Letters from The Road: Nashville


by Vinson Fraley

We hit off our second tour of the season in Nashville, Tennessee, and I couldn’t have been more excited to be back on southern turf! The first day started out with an amazing class led by Kyle at Centennial Performing Arts Center. It was interesting to get a glimpse of the amazing energy and talents the dancers had to offer, and to say it wore Catherine and I out would be an understatement. We finished out the day with a rehearsal for our new work “Love Sketches” set to premier in 2017. I can easily feel burnt out when doing so much on the road, but I found rehearsals with the three of us to be truly satisfying. The best part was sharing laughs with Catherine in the midst of such an intimate and focused process.

The next day we headed over to Casa Azafran which is a center is geared towards providing resources for immigrants who are Spanish and Arabic native speakers. Shortly after arriving, we were greeted by 25 lovely children. Getting the kids to be open to the process and information can be tricky sometimes, so we had the kids first introduce themselves accompanied by some sort of gesture. We’d then lead them through a quick warm-up and a series of exercises. All in all most of the kids were responsive, and it was nice to see their reactions to what may have been many of their first encounters with dance in a class setting. As recommended, we had a lovely lunch at Sky Blue Café before our second rehearsal. When I tell you I was excited for those grits! And yes they tasted just like home. Getting back to the hotel, I was exhausted, but beyond delighted to be greeted by the rest of the company members in the courtyard.

Show day number one was finally upon us, and I think we were all curious to know what Oz Arts and the audience members were all about. We were kindly welcomed by Lauren, who gave us a full tour of the space which happened to be embedded with a ton of history. The theatre actually started as a cigar warehouse, and is housed in between two jails. Lauren stated that the space has attracted many artists who were interested in exploring the juxtaposition of a space where art is made freely in the midst of places of confinement.  I immediately knew that Oz was a special place, and that it would be a great medium for A.I.M to be presenting/sharing work.  As we walked deeper into the theatre we walked into a number of rooms that showcased the company’s work, mainly of which were earlier collaborations we’ve had with photographer and film artist, Carrie Schneider. My favorite part was the outdoor space which was accompanied by a gorgeous landscape, intricate sculptures, and a Zen garden. Just as exciting, was company class led by the stunning Banning Boulding. Heading into performance mode I think we were all a bit tired and under the weather in some way. The show was a tough one for me to get through, but was all the more satisfying when engaging in a dense talk back. A few of us then made our way downtown to get a quick taste of Nashville’s nightlife scene which was boasting with verves of incredible music, bars, and restaurants. The night was a success to say the least.

The final full day of our tour in Nashville had finally come, and the blessing of getting to sleep in was fully felt. Having been much rested at that point, I felt more mentally and physically prepared to perform that night. In many ways just being at Oz and performing the show the night before was invigorating. Those feelings definitely made a difference, and I think helped us all to get through the show much easier than the previous run. During our post-show toast, I was beginning to reflect on our time in Nashville. I found much gratitude in being able to bring my work to a place that needs to see it. It got me thinking about the mere exposure of art and the importance it has on all types of communities. To say the least I felt like I needed more time just to sit with Nashville. Heading back to the New York the next morning, I kept thinking about what a surprise the city and Oz was to me. Ultimately I had an enjoyable time in Nashville, and look forward to continued growth and learning this season.

Letters from the Road: Home

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by Penda N’diaye

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Spring is finally here in New York! After travelling to various cities where we envied the sunshine and warmer temperatures, it feels ahhh-mazing to be home and in the company of longer days, windy evenings, and beautiful blossoms. I have to admit that for the first week back from our tour I took advantage of every possible opportunity to SLEEP. There were a few mornings I woke up in a cold sweat thinking I had overslept, that maybe my hotel roommate neglected to wake me up and I had missed some part of rehearsal :). During this first week my days consisted of catching up with friends and re-discovering my neighborhood. I made a trip to the MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, saw a Yankees game and made sure to hit up some rooftop parties. I even braved traveling via BoltBus and made a trip to D.C. for a red carpet event. Simply put I was getting back into

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However, as some of you know, it’s difficult to be still for too long. I was thankful to get back to work. Only this time, I was working from behind my computer. The Dancer Development Program is a program created by Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion that has given the dancers in the company the opportunity to gain valuable administrative, marketing and development skills that are intended to long surpass our dancing careers. For me, it has proven to be a valuable source of income while we are not touring or rehearsing. I have been working closely with our director Kyle Abraham, helping him to organize his calendar and schedule while also scheduling company rehearsals and reserving studio space.

