It was so powerful for me to make connections and to see that the things that I observe at work in the dance field have larger, societal roots as well.  In my Music of Africa and the Diaspora class, we had a guest lecturer, Dr. Denise Noble, talk about Dancehall music in Jamaica.  I was intrigued by the way in which Black women’s bodies functioned within this Jamaican context, and I immediately felt that it had some connection to the ways in which Black women’s bodies in America function as well.  Dr. Noble and I  connected later as I interviewed her for my final paper that I wrote for that class. One of the biggest things that I took away from our conversation is that this thing — this particular structure that surrounds and suppresses Black people — is global.  It’s a part of the legacy left behind that touches every single country in the African Diaspora and every African nation that has been colonized by Europeans.  I am now struck by the vastness of what I want to do. 

I think I have found (one of) my life’s work(s).  I simply cannot get at everything in a year while taking general education classes and trying to graduate on time.  But what I know is that my work will not end simply at the end of my final year of undergrad.  I wrote in my senior project proposal that I want to work to ensure that no other little black girl has to grow up feeling the way that I did/do.  As a woman, finding peace with your body can be hard work — especially when your body is encased in black skin.  This applies broadly in America where black bodies still are under attack, but more specifically in a dance studio. I had know clue how much meaning this statement would take on when I said this three years ago as I wrote my artist statement for this blog, but dance is for everyone.  There is no perfect body or size.  No one should every have to question their place or if they belong here for any reason. My sister, you will fit, because I am breaking the mold for you. 

So as I commence this process, I am very excited, very nervous, and borderline already overwhelmed, but I am motivated.  I’m not just doing this for me.  I am taking the first few steps now, but I refuse to be timid.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me! To God be All the Glory! 

Service, Nerves, & Honor – a Quick Update

So much has happened since I last posted.  First, let me apologize for falling off my bi-weekly plan.  Hopefully, I will resume my regular schedule now.  Keep reading to find out what’s been keeping me away from you all…

Spring Break. This school year, I’ve been talking about how much I wanted to get more involved in community service.  That being said, I was very interested in going on a Buck-i-SERV, OSU’s alternative break program, trip over SB this year.  I ended up getting on a bus full of 49 other people I had never met before, and driving down to Biloxi, Mississippi for one of the best learning experiences of my life.  I spent two days in a swamp removing an invasive species that was harming the environment (if you know anything about me, you know this was a big deal for me!), painted baseball facilities, went kayaking on the Mississippi River, and even spent a day in New Orleans where the beignets were every bit as good as I was told.  However, what stood out to me the most on this trip was learning about Hurricane Katrina and the very real affects it is still having on the community there in Biloxi.  We would ride around town, and I would be struck by this thought, “Wow. This used to be completely submerged under feet of water.  None of this used to be here.”  I was in the 5th grade when Katrina hit; it was something that never really had a lasting affect on me that had suddenly been brought sharply into focus.  I also felt that it was incredibly powerful that we came and partnered alongside folks who had worked in their communities for year without much support.  It seemed to me that we came alongside them and said, “Hey.  We see you.  We believe in you. Let us help.”  That’s a powerful and necessary message to share.

Senior Project Proposal. I’ve been talking about my senior project as if it has been a done deal for several months now.  However, while I have long known what I wanted to do, recently, I official turned in my first (and hopefully only) draft of the official project proposal. It will be reviewed by a committee, and Lord willing, it will be approved.  I am so incredibly excited to formally begin the process, but a bit nervous as it makes its way through the committee.  My project is unapologetically pro-Black and rooted very firmly in my own personal experiences.  I was quite concerned that it would be taken the wrong way until an old friend shared a message of encouragement with me: “It’s your truth, and it deserves to be heard.”  I’m resting at peace in that now.  My perspective and thoughts have value.

SPHINX.  Sphinx is senior honorary here at OSU and is the oldest honorary on campus; it was founded in 1907.  On Friday, I had the honor of being “linked” into the family.  Sphinx is one of the oldest traditions on campus, and I am incredibly proud to become a part of that legacy.  I’m looking forward to developing 23 new friendships over the course of the next year.  What made it even more special was the fact that my mom flew in to surprise me.  I was making the “Long Walk” from one end of the Oval to the other when I saw her and promptly burst into tears. My dear friend Dominique had called her months in advance to tell her I had gotten in so that she would have the opportunity to make arrangements to be here for me.  It was such a well-timed blessing to be able to celebrate such a momentous occasion with someone who loves me and to spend a relaxing weekend away from campus.  I think it was just what I needed to power through the next few weeks.

