The closure of Temple University’s campus in light of the worldwide pandemic shifted my life tremendously. From finishing my senior year online, taking virtual dance classes and not having the opportunity to walk across the stage- I never imagined I would be where I am now. I was forced to rethink, adjust and transform my original post-graduation plans. I always dreamed of starting my own dance company, but later on in life. With everything becoming virtual, I realized I could take advantage of this time and begin navigating the professional dance world as a choreographer and dancer. And thus, my company Monét Movement Productions: The Collective was founded in May 2020.
The Collective cultivates artistry through innovative choreography and intentional movement. With works that generate meaningful connections, we provide captivating images and experiences for both the dancers and audience members. By sharing stories that are personal, social and/or cultural in nature we represent the collective and the world around us. After solidifying a name, I began applying to a plethora of opportunities to share my choreographic works. I received my first acceptance to present as a New Artist in the 11th Annual Making Moves Dance Festival- ‘Switchin’ It Up’ curated by the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.
Two dancer’s silhouetted shadows against a cloudy sunset of a city skyline and water. They have one foot flexed in front of the body, while the other knee is bent. Their arms are bent close to the body in a state of suspended transition.
The work featured was titled ‘Rebirth’, a restaging of a piece I created and performed at Temple University’s Student Dance Concert (Spring 2019). The original creation was reflective of my interpretation of the quote ‘Be you. Love you. Always, all ways’, by Alex Elle. It embodied a journey of self-reflection in opposition to the beauty standards held in society. This new version expanded and evolved in meaning and length. ‘Rebirth’ now exemplifies a journey of self-reflection, discovery, realization and love to understand that you are not defined by society and external conditions.
With the world shifting to virtual platforms to accommodate the “new normal”, our entire rehearsal process occurred through Zoom. This approach challenged me as I assumed the role of both artistic director and choreographer. We engaged in copious amounts of dancer/choreographer collaboration thus giving the dancers more artistic freedom. We focused more on storytelling, connecting to the music and reworking the original piece to fit a digital space. We successfully learned a 12-minute piece in 5 rehearsals which culminated in a dance on film production.
Two dancers stand in blue dresses against a nature background of green trees where the trees’ shadows stretch along the ground, engulfing the dancers own shadows. Their blue dresses are swayed from a quick movement and their arms are outstretched in front of their bodies, crossed at the forearms.
Presenting ‘Rebirth’ at the Making Moves Dance Festival was a gratifying experience that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I stepped into the role of director/video producer. I expanded my capabilities as an artistic director and have fallen in love with creating dance films. Family, friends and Temple faculty who supported me thoroughly enjoyed the work making my heart swell with immense joy and gratitude. ‘Rebirth’ will always have a special place in my life as it was my company debut. I look forward to displaying the film at other choreographic showcases as I begin my company’s second project, a restaging of my senior thesis ‘868 Irving Street’!
Makayla Peterson Temple BFA in Dance, A smiling Makayla in white button down shirt and black shorts against the background of a window of a city building, stretches her arms fully in line with her shoulders while gazing toward her right hand. Her legs are bent at a 90 degree angle, parallel with her arms, and balancing on the balls of her feet with raised heels.
Surya Swilley MFA in Dance, Adjunct Professor at Temple University
Crash, boom, rewind! My head was spinning, heart was racing, and I felt my adrenaline rushing at warp speed. Rehearse, rewrite, polish, go back, and repeat!
What is the intention? What did you mean by that? Let’s revise. Repeat.
I experienced a whirlwind of emotions, and wasn’t exactly sure of the extent of the labor that would go into producing an evening length concert.
I remember in the spring semester of this year, (January 2019) I began rehearsals and had no idea what I was doing. I was forcing myself to enter the studio with this idea of using a table as a prop, but had no idea how to be in collaboration with the table to get my point across. I experienced a significant amount of frustration while trying to verbalize to my dancers what my vision was, but the reality is, I wasn’t sure. The only thing I did know was that I needed to get moving towards generating a show. It was arduous.
I was influenced by several vignettes inside of black history and protest in the United States to develop “Between the Intervene”. Not that I interpreted these events as dramatized episodes towards freedom, but I recognized the choreographic protest inside of historical spaces such as lunch counter sit-ins, how black children navigate what can be an anxiety provoking experience while sitting at school desks, and the trauma inflicted onto black consciousness and black body while sitting behind the wheel in a vehicle. All of this, while knowing that one’s hands need to be placed on the dashboard to be visible in the face of police. These are the historical and contemporary notions that influenced the work, but the lens through which I decided to share the choreography was through honesty, and that was rooted in my truth inside of being a queer black woman.
While developing this work, I came out. I reckoned with my truth inside of my gender expression and sexuality, and it freed me to embark on a more truthful journey inside of other things. It is interesting how the development of this work, and my coming out contain a parallel inside of the timing. I was influenced by the freedom of transparency as I deepened inside of the work, and what emerged from this was a very fervent connection to telling my truth and working with my dancers so that they would be empowered to dance from an authentic place. I think adding my personal anecdote/truth inside of the mix not only help to bring the show to a cohesive understanding for me and the audience, but perhaps it allowed people to see that sharing one’s truth as an individual on stage, while working in collaboration with a group of dancers can be done, and can be done without any burden. I hope to showcase freedom on a variety of levels. My intention in everything I do is to liberate and empower.
My goal after graduation is to fly. I am harnessing my wings as a dance entrepreneur, and artist activist. Some tangible ways to see that are through my work as new adjunct professor at Temple University, through my partnership with the Center for Racial Justice and Education, and as I launch my own dance company in the summer of 2020.
It feels good to be done with the thesis concert, even though I know there’s so much more for me to dive into. I am ready for the challenge, and I am excited to see what comes next. What a rewarding experience this work came out to be. It’s my hope that even more reward will come, as I know that the next phase of life and career is filled with nothing but infinite possibilities.