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I have to admit that at first I was a little nervous to be responsible for the company’s schedule. I have been known to procrastinate a few times in my lifetime ::wink wink:: but I have surprised myself and have found my inner business woman. I received a minor in business from NYU and this is really the first time I have put it to use! The fact that AIM has a new office space in Park Slope only puts a spark in my dream of one day running my own business. It has been rewarding to utilize my other strengths.

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Speaking of other skills, I have been recently appointed company liaison! I am responsible for effectively communicating any concerns amongst the dancers to Kyle and the rest of the Abraham.In.Motion staff. It has greatly reminded me that we are a family, and it is pertinent to have open communication when working and travelling so closely with your colleagues. Let’s just say it isn’t always glamorous to live with those you work with :). This new responsibility has definitely set me up to stretch myself beyond dancing and perhaps has given me the confidence and motivation to find my voice in a company small in numbers but large in diversity.

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Some of the company is heading to the UK to perform Pavement this week, while others are working in the office and gearing up for our next performance here in NY this July. I’m looking forward to spending every free moment I have taking classes, lounging in the park, laughing with friends and discovering the city all over again!!

Letters from the Road: Ann Arbor

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by Matthew Baker

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Since I began my dance career I’ve imagined what it might be like to return to my hometown to perform. I recall joking around several times with colleagues about how fun it might be to do a “Hometown Tour.” This past week I got that opportunity when Abraham.In.Motion visited Ann Arbor, MI to perform both of our newest programs, The Watershed, and When The Wolves Came In, at The Power Center presented by the University Musical Society.

Perhaps it’s best summed up in a conversation I had with fellow dancer Penda N'diaye: Almost everywhere we go we get asked about how we got started dancing, or our background. We’ve heard the quick answers from our fellow company members so many times we could easily spout them off for each other… Penda launches into her scary good impersonation of me: “Well I started out as a gymnast.. and then ballet, sports, college, modern, dance.. etc etc.” It was a special feeling to return home and feel like that short bio has come to life in front of you in a complex and multi-layered community to appreciate and share. Another AIM dancer, Jordan Morley, said he felt like he didn’t really know me until this trip, until seeing where I was from.

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We performed at the Power Center in Ann Arbor. When we arrived backstage the circuitousness of life stared me down. The studio where I started taking ballet (“Sylvia’s Studio of Dance” just down the road on State St) had their annual dance recital here. This was the first stage I ever danced on. Growing up here I’d seen countless performances as part of UMS’ rich performance series. I remember seeing Baryshnikov perform there when I was about 12. The place is filled with personal and family memories. 

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Before one of our performances I shared with the dancers one of those memories backstage: I performed my first solo on this stage, a solo that was probably more gymnastics than ballet. I was 9 or so and played a little frog prince. Being backstage in the same halls and dressing rooms I was filled with a familiar feeling from that day, butterflies, excitement, curiosity, joy, J.O.D. (or Joy Of Dance as one of my mentors Nicole Wolcott would teach me to call it). I felt bad for not being able to show the company more of the town and my community while we were here, but I was so excited, so over-J.O.D.’ed, to share us with them. I felt a deeper understanding for that oh-so-frequent post performance discussion question, that I’ll summarize as: “Why dance?”

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The latter part of my dance background story Penda could tell you will always have to do with college and how I didn’t discover modern/contemporary dance until I got there. Western Michigan University across the state is where I ended up. Coincidentally so did my soon-to-be friend and future AIM colleague Jeremy Neal. I was nervous and excited back then when the modern dance professor, Carolyn Pavlik, plucked me out of the freshman crop to be in one of her pieces. Having never taken a modern class before or knowing anything about all the varieties of techniques and training, I fell in love with the endless potential I saw for movement and dance as I discovered this new form. 

