Editorial Note: Each August for the past four years, I’ve asked dance artists at different points in their careers what “making it” means to them. Please join us this month in looking at what “making it” means as a dancer, artist and human.
BY LEAH WILMOTH
Studying visual art, vocal performance, theater and dance for most of my life has given me the gift of creative choices. But despite my interest and commitment to other forms of art, I’ve primarily chosen to make dance.
I know dancers who are members of Trisha Brown’s company, who dance at award shows, in music videos, on cruise ships, and concert tours. But I also know dancers who love to take Barre classes before they head off to their nine-to-five jobs. So what does “making it” as a dancer mean? I feel like I’ve made it as a dancer because I am supported by and get to collaborate with a community of highly talented movers who may or may not pursue dance professionally, but nonetheless, choose to physically express themselves through movement. To me, “making it” as a dancer means choosing to embody creative expression.
My mother enrolled me and my sisters in dance classes because we were always dancing around the house and it was an activity she could get all of us into at once. My formative years were spent dancing at Glenn’s School of Dance in Howell, MI. While there (from three to 18 years old) I learned the fundamentals of ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical. During college, I continued to dance at a local studio, but it wasn’t until after college when I chose to explore conceptual and improvised movement, and create my own choreography (a process that was and still is very freeing, humbling and intimidating).
Even as an undergraduate art history major, I couldn’t resist finding correlations between 1960s post-modern sculpture and the Judson Dance Theater. I still consider dance/movement to be the most complex form of expression. However, it is also so simple – it only requires a body. It’s therapeutic – it helps me express the many sides of myself all at once. And it’s healthy – it encourages me to stay nimble physically and be aware of myself in space in relation to others. Maybe I keep choosing to express myself through dance because it’s a holistic outlet for creativity.
As a creative expression, dance comes in an abundance of forms: graceful, humorous, narrative, abstract, pedestrian, aggressive, good and bad. And as dancers, we choose to make movements that are courageous and curious. We choose to collaborate with and care about our creative community. We choose what “making it” means. But the choice to dance is always the first step.
Leah Wilmoth grew up in rural Michigan and started dancing when she was three years old. She likes to make movements that are confident and whimsical. Currently living in Portland, OR, she is passionate about adult learning and the arts, and as an academic advisor gets to help students make their goals a reality.