Looking ahead.  This coming week is the premier of my latest choreographic work, a trio, entitled Nou Led, Nou La.  I am so excited to be presenting our months of hard work, and to be on the other side of the stage for once.  You can visit here for more information about the entire concert, showtimes, and tickets.

Be blessed!

Love and Light,

Kylee

 

&…

Bear with me, the title will make sense in a bit, but first let me provide some context…

Today, the Department of Dance hosted one of the most iconic figures in dance, Arthur Mitchell.  He came and gave us an amazing overview of his incredible life — from growing up on the streets of Harlem, how he found dance, becoming the first Black man to dance with the New York City Ballet (then under the direction of George Balanchine), to when he founded his own, now world-renowned company, the Dance Theater of Harlem.  He’s such a beautiful soul, so full of joy and life at the wonderfully seasoned age of 81.  (His 82nd birthday is next month, actually!)

He talked so long that we didn’t have much time for questions,  but my hand shot up as soon as we were able.  I thought of this last night: How do we change the perception surrounding dance in the Black community and engage more Black youth in ways that encourage them to pursue dance professionally.  So often, there is this perception that dance is not good enough for us.  We have to achieve more, do better, and prove ourselves to society.  “Anybody can dance.  We need more Black doctors, lawyers, etc.” is what I’ve been told.  I asked Mr. Mitchell about this, and he told me that “you just that you have to make up your mind for yourself.  You set the example.”

In a blessed coincidence, I happened to be at the elevator at the same time that he and one of his dancers, Paunika Jones, were being escorted back to their car.  Paunika started chatting with me further about my question, and we ended up walking out of the building together.  She then proceeded to blow my mind and challenge every single perception of myself that I have. She asked me if I was taking the ballet class that Mr. Mitchell was teaching later today.  I told her no, and she asked why not.  I said, laughing, “Oh, I’m not a ballet dancer!”

She looked at me and said, “Do you hear yourself?”  I stopped and was immediately blown away by the way in which I was refuting myself.  Ballet is inextricable from all classical forms of dance.  I do ballet here in my studies at OSU.  I grew up in the ballet technique.  So why do I label myself?  Why do I put myself in a box?  That’s part of the problem, Paunika told me (in reference to engaging Blacks in dance).  We tell ourselves that we can’t do things; we limit ourselves in our minds.  Just because something isn’t my greatest talent, doesn’t mean I’m incapable of doing it.

I found myself tearing up.  My biggest fight since I’ve been in dance has been overcoming myself.  My insecurities about my body, about my technique, about my inadequacies — no one has ever given them to me.  They have all been dredged up and put on by me.  Mr. Mitchell said today in his talk that we can be anything that we want to be.  We just have to work to be our best selves at it…

My name is Kylee Cedreice Smith.  I am a Black dancer…

& a contemporary dancer

& a modern dancer

& a ballet dancer

& a choreographer

& a writer

&…

whatever else I ever want to be.

No more limits. No more, “I can’t.” Starting today.

Thank you OSUdance, for continually bringing me these opportunities that change me and allow me to grow in invaluable ways. Thank you to Arthur Mitchell for sharing, & thank you to Paunika Jones for taking a few minutes of your time to be a true mentor. 

Me & the Legend, Arthur Mitchell. 

   

  

Overcoming Aesthetic Differences: It’s All about Attitude

Happy 2016! I know it’s rather late in the game for me to be saying that, but this is my first post of 2016, and absolutely not to be the last.  I have been telling some of my latest followers that it is my goal this year to establish a more regular blogging schedule.  I am really learning so much in my life right now, and I want to share this journey with all of you.  So, please help me stay accountable and be on the look out for a post from me bi-weekly (every 2 weeks)!  I’ve made it a goal for this semester to be more regular and intentional about private and public self reflection, and my blog is a huge part of my public reflection.  I’m so excited to continue in this process with you.

Now, to the meat of this post —

Over the last five and half months, I have been working with one of our graduate students, Kristina D’onofrio, on her Masters of Fine Arts thesis project.  She had this amazing idea of incorporating the Psalms into dance, and when she told me about it in Fall 2014, I thought it was an amazing idea and definitely wanted to be a part of the work.  When Fall finally came, I was still committed to working with her.  However, it became really evident soon into the project that we have some really major aesthetic differences.  She’s an extremely talented ballet dancer, and I have never ever wanted to be a “‘trina” and have become really steeped in modern dance since I’ve been in this department.  I found myself feeling way out of my comfort zone and struggling to master the choreography as quickly the others were.

