Editorial Note: For the past eight years, Stance on Dance has asked a variety of 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.
BY KAYLA BANKS
I want to start off by saying thank you to Emmaly Wiederholt for creating this wonderful platform for artists of multiple mediums and practices. I was not sure how to speak on the topic related to the construct of “making it” as an artist or person in any industry trying to strive for success. I have most certainly been a bystander of perfectionism and production in the arts industry; constantly trying to be better technically and artistically, giving myself away to training programs and professional development seminars.
As I have pushed through, I will say that I have received great opportunities to dance and create. Last year, I had another stride of wanting to achieve and do more. I left and lost a relationship very dear to me in order to pursue that higher goal, which for me was dancing in a professional company, whereas most of my work since college has been project based. I left Oregon to dance with Cleo Parker Robinson’s second dance company. I felt it was my calling; Colorado and Cleo Parker Robinson are places I call home. I was so devastated by the ending of my relationship that I barely made it through my contract and got to a point of dropping any idea of working in the arts in any capacity.
I applied for and received a scholarship to start pursuing medical billing and coding. Yet here I am during a global pandemic working in the arts industry coordinating online Zoom classes for Jacob’s Pillow, teaching and performing my own dance, and dancing with Dancing Earth Indigenous Dance Creations. I am literally making a living from art. This is truly an incredible blessing. I left my dance contract with Cleo Parker Robinson during the beginning stages of the pandemic to start medical billing and coding only to be back doing what I love, which is being and working in the arts community.
So what is “making it?” I read through some of the past years’ essays on “making it.” I was drawn in by what Deirdre Morris wrote about: “If asked what ‘making it’ means to me, I would say it is more of an internal feeling… that you create and make and shift and adjust and make room for what is there to be discovered, rather than an outside voice telling you that you have ‘made it.’ Instead, you are simply making because you are compelled to practice and research and be the creative soul you are.”
Right now, arts organizations and artists are in trouble. However, this is the time to step up and create, now more than ever. The arts community has been here before, like the constant fluctuations of the economy. We must be able to ride the waves, making adjustments and the cuts necessary to sustain. It is a harsh reality, but I truly believe that artists are the most resilient beings on this planet. Maybe this means having a backup career, leaving the arts industry, or having several jobs? The terms are for the individual and the organization to make. For me, my mindset is that I can overcome any obstacles that come into my life. This is because art and the arts community are what has allowed me to heal. The phrase “Dance We Must” comes to mind. We must continue in the way that suits us and our individual pathways.
I have nothing to prove to anyone about my value as a human or my ability to give and create in the arts industry, whether that be as a dancer, teacher or creator. I have no idea what the future holds, but I continue to move forward. I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had as an artist, and I will continue to be a part of the arts community. “Making it,” to me, simply means waking up each day, breathing, living, giving gratitude, and striving to make and live in a better world.
Photo by Masumi Cat
Kayla Banks (professional choreographer, dancer and actress) is from Denver, Colorado where she received her BA in Performing Arts and Business Administration from Colorado State University. She has danced professionally with Impact Dance Company, Dancing Earth Indigenous Dance Creations and Cleo Parker Robinson. She has performed nationally in cities from Los Angeles to New York City at The Public Theater under the choreographic direction of Emily Bufferd. She has choreographed for dance festivals in Colorado, The Portland Musical Theatre Co., Anya Pearson: Shaking Tree Theatre, and New Expressive Works. She is also a dance teacher in studios, outreach programs and dance schools such as Colorado Ballet, The Portland Ballet and Cleo Parker Robinson. She is currently working as a project manager with Jacob’s Pillow online summer programming. She is based in Denver, Colorado.
Oct. 25th and Nov. 15th: Work in-progress Dancing Earth Apocalypse Premiere
Oct. 23rd: Live streaming of the Be About Love Festival