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I felt some of that same nerve and excitement waiting backstage for the curtain to go up on our opening in Ann Arbor. I was honored and a bit nervous to hear that so many of Jeremy and I’s professors made the trip over to see the work. It was a special and all too short moment to visit with them afterwards and hear their impressions. They had each been an important step in making it possible for me (and Jeremy! I’m sure he’d agree) to be doing what I love. Performing for them felt like a chance to say thank you.

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Along with my professors, family, extended family, friends,  I felt synergy with the audiences through our Hometown/Ann Arbor/A2/Ace Deuce connection. I enjoyed getting to hear from the community I grew up in during the talkbacks and all the outreach and residency activities that the company participated in throughout the week. I felt a deeper understanding for who I felt I was in the work, and how my history helps inform that.

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In addition to getting to connect with the community at the post performance talkbacks, it was wonderful to get to do so many residency activities surrounding the performance and really feel like we were experiencing and sharing with Ann Arbor rather than just being there.  After carting us around and accompanying us on various events, Jim Leija and Mary Roeder from the UMS staff, and Clare Croft from U of M’s dance program felt like friends and colleagues as well, and their spirits, knowledge, and hospitality made the busy schedule not only manageable, but moving.

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I taught a Master Class for some of the dance department students, accompanied Kyle on a lecture with alumni in the evening called Night School, and gave a lecture to a group of students in the Michigan Union. Connecting with the university and UMS in this way was very special for me. With a deep seated respect for the school’s history and reputation, I had to pinch myself getting to share and work in these spaces. Those were only a few of the many activities that AIM did in Ann Arbor. I wish I had time to experience more of them, like Kyle’s Master Class with the musical theatre majors. We also got to wrap up the week with a brunch and conversation at the alumni center that was open to anyone who attended the performances and wanted to know more. It was great to see so many familiar faces from the residency activities coming to the performances to continue the conversations.

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I feel blessed to be a part of art that can transport and transform people and ideas. I feel thankful to have connected with Kyle and grown in our collaboration and to be able to support his vision. I cherish the relationships and bonds I’ve made with our other collaborators and the support we give each other and the generosity of the group toward the communities they visit. Somehow after leaving home I felt all those things a little stronger.

Letters From the Road: Hawai'i

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by Eric Williams

Sun, Feb 22

After completing a wonderful three day run of Pavement in San Francisco we departed today for Hawaii. The last of our 3 flights arrived on the big island just after sunset, serendipitously welcoming we weary travelers in time for rest. Some of my companions have been on tour for the better part of the year so far, and even part of last. Still there is a warm glow here, and it’s not just the volcanoes. People are warm and welcoming and we’re as eager to learn more about them as we are to soak up some of the sun.

Mon, Feb 23

Today most of the company has a chance to rest and enjoy their time away from the cold that seems to be settling everywhere back on the continent (sorry friends back home, we’re sending as much sun and good vibes as we can!). Hilo is a nice town with just enough resorts and lots of local culture. There are some truly beautiful landscapes around our hotel. It’s easy to just enjoy the view and meet people; there’s no dearth of recommendations for local faire. In the afternoon Jeremy teaches a masterclass at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The students are from the university and a few local studios and welcome Jae full-heartedly, diving into the material and embracing the aesthetic. Their cheer is infectious and we end the day looking forward to sharing more with the people we’re meeting.

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Tues Feb 24

Today is our first performance in Hawaii and we’re wondering what sort of audience we will draw and how we might be received. The performance is astounding! Despite our dancer-aches-and-bruises and a pinch of jet-lag there is unity onstage that is echoed by the audience. Not only have they packed the University’s Performing Arts Center, but they grace us with a standing ovation and give us each lei wreaths after bows. Talking with patrons afterward confirms what we have felt: the people here in Hawaii are as excited to engage in dialogue with us as we are with them.

