Still on the Planet Practicing My Art

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 DONNE “the Wychdokta” LEWIS

I was struck by sickness in early April. In July of 2020, as I write this, I am still in recovery from what was most likely COVID-19, though I have no proof. Due to a failure of the ER, I was not actually tested until long after I ceased to have a fever. This illness tries to steal my breath and, in fact, I am still suffering from asthma-like symptoms, something I never previously experienced. However, I am also one month into a virtual teacher training course for Pilates, which I expected to complete a year ago, in person. At that point on my time continuum, I had just completed a four-month self-directed artist residency in Belize, Central America from December 2018 through March of 2019, just after completing a month-long artist residency in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my home from the summer of 2006 to the fall of 2018.

While conducting sand dance development nearly eight hours a day/seven days a week in Belize, I envisioned staging a fully developed sand dance piece in a theater with a large audience. Likely nothing will ever compare to this time in my life, where daily trips to the farmer’s market and dancing in an open-air theater space were the staples of my agenda, to be interrupted only for coffee breaks or french fries from the downstairs food truck. Occasionally, the bats and mosquitoes attempted to evict me from this wondrous space at dusk. Most often, I won this battle, though the mosquitoes routinely left me wounded.

Opening for a new music festival, and producing a full concert for an art gallery show within the first six months of arriving in Washington DC, was supposed to be just the beginning of my journey to execute “Operation Dance Professional.” The tip of the iceberg, where I debuted my newfound melding of Reiki healing with sand dance as a movement meditation. That was before the concerts I’d planned, the benefits for which I’d volunteered, and a scheduled hospital artist residency, were all cancelled courtesy of COVID-19.

In 2020, “making it” as a dancer means something completely different to me than it did in the fall of 2018. In 2020, “making it” as a dancer means something completely different to every dance artist, worldwide, thanks to the coronavirus. Personally, I am more appreciative of the part-time office job that is keeping me fed and providing health insurance, and maybe even the Airbnb gig that paid for part of my rent in the pre-COVID days. My previously very narrow vision of stage and fame/acclaim has expanded to development, service to self and community, and gratitude for the opportunity to still be on the planet practicing my art.

Photo of Donne Lewis dancing with broom in forest

Photo by Artis Moon Amarche

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Donne “the Wychdokta” Lewis is a Washington DC-based movement artist, and has been a dancer and musician for the past 20 years. She has spent the past five years developing the art of sand dance. She defines her version of this dance form as barefoot dancing on sand. Also a Reiki healing practitioner, Donne is on a journey to create a moving meditation, utilizing elements of dance, Pilates and other movement techniques to help guide herself and others through the inner landscape of the mind to improved mental and physical health.

Follow Donne at Instagram.com/wychdokta.

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