Then, we started having rehearsals with dancers from BalletMet’s trainee program — girls that were hard core ballerinas aiming to make real, professional careers out of ballet. I was so intimidated.  I had a scheduling conflict that caused me to be late to rehearsals, and so I would always be a little confused about what was happening.  This compounded with the insecurities I felt about being around these girls who were dancing in pointe and left me doubting myself.  I came into every rehearsal thinking, “These BalletMet dancers must think that I am a fat, lardo, trainwreck of a dancer.” (So many of my insecurities are still body centered, but I’m working on it.) I started dreading those two hours twice a week, and I saw myself as really insignificant to the overall success of the piece.  I spent a lot of time thinking, “How late is too late to drop out?  If I had known I would feel this way back in October, I would have definitely quit then.”  I carried this with me right into tech week.

But then, I had an amazing speaker come in and talk to my Buckeye Leadership Fellows cohort.  His name was Dwight Smith, and he founded a program called My Special Word, which goes out and talks to young people about their values and then helps them to come up with a word or group of words that they feel encompasses who they are or who they want to become.  He led my group through a similar activity.  The word I came up with is creator.  I want to create a better world for girls like me, especially in dance.  This has long been my goal.  I’m a dancer and a writer; I create movement, stories, and worlds with my body and with my words.  There — that’s who I am.  This reminder was so focusing and clarifying.

Here I was on the night of dress rehearsal suddenly realizing that I had been approaching this entire experience the wrong way.  I got to perform this past week.  That’s what I want to do with my life.  Not everybody has that opportunity, and I am so blessed to have even held a small part in making Kristina’s vision into reality.  Beyond that, I learned what it’s like to reconcile aesthetic differences; the challenge of this work will be in my heart and mind in the future, because I know that I’m not going to always like every dance that I’m a part of.  I also walk away from this experience with new friends — it’s so great to have bonded with dancers in a different field, and I hate that it took me so long to open up and let them in.  I found out that many of them were feeling the same way that I was about the choreography, and it was really cool to learn about their unique lives.

My mom always told me that your attitude can make a world of a difference in your situation.  She’s so right.  My performance was so much better because I finally brought an attitude of thankfulness and joy to my work.

Thank you so much, Kristina, for not giving up on me and letting me be a part of this.  I’m truly forever grateful.

Blessings and Light. 

Enjoy some pics of me and my cast! 

    
    
   

Fall 2015 – Reflections and Preparations

There are like a hundred other things that I could/need to be doing right now (sleeping, doing work, sleeping, reading one of the 20 books that are currently on my reading list, sleeping…), but the semester is nearing a close and some reflection and looking toward the future is long over due.

This has been one whirlwind of a semester.  I was crowned Ohio State’s African American Homecoming Queen/Miss Black and Gold (an experience in marginalization that opened my eyes to the reality surrounding students of color on this campus in a new way), and won first runner up in the district Miss Black and Gold pageant as well.  I have delved deeper into my minor in creative writing and discovered just how connected choreography and writing are and found so much confirmation that I am pursuing the right path.  In many ways, I’m excited and can’t believe that I only have three more semesters until my undergraduate career is over, but in other ways I’m so overwhelmed by my looming future.  I’m really excited about the year and a half left because I have decided upon a topic for my senior project and am beginning to embark on that journey.

I took a History, Theory, and Literature of Dance class last spring with the amazing Dr. Hannah Kosstrin (who is serving as the advisor for my senior project, yay!) which focused a great deal about the African/Africanist influence in modern dance (and ballet!) here in America.  My final research paper explored an interest I had in this topic and sought to help me better understand and accept my own self in this history.  The title was “Black Female Bodies in American Culture and Performance.”  This class really ignited a spark in me; I finished the paper, but found myself looking at race, identity, culture and community in almost everything around me.  As I was taking this class and doing this research, I was simultaneously choreographing Bloodlines.  All of these thoughts and ideas are closely bound to my own journey of self-love.  I seek to understand the Black dancing body as a whole in hopes to better know myself and where/how my own body can continue in the steps of my predecessors.

So this is my senior project — continuing to research Blackness in American dance and culture and to develop choreography (group and potentially some solo work) as a response to my research.  I am planning to do a distinction project, which will require me to do defend my thesis before a jury and then do some rewriting.  Overall, I am super excited to begin this journey, and I am incredibly thankful to the women who have inspired and helped me thus far — Dr. Hannah Kosstrin and Bebe Miller.  I am so looking forward to working with the both of them on this endeavor.

