BY MICAYLA DURAN
Editorial Note: Each August for the past six years, I’ve asked dance artists at different points in their careers what “making it” means to them. Please join us in looking at what “making it” means as a dancer, artist and human.
Did you “make it?” Usually this type of question refers to the knitted scarf I’m wearing or the gifts I tend to give those I love around the holidays. I never put much thought into whether I had “made it” regarding dance until preparing to write this piece. So much of “making it,” commonly called success, is based on one’s perspective. I have been so caught up in the day-to-day rhythm of my family/work/creative life that I don’t take the time to ponder my success in all its forms. I just know that I am happy and dancing, and that is good enough for me. Besides, I have an alternative perspective of what success looks like as a dancer.
Presently I dance regularly and try to challenge myself as an artist with character work and endurance performances. To top it all off, I am dancing in the vast mountainous desert of New Mexico. I grew up here, so to have a good quality of life along with the privilege of performing and being paid to hone my craft is pretty unbelievable. Over the past year, I performed more than ever – in galleries, site-specific works, Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, private investment dinners and music festivals. It has kept me creatively engaged and challenged. Most of the work I perform is structured improvisation. It often interacts with the audience, pushing against or entirely breaking the fourth wall. I have not performed in a traditional theater in years, due to lack of access and the chasm I feel between the audience and myself. Being in close proximity to the audience creates an intimate and vulnerable environment, forcing me to encounter my fears and elations.
As I ride this performance wave, I genuinely feel good about my current relationship with dance. I am a member of Uroboros, a small collective of dancers who gather to investigate, push boundaries and work on prompts both for performance and the sake of dancing. We work collaboratively and currently consist of four members, three of whom are mothers. There have been moments when childcare falls through for one of us and we bring our children to rehearsal. In those moments I feel highly successful – because I can bridge two parts of my life that traditionally do not intermingle.
At one point in my youth, I had hoped to join a dance company in a bigger city and devote myself to training. Those aspirations changed as I met life head-on and chose to have a family. In college, I performed at 7.5 months pregnant much to the dismay of the head of the dance department. She did not think I should be performing in my ‘condition.’ However, I had the support of the other faculty and was able to audition for pieces and perform alongside my peers. It was a powerful experience to show my peers and professors that one could be a dancer and a mother. In the dance world, women often give up dancing once they have a child. It is a world mostly populated by women, yet uninhabited by children. I had a visiting choreographer grossly assume that my pregnancy was ‘an accident.’ He could not understand why I would want to have a child. This prevailing attitude in the dance world continues to create difficulties for dancers who are also parents.
Thankfully the culture around performance art and dance in Santa Fe is shifting. In current projects, I have received so much support from directors and collaborators in prioritizing my children. Yesterday, I had to step down from a project because my sons became ill. The directors reached out to see how my sons were feeling. The effort I have witnessed as of late in supporting dancing parents brings me hope for future dancers/parents.
My sons and my partner are very supportive of my pursuit of dance. When I have to leave dinner early or skip our bedtime routine for a late rehearsal, they send me off with warm hugs. They attend my performances with enthusiasm, followed with bouquets of praise. I feel blessed to know they have my back and appreciate the work I am creating.
“Making it” as a dancer is about continuing to dance, to move my body, to think spatially and sculpturally and to enjoy it! I am grateful that I still have the capability to dance. I train when I can, and I have come to terms with what my body can do and should not do. I do not and cannot rely on dancing as my financial backbone, yet I can negotiate my fees for performing and have plentiful teaching and performance opportunities. Finding creative community in Uroboros and Micaela Gardner Projects is a huge feat, especially in a small city in the southwest. Connecting with other dancers who I enjoy and look to for creative content feels like I checked off a box on my master list of life. Dance is a big part of who I am as a person, a mama and a teacher. As I journey along, I hope to cultivate dance, dance, and more dance.
Micayla Durán is a co-founder of Uroboros, a movement collective based in Santa Fe, NM. She received her BA in contemporary dance from the University of New Mexico. She continues to study improvisation techniques with JoAnna Mendl Shaw, as well as the gaga movement language. Micayla has had the honor of dancing under the direction of Micaela Gardner, Deirdre Morris, JoAnna Mendl Shaw, Melissa Briggs and Vladimir Conde-Reche.