Wed Feb 25

Our schedule often has us on the road once we’ve adjusted and today we travel to Waimea. Our trip takes us up the coast and inland. The scenery is amazing and our navigator (…me…) has difficulty paying attention to the map when another beautiful landscape waits around every bend!

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Once in Waimea Tamisha teaches a masterclass for some of the local dance students onstage. These dancers’ roots are varied: African, Modern, Indian, Ballet and even one B-boy. They have the perfect ingredients for the postmodern gumbo soup Tamisha throws them into. And what a soup it is! She doesn’t hold back and the students are pushed to their limits.

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After class the company is graciously invited to the house of the parents of Stephanie Tooman, a former teacher of Kyle and Tamisha’s. Vivian and Rob Tooman provide a wonderful meal, but the conversations we share are particularly nourishing. We leave feeling lucky to be part of larger family, one that has welcomed is with open arms here in Hawaii.

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Thurs, Feb 26

Today is performance #2 of our tour here and there is a mindfulness in the air; our bodies are our instruments and we do our best to keep them tuned and harmonized with one another. The consideration works, because the show is a resounding success. The audiences’ energy is palpable; they’re feeding off our vibe and returning it in-kind. We’re received in the lobby by patrons hungry to know more about us and the work. We’re invited out to a local spot and conversations about art, culture, and life in Hawaii and on the road abound. It continues to humble me how eager people are to learn and share here.

Fri, Feb 27

Back on the road it is! Today we fly to Maui. It’s an early start, but the traveling is easy. The plane goes up, the plane comes down, the drive across the island is brief, and driver is quite the character, filling us in on his knowledge of the island and bidding us farewell as if we were family. In Kaanapali the sun is bright and the beaches inviting. But there’s only a little time to soak it up before Matthew is off to teach another master class at the Maui Arts and Culture Center. It’s an interesting group, with a few young dancers, a few older professionals, and a few groovy folks who just wanted to know what we’re about. They take to task with open hearts and we return the warmth we’ve been feeling on these beautiful islands.

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Sat, Feb 28

It’s hard to tear ourselves away from beaches today. News of the weather back on the continent and our impending departure has us appreciating the opportunities at hand. Many company members head out early to catch a glimpse of the whales; their migration has brought them here much like our own wayward spirits. When the hour arrives we depart for MACC knowing that this performance will be quite special. This is Maleek Washington and Winston Dynamite Brown’s last performance of Pavement with us. It is a profound show and each moment seems to slip through my fingers before I can give it the consideration I’d like. In a bat of my eye the final bow has arrived. All I know is that it was a beautiful experience to have shared with colleague and audience alike. Having the opportunity to share the stage with these brilliant performers has been an honor.

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Sun, Mar 1

Packing, last minute brunch, departures. Could it be over so soon? Some of the company has left for Seattle to join the cast of When the Wolves Came In. My feet carry me along a hiking path, but my mind dwells on the experiences on and off stage we’ve shared, the people we’ve shared them with, and the things we sought to express. How lucky we are to know the people that come into our lives and the things we learn from them. I hope to carry these things with me on the journey back and beyond.

Letters from the Road: AL-A-BAMA!

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by Catherine Ellis Kirk

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Day 1: Monday, January 12

 

Where do two flights with a challenging 5-minute layover time (don’t worry we made it), some lost luggage, and a two-hour drive from the Birmingham airport get you? To Selma baby! And I could not have been happier to arrive at the Comfort Inn at 3:00 in the morning. The trek to Selma was one I will never forget, but the stay was all the more memorable.  

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Shortly after arriving to the hotel I fell into the deepest, most beautiful slumber before my James Brown ‘Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved’ alarm woke me up to assist a class taught by Kyle, Maritza Mosquera (our amazing director of Outreach and Community Programs), and local Alabama artist Charlie Lucas. The class was for the upperclassmen visual arts students at Selma High School and brought back so many memories of my angsty art-school teenage years.

