Armando catches up with international star Isabel Lewis. She is in Basel and has a free moment in her busy schedule while preparing for the world famous Art Basel exhibition fair….
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?
I think the first thing I wanted to be was an artist. At the age of I understood an artist to mean being a painter. For birthday presents I would only ever ask for an easel, palette, and new colors to paint with. Then for a while I wanted to be a US president but that dream was crushed when my parents told me that because I was born in Santo Domingo, DR I could not become a US president. I got over that disappointment by focusing my attention to becoming a dancer an fulfilled that dream. In some ways yes, I think always wanted to be both creatively and politically engaged.
Favorite Things to eat?
Tough one…I love good food! Especially super fresh vegetable-based cuisine. If I think of my most intense food experience I remember a piece of sushi I had that was a fresh and sweet raw scallop with a sprinkling of truffled salt. Divine! Favorite works of fiction are Octavia Butler’s collection of short stories called Blood Child, Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude, Written on the Body by Jeneatte Winterson, William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Favorite works of nonfiction are Simians, Cyborgs and Women by Donna Haraway, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, by Ion Culiano and The Normal Chaos of Love by Elizabeth Beck Gernsheim and Ulrich Beck.
The first that spring to mind are Avatar for the beautiful depiction of the ‘Tree of Souls’ and Black Panther especially for the Kendrick Lamar soundtrack.
Ralph Lemon definitely. And the duo of Michael Jackson and his choreographer from Thriller Michael Peters.
I like dancers who…
…have a deep, grounded and calm presence. This often comes with the confidence age can bring so I love working with a multi-generational group of performers!
I am afraid of…
…rigid and conservative, black-or-white thinking in all forms whether dressed as “liberalism” or “conservativism” My life experience shows me that everything is always more nuanced and complex than one thinks.
A dance piece should…
…hold space for experiences that cannot be expressed in words, that go way beyond the rational and awaken our empathic humanity.
One of the happiest moments in your life?
Honestly, whenever I am on the dance floor celebrating with people I love.
Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?
My mother for teaching me everything I know about elegance, hospitality, and strength, my father for giving me the confidence to believe in my intellect and my intuition, my siblings for being constant sources of inspiration, Donna Faye Burchfield my university dance professor for expanding the field of understanding of what dance could be, Earl Mosely, a teacher of mine at the Alvin Ailey School, for not allowing me to stand at the back of the dance class and hide, Nicola Lees, Jessica Morgan, Kelly Kivland, Catherine Wood, Elvira Dyangani Ose and all the incredible women curators that have championed my work and all the people that I’ve been in love with. Love relationships seem to be a constant growth machine.
One of the hardest things about your job?
All the administrative work! Endless emails, phone calls, excel sheets etc.!
Why do you think there are not as many female choreographers as male choreographers?
I simply don’t think that is true. I do think that press and media attention is skewed to acknowledge and recognize men more readily than it does women but that proves a flaw of our current society not a lack of working female choreographers.
Is there something the collective dance world can do increase the number of women in power?
The collective dance world should do its research, open its eyes to the many women, trans, and nonbinary people doing radical and experimental work. These figures may not be found working in the most obvious of places.
If you could change one thing in the dance world, what would it be?
I would change the notion that dance is something separate from life. I would wish for an understanding of dance that honors it as a profound part of being human and of communicating with our world and all the life and nonlife within it. I would wish for an understanding of dance that recognizes Western techniques like Ballet or Modern a teeny tiny sliver of the entire world of possible accessible life-affirming dance forms.
If you could change one thing in the REAL world, what would it be?
I would wish for the end of a worldview and value system that justifies the exploitation of some people, species, and resources for the unsustainable notion of never-ending economic “progress”
Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?
So many I wouldn’t even know where to begin…First that comes to mind is learning and practicing permaculture and agroforestry.
A piece of advice for aspiring artists who want to do what you are doing?
Trust your intuition. Try to calm yourself and find the quiet place inside yourself and move forward from that place. Each person has a unique expression and perspective on the world we just often allow it to be overshadowed by insecurity or doing what we think we should do because of what we where taught or told. Training is a wonderful tool! Use that tool to propel your journey but don’t get stuck on perfectionism! And …don’t negotiate or propose projects over email! Face to face meetings always more effective! Humans are humans and so sharing presence or at least exchanging over the phone with the voice produces stronger connections.
Want to dance with Isabel Lewis at Art Basel 2019??? We extend an exciting invitation from Creative Time to participate in a public dance event specifically created for Art Basel! ALL ARE WELCOME to sign-up for free movement workshops with international star, Isabel Lewis, and be a part of the “Basilea” project.
Those who sign-up through the link below will receive a FREE ticket to the Art Basel Fair and a FREE dance class at the Braswell Arts Center! For more information about the project and to sign-up, please see the following link: https://goo.gl/rmwgua