Tell me Something I don’t know (Name of the Column)
“Not hearing the music gives freedom to the movements”
The American choreographer visited Brasil with the Next Level Project, that uses music to promote exchange and overcoming differences
“I’m 40 years old, born and raised in Los Angeles. I overcame my partial hearing disability through therapies and the confidence I gained in dance. With a career of 21 years, I’m the founder, artistic director and choreographer of the Lux Aeterna Dance Company and choreographer and dancer of the ILL Abilities Crew”.
Tell me something I don’t know.
When we can’t hear the music, we don’t have instructions about what we should follow during a presentation. And that gives us a lot of freedom, because we can be free to give life to movements. But it can also be scary, as it’s a great challenge. Until this day I feel challenged by it.
What is your relation to music during performances?
Since my hearing is restricted, many people accused me of not dancing. They would say that I was only jumping in circles. Music was, indeed, very difficult for me and I had to get around this situation. I would pay attention to the audience’s body movements and their clapping to understand the rhythm. However, that wasn’t enough, because I couldn’t see people anymore once I started dancing and spinning.
How did this unfold in your career?
I started to develop ways of dancing in the silence, in a manner that there was no cadence, nor instructions. I can do whatever I want. It’s an existentialist form of dancing.
How did you get to hip-hop?
When I was a teenager, my parents put me in a private school, because they thought I would be protected from problems, such as violence and drugs. But it was bad, because everyone was white and rich there. I was bullied, didn’t have any friends and reacted badly, until I was expelled. After going through another institution, I finally went to a public school, like I wanted. There, I could dress as I felt comfortable in, and then I began wearing hip hop clothes. One day, a group of kids dressed like me, stopped me. I thought I was in trouble, but they just asked me if I danced. I replied that I didn’t, but I wanted to learn. So they began teaching me, until I was able to develop my own style.
And you took this story ahead…
When it was time to go to college, everyone stopped dancing. On a certain day, I read in a newspaper about a group of youth that was teaching teenagers to dance, for free. I recognized some of them and went to see it. I went back to practicing and we started performing in events, until we participated in a music video that gave us a lot of visibility.
Why is hip-hop so powerful?
Hip hop saves lives. When it was created, the dance substituted the violent confrontation between youth, many of which didn’t have any hopes or future. The participants would simulate fighting movements, without however being able to touch one another. It was an emotional exit, transformed into something physical.
You took all this power to a group of people with disabilities, the ILL-Abilities?
It’s a group of six people that live in different countries and have different disabilities, which makes them fantastic dancers. In hip hop, some hand movements become easier for people that don’t have one leg, for example, as well as the creative opportunities are much different when your legs are too short, or you only have one arm.
What are the results?
The work of the members encourages people to not settle and show them that their conditions are not a problem. In some countries, having a disability is considered something embarrassing, and people end up isolated behind closed doors. So we show them how they can go beyond what others define as limits.