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The students had previously worked with Kyle and Maritza separately so we brought everyone together for their last class to reflect on, and add to the descriptive action words they had thought of when told the title of Kyle’s work The Gettin’, and what they thought of after seeing the work. From there, we included even more participation by having the students create three dimensional pieces of art inspired by a word of their choice off the list. Watching some of the kids who were more shy and non-responsive at the top of class blossom into active, focused, and passionate students over the time given to create their posters was inspiring and honestly shocking. At my arrival it seemed like such a typical high school with the goody two shoes on one side and the angst filled know it alls on the other. But these students put one hundred percent into the art project and by the end of class they all, more than willingly, shared their pieces describing ‘hope’, ‘dreams’, ‘progress’, ‘faith’ and much more. It was by far the best start to my first day in Selma.

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After our class with the students Kyle, Maritza and I grabbed a tasty lunch before walking the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the Selma-to-Montgomery marches occurred in March 1965, almost 50 years ago. We all naturally fell silent and walked on our own. Crossing that bridge I felt like Catherine Kirk, age 22, year 2015. I did not feel like I could put myself in any of the unarmed, nonviolent marchers shoes, and I don’t think they would have wanted me to. I felt the progress that has been made just as much as the set backs, and I felt tears from my frustration of the lack of voting by younger generations today. I took all of my fortune, joy, pride, blessings, sadness, and conflict and felt safe enough to apply that to Kyle’s work in the upcoming performances in Alabama. We all met up at the end of bridge to see the memorial and walked back to head to the hotel.

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The car ride was just as reflective as the walk across the bridge until our wonderful Maritza said she wanted to visit a Salvation Army in Selma. Kyle and I ventured through old loafers and printed ties until finding some outrageous Jane Fonda workout records and a vinyl entitled ‘Dreams of the Everyday Housewife’. We had a necessary laugh and said goodbye to a loaded first day. I had the laziest afternoon at our hotel with my roommate Tamisha before getting an amazing dinner with some of the company where I had some unforgettable fried green tomatoes and zucchini muffins. 

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Day 2: Tuesday, January 13

 

SO! That first day was A LOT! But Selma mellowed out more than I expected.

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We all left the hotel in the morning for the theater at Selma High School in preparation for a small showing for the students and a Q&A after. It was at the tail end of the day and lasted about 45 minutes before the final bell rang for the students to be released from school. It was amusing to know what it’s like to want to run out of school and head home, or to your extracurricular activities, but all of the kids were respectful if they had to leave, and a large lot of them stayed around for the end of the chat which was quite flattering!!

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Shortly after our showing the company ran across the street to a church that hosted a fantastic and super southern meal (and I’m from Texas). Although it may not have been my first choice for a meal right before a show, we all ended up engorging ourselves with as much food as we could hold and then boxing the rest to-go. It was fantastic. Rolls for the Gods were made, and we ate them. #blessed ;)

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We got back to the theater to go over notes with Kyle, warm up, and here comes show time! We performed Quiet Dance for the first time, followed by Hallowed, and welcomed Vince to his first performance with the company in The Gettin’! The show was intimate which made me connect even more to my experiences from the day before and the pieces were all very well received!

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After the show we ran off-stage for a quick change into real life clothes before going back out for my, and a majority of the company’s first Community Forum. We split up the audience and went into designated areas to talk about certain topics related to progress, freedom, hope, and the future—with one company member leading each discussion and writing down the main topics of conversation.

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I chatted with a small group, a mother and daughter from New York who had been living in Alabama for most of their lives. The mother, Rosa had participated in all three Selma to Montgomery marches and had danced in Carnegie Hall for Shirley Temple, Ladybird Johnson and many more. She was spectacular, adorable, and a sweet sweet sight to behold. My dad was upset I didn’t ask for a photo with her! As fun as Beyoncé is, and as many ‘Break the Internet’ jokes as I can make, these are the people who were the heroes and idols to my dad and his contemporaries, and are now to me. People like Rosa, who you may now just see as your cute neighbor—are life changers and political activists for human rights. We discussed the disappointment in the lack of voting, issues on being mixed and not being “black enough” or  “white enough” to feel like you have a home, and how continuing to bring arts and talent from the outside world to small towns like Selma can help to inform the community and promote progress.

