NEA Choreography Fellow I California Brody Arts Fellow I Los Angeles Vanguard Choreographer I Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts
in the beginning ~
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” e. e. cummings
I was born with good fortune to parents who raised me in a culturally diverse, conscientious, and globally responsive environment. From my visual artist father, Clay, born in New Orleans, Louisiana—a painter, woodblock and linocut artist, Peace Corps volunteer, and political cartoonist of African American Blackfoot Indian French Creole patois-speaking lineage—and from my opera-trained political activist mother, Sylvia, from Brooklyn, New York and born of Russian Jewish Yiddish-speaking parentage, I inherited an expansive worldview, an aesthetic and moral imagination, and a deep sense of humanitas.
I grew up in Los Angeles in a working class home,—my early years in Compton, California where I went to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Elementary School, then later in the Silverlake-Los Feliz community where I graduated from Micheltorena Elementary School, Thomas Starr King Junior High, and John Marshall High School. Globally I came of age amid several beloved communities: The People’s World; The First Unitarian Church; Friendship Day Camp then led by Ezra Weintraub; the Silverlake neighborhood Jewish Community Center; NCCJ Brotherhood Anytown Camp; and the Los Angeles Inner City Cultural Center. Each contributed to my sense of what it means to be human and continues to ground my core ethos: the intrinsic dignity of every human being.
At age three I began dance studies under the burgeoning eye of Joan Chodorow. She’d been teaching weekly at my nursery school. She alerted my parents to what she perceived to be my gifts and thus I began attending her Saturday morning dance classes. I loved it! For a child with a rich inner life, dance offered a world within a world,—a way to bridge my interior life with my external perceptions. Joan writes about her auspicious beginnings in her 1991 book, Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology: The Moving Imagination : “Teaching dance, particularly to children, helped me reconnect to an essential creative source. [I] opened my own school in East Los Angeles [when] I was asked to teach a group of 3-year-olds. As I watched them, I realized that everything [was] a mirroring of the world in movement. [When] they remembered something, they enacted the memory. It was a revelation [that] children learned about the world and about themselves through their bodies” (12). I was one of those 3-year-olds. Joan’s beginnings into her own life’s work established a formidable root for my lifelong evolution as a dancer and dance maker, contemporary artist, teacher, and scholar.
“Painstaking work, then the swan spreads its wings.” Rumi
As serendipity would have it, fifty years later I earned my doctoral degree writing on a poetics of the body from the very school where Jungian, Post-Jungian, and Depth Psychology are taught in the U. S. : Pacifica Graduate Institute,—home of the James Hillman Collection; The Joseph Campbell Library; and Marija Gimbutas Archives.
“We are poems!” James Hillman, Archetypal Psychologist
here from there / a community vision
Becoming a Reno, Nevada resident in 1988—then on the Nevada Arts Council’s Artist-in-Residence roster since 1986 and teaching and performing throughout much of the state’s rural communities—I had accepted the offer to become the Director of Dance of the University of Nevada’s Dance Program. By 2000, I moved into the state’s first live-work artist residence: the Riverside Artist Lofts,—a city project initiated by the local arts organization Sierra Arts Foundation in partnership with ARTSPACE, Inc. based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Riverside Artist Lofts is located in the heart of downtown Reno above the Truckee River, an area of the city envisioned as the biggest little city’s arts district. As a Sierra Arts Foundation Board member (1997-2000), not only did I advocate for this timely partnership with the City of Reno, but was encouraged to apply. Following an interview and review of my portfolio I was accepted as the first artist to move into the newly renovated historic building.
I had a vision for how I wanted my live-work artist loft to function. More than being a place to live and having studio space in which to work, I wanted my loft to be open to my community-at-large. There’s a phrase, a concept, an action that traditionally comes from religious communities: radical hospitality. For 20 years The Lighthouse/Studio 5 O 2 has served as a radical hospitality place where not only community residents, local and national civic leaders, and practicing artists are brought together, but also where I have taught Somatics, Fletcher and Classical Pilates and Eve Gentry Fundamentals, and have produced house concerts,—intimate, inspiring, and inclusive. It has been my joy and privilege to invite people to my home, collaborating with and hosting artists from New York to Los Angeles, and maintain a place of and for beauty in all its forms and guises. “Heart lies in the visionary” (“Artuk Bey” Resurrection: Ertugrul, Season 5, Ep. 36). A’ho.