“I was born in Gary, Indiana. Raised by a single mother in a family of three children, I am the oldest.
The first man to take care of me as a child was my grandfather, before my mother met my stepfather. He was the father figure, the male role model in my life. When it came to dancing and I started to take a serious liking to it, as an older man from the South, it was hard for my grandfather to understand. He was simply not accustomed to male dance artistry.
My mother pushed us to partake in many activities, keep us off the streets and out of trouble. Track and Field, basketball, baseball and dance, though good at all of them, my passion was dance. An instructor took a liking to me. She encouraged me to work on my skills. Her advice was followed.
Around the age of eight, I started taking part in plays and performances in small music halls. By 13, I began professionally training in African, Jazz, Ballet, Modern and Hip-Hop techniques.
My passion was certainly deepening.
The time and energy put forth was vigorous and unrelenting. The teachers whom groomed me were just as passionate about teaching me, sculpting me, and supporting me as my heart was. They did not let up. South Shore Dance Alliance, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, and Ballet Chicago became the foundation of my dance artistry.
By the summer of my seventeenth year, I was prepared to enrol in a Summer dance internship at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. The experience was astounding for someone like me.
Small city boy bites into the Big Apple of New York.
Thinking back, I believe I always had a connection to dance and music from a very young age. Constant music was played around our house. My mother loved music. She would sing to us and we’d watch music TV shows. I fell in love with it all. The dancing, the music, even my mother’s singing. Has been a journey forward since then. After that summer at Ailey, I (Gary, Indiana boy now a young man) moved to New York. Yes, the transition was hard; I completed my senior year at a new school, in a new state and city, with none of my friends or family around me. From that moment on, dance did not become my life. I became its life.
Where do I source my energy from?
For the physical part, one has to get plenty of rest. One has to be able to recharge. One has to take out time for oneself. To me, me-time is important. To enjoy some quiet moments on my own, with no one around. It gives me time to be at peace with myself.
When I am tired, or I do not feel like dancing, I reflect on why I am doing it, and where I am trying to go with it.
This is so much bigger than me.
It is not about me, about what I am doing or why I am doing it. It is about sharing my life experiences and using the gift of dance as my voice. I am bringing my real life experiences to the stage with faith that I will touch somebody or that someone will be encouraged or inspired from my story.
My responsibility towards society as an artist.
Every artist has a responsibility. Special talents and aptitude have been given to us for a reason. Everybody has been born with special abilities. You have to use your gift for the right reasons. You have to use it to help others. There are other artists out there who look up to me, or want to hear my story or want to connect with me in some way. It is my responsibility to help other young men feel comfortable with who they are as male dance artist. It is also quite all right to be yourself and not to be afraid. You have to use your artistic skills for your own advancement and thus help others. Art can help your own development and entice others. If you can progress to a better person yourself and help others to better themselves, maybe this will bring change to the world. Your story can help change somebody else. It can. I have seen it happen many times.
I am inspired by the artists I work with. I am inspired by their stories. It is very important to support each other. Every day I learn something new. Even about myself. I am grateful. All artists should be grateful for what they have and share it. The more grateful you are the more blessings will come your way.
How I feel on stage…
I do not feel like it is me on stage. I feel like something is directing me. I meditate before going on stage. I ask the creator to use me to deliver the message, whatever the message is for this specific performance. When I am performing, it is a warm feeling. A feeling of being free. Every day on stage is different. Sometimes, I come off stage crying tears of joy. I am just grateful to do what I do! I feel energized and bursts of adrenaline run through me every time I am on stage.
Memories of a specific performance dear to my heart.
It was in High School when my grandfather came to see one of my performances. It was just before I left for NY and it was the first time he ever saw me on stage. He came after the show and he said: “You are very good, you have my blessing. Be great, go ahead!”
At that moment, I knew I had to make it. My grandfather is very important to me. I look up to him. He was the male figure in my life at that time. I will always remember that moment. He respected me as a young man, he saw how passionate I was and that I loved what I was doing. His grandson was doing something he was not familiar with. Still he was open and it touched him in some way, so much so that he gave me his blessings.
There are so many perceived ideas about male dancing artists, in any culture. The reality is that there are many different types of male dance artists. First and foremost, whoever you are, whatever you are, you are a person first, endowed with a special gift. A gift that that creator gave you. It is not about being masculine or feminine. It is about your artistry. People have to broaden their minds and open there hearts to new perspectives, understand and respect that first. That is what happened with my grandfather. He was there for me, his grandson. He opened up his mind and his heart. He saw dancing was something that I loved to do and was really good at.
If everyone could have that moment that my grandfather had, that would be amazing for male dance artists.
They would feel the support of the male figures in their life, to whom they look up to for guidance and structure. This would take them even further. I wish every father or father figure had the same experience that my grandfather had.”