Day 3: Wednesday, January 14

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The following day Connie, Vinson, and I were safely chauffeured to Birmingham by Matthew for out next set of classes and shows (yes we sung along to Taylor Swift with the windows down, and yes I know the words). We had a good amount of time to settle into our hotel before going to Green Acres Middle School for an interactive movement workshop with a great group of middle school students that had little to no dance training. The class was in a giant gymnasium led by Matthew and was a hoot! The kids were as receptive as could be with a distracting basketball practice happening on the other side of the gym, but they seemed to appreciate all of the movement games Matthew created.

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From there we trekked to a late night rehearsal at Samford University Wright Center to work on some of the repertory for the upcoming show before heading back to the hotel to spend our first night in Birmingham!

Day 4: Thursday, January 15

The next day the ladies and I went to a fun spot in Uptown to grab some lunch before leaving the hotel for the theater to warm up, familiarize ourselves with the theater, and prepare for our first lecture/demonstration without the bossman himself! (Kyle was off being fierce in San Fran performing Restless Creature with Wendy Whelan).

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When that was a wrap, we left the theater to hang out at the hotel for a short while and cool down. I then taught a Unifying Uniqueness Workshop to a group of high school dancers from a dance ministry program at a studio in Birmingham-Southern College. The group ended up being totally diverse with ages ranging from teenagers to the elderly. It was a fantastic time and I had the easy, breezy, and beautiful Matthew, Connie, Penda, and Vinson to help me out. I taught them a blend of multiple phrases from our repertory and allowed them to alter the meaning behind it by adding in motifs and gestures from one of their favorite memories that they shared at the start of class.

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Once that was said and done, we went back to the hotel and passed out like champions. I wish our nights were filled with more drama and excitement, but in my reflections it seems like sleeping is a big theme in my Birmingham downtime.

Day 5: Friday, January 16

There’s no way to celebrate Friday like having an early morning call time! We all departed the hotel bright and early for the Lecture/Demonstration for students in Birmingham hosted at Samford University. We opened with a section from Watershed, and performed sections from Quiet Dance and The Gettin’. We demonstrated how we create movement in the company in a collaborative way, and by catching steps from Kyle as he improvises. The students got up and moving as they learned gestural work we perform in Quiet Dance, and some volunteered to come up on stage and improvise action words that Kyle may throw at us to create phrases such as “reinvented slash, dive, 2 jumps, swivel turn”. They were eager to participate and it was fun to see dancer and rehearsal director Matthew and Jeremy lead the lec/dem without Kyle.

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After that was said and done we met with a large group of female dancers representing their schools dance teams. We continued a Q&A kind of conversation from what they saw in the lecture demonstration and I learned everything I know about being a majorette. I even learned a couple of moves and got to see some of them perform their routines! It was my Nick Cannon Drum Line dream come true. And surprise surprise we had a fun company dinner and a chill night in before I caught some z’s.

Day 6: Saturday, January 17

Tamisha, Penda, and myself had a cozy morning. We went downstairs for the pool/gym/sauna area to have an active, yet relaxing time before our impending show.

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We departed the hotel in the afternoon for Samford University Theater to meet the dancers from Troy school who were going to share the stage with us that evening to perform an excerpt of Kyle’s work ‘Protest’ that Jeremy set on them. And boy, were they top notch! They were all so open and hard working and I caught up with a dancer who I’d met summer 2013 while at a residency at the University of Arts in Philadelphia who is now at Troy! What a small world…

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Along came showtime and the Birmingham audience was yet again so kind, welcoming, and receptive of the program. After the show, Penda and I caught up with an NYU alumni who we didn’t know came to the show, which was a fun reunion before everyone enjoyed THE drummer, Otis Brown III’s company. He had flown into Birmingham with Kyle that afternoon for some work they were going to be doing in Alabama over the next couple of days.

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We then joined the second and last Community Forum of our Alabama tour. Connie and I ended