Hopefully, I will do a better job in the coming months of documenting my work and you all will be able to join me.

On a side note: I am writing this post on a laptop that I fear will quit on my at any moment… I am in desperate need of a new one that will allow me to record all of my notes and work without worry and unwarranted technological frustration.  If you would like to help me fill this need, please feel free to visit this link and make a donation.  I am so appreciative of every little bit! Thank you 🙂

 

The Power of a Movement: #UnconventionalBlackBeauty 

I originally wrote this about a week ago, and I finally worked up the gumption to post it.  So here we go…

I got a notification from Twitter this morning saying that some of my friends were tweeting about “#UnconventionalBlackBeauty.” Immediately, I logged on to see what it was all about. I was stunned by the message that Black women especially were sending through this simple hashtag. They were saying, “I am beauty too. I may not be Naomi Campbell with the slender nose and long straight hair extensions, and I may not measure up to the Eurocentric standards that define beauty in today’s society, but I am the image of beauty as much as they are.” It immediately struck a cord with me. I found myself getting emotional, because this message strikes so closely to my own heart as well.

In my opinion, being a Black dancer, is often like being told that you have to fit into a predetermined mold that you often cannot even begin to identify with. Maybe your body fits into the shape, but the color of your skin will never fit the mold. My body doesn’t fit the shape, and for this reason, I have literally hated my body, my God-given shape and genetics, since the 6th grade. I’ve struggled with a positive self-Image for so long that even now the lines still get blurry for me. It’s not that anyone explicitly told me that I was too fat (and too Black) to be a dancer, but I always knew that I would never be able to be a ballerina because I didn’t have the “body” for it. I told myself this so as to not give anyone else a chance to hurt me with this knowledge. I resented the things that made me look so much bigger than the other girls standing at the barre. At 12, I was mistaken for a 16 year old. At first, I thought that this was because of the way I looked in my face, but it was actually because of the way my body had developed.

My senior year in high school, the only thing I wanted to do was lose weight and get into a good dance program. For me those two were tightly linked because my biggest fear was that someone would reject me because they thought I was too big. It got to the point where I lied about my weight on some of my applications.

In college, I started to accept myself for who I was a little more. I’m fortunate to be in a dance department now that is comprised of a variety of body shapes and sizes. It became a little bit less of a worry for me, and after I returned from Costa Rica last June, I was finally able to say that I was happy with my body. I liked the way I looked. But then, those little voices of doubt started to eat away at that self-confidence. I look at pictures of my self and wish my thighs weren’t so big. I wish that I had a thigh gap and a super flat, toned stomach. I wish my leotard didn’t cut into my butt so much.

I’ve contemplated eating disorders. I was a middle schooler counting calories before I really even knew what they were. I’ve cried myself to sleep over this. Agonized over bathing suits and tights over this. I have been miserable because if this.

But today, I realized something: forget trying to fit into the mold. I am unconventional Black beauty. I have hips and a nice, big, round behind. I have thick thighs that spread when I sit down. My stomach isn’t always flat either. These are things that I identify with my ethnic heritage — with my mother and my grandmother and my great aunties — one of the very most important parts of who I am. So I have a message for the dance world: I’m done hating myself to try to make you love me. Either you can accept me as I am or miss out on the gift that God has given me to share with the world. I’m going to share it with or without your approval. I’m going to shatter the tired, Eurocentric standards of beauty and dance to pieces. You can either join me or stand in my wake. I will not rest until I can help another little black girl learn to love herself without all the struggle and heartache that I have endured. #UnconventionalBlackBeauty

Bloodlines

This weekend my first choreographed work, a solo entitled Bloodlines, premiered in the OSU Department of Dance’s Spring concert, “Absolute Existence.”  This piece was inspired by the lineage of my ancestors as African Americans in the Deep South.  All my life, I have grown up hearing stories about how my family lived and worked in Abbeville, South Carolina.  I have been brought up with a strong sense of pride in the people from whom I come, and their experiences of lynching and discrimination have fueled my desire to be all that I can be and to take advantage of the opportunities that they risked their lives to provide me with.

My distant uncle, Anthony Crawford was lynched in Abbeville in 1916 because he refused to settle for the poor price that a buyer offered him for his cotton crop.  His legacy has traveled from generation to generation to me, and I have been rocked with the understanding that one of my blood relatives was murdered in cold, hateful, and evil blood.  It fills me with a sort of righteous indignation akin to what I feel when the media splashes the death and mistreatment of youth like Martese Johnson, Mike Brown, and Trayvon Martin across my news screen.

Wess McBride, my paternal great-grandfather, my Great-Granddaddy, was the first black police officer in Abbeville County, where his grandfather was lynched.  He was also the first black sheriff’s deputy in the county as well.  This was a man that I knew; a man of whom I have faded memories.  I remember going to his house and sitting on his scratchy couch.  I remember his wrinkly face.  I know the stories that my father still tells of the kind of man he was today.  He was an upstanding man of integrity — much like the kind of woman I am striving to be today,

Mary Alice Smith, my paternal grandmother, my Nana, truly lived the role of the Help.  She started in domestic work at a young age, working in the homes of many affluent families in Abbeville as well.  She raised some families’ children from infancy, and they still hold her in high regard for this today.  She went on to work in the sewing and textiles fields, and carried herself with the dignity our ancestors has passed down.  For this reason, she was favored, and placed in positions of prominence in these fields as well.

Lastly, Walter Smith, my paternal grandfather, my Papa, was a man who has further instilled in me the value of hard work.  He worked on CSX Railroad, formerly Seaboard Coastlines, from the age of 14 until he retired.  He laid rail all the way up and down the Eastern seaboard.  The hot southern sun turned his skin a deep ebony, earning him the nickname Blue Steel because his skin had a faint blue tint. My Papa passed away when I was 11, but the color of his skin is something that has always resonated with me.  I look so much like him; in my baby pictures, he holds me to his face and our skin mingles together, almost the same shade.  Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes; I miss him so much.

These are the things that were in my spirit as I began the process of making this piece.  I wanted to honor my family, and all that they have done for me to be able to live the life that I currently enjoy.  Sharing this part of myself with the world has been an incredible experience.  I have been totally humbled by the responses that I have received, and I believe that it truly was a success.

I will close with the spoken word segment that I conclude my performance with:

These Bloodlines run strong in me. 

Coursing through my veins, driving me. 

See,

the blood on the root never dried. 

The fruit on the tree never died. 

No

A seed was planted. 

You — Uncle Anthony, Great-Granddaddy, Papa, Nana — live on in Me.

Below are pictures taken by my lovely classmate, Hana Newfeld, of Bloodlines.  

Enjoy.

Composition II: First Reflections and Analysis

This semester I took what has come to be one of my favorite courses in my undergraduate career thus far: Composition II. This course, taught by the amazing and incredibly talented, Susan Hadley (seriously, google her!), was a journey in choreography.  While we created several solo studies, we also discussed and had opportunities to work with groups on entrances and exits, formations, choreography, etc.  I learned and grew in my artistry so much as a result of this class.  The following is my first thoughts and reflections on my work in the course, circa September 30, 2014. Enjoy!

I think one of my main difficulties thus far has been locomotion.  I have been told that I am a “stand and deliver” kind of dancer.  In some ways, I avoid creating extremely active choreography because it is harder for me personally to produce and to fully realize in my own body.  I have this worry of forgetting my choreography while presenting, so I make up things that are easier for me to recall and perform well.  Furthermore, my life right now does not lend itself to hours spent in the studio perfecting material.  So when I do have the time to choreograph, I put together something that my body and I can remember with less practice; unfortunately, this leads to the creation of the “same old, same old,” regular movement style that I am familiar and comfortable with: “stand and deliver.”  I’ve found that when I am pushed to go beyond this, however, the material becomes much more “interesting” in many ways.  I think that in order to explore these new areas, I have to push myself to turn down the road less traveled and trust myself to have the ability to make it to the end.  Even failure can lead to much gain.  

Another issue that I have struggled with is being authentic with my weight.  I have this idea of falling as a bad thing, so its use tends to be on a very superficial level.  Last week, in my inversion study, Susan coached me to really use my weight in an honest manner.   What happened? The piece traveled.  I think in many ways, addressing this problem will, in turn, help to solve the other.  I feel that the reason that I do not use my weight is because it is not something that always works well with my current choreographic sensabilities.  I don’t tend to simply improv, throw my weight around, and go wherever my body wants to go.  I much more prefer to put my body where I want it to go.  In fact, I find it extremely difficult to follow my body’s “lead” because oftentimes, I have put it in places from which the options are very limited.  Perhaps exploring a new method of choreography will help me solve both of my issues and arrive at the end of this journey with a greater sense of confidence in mobility and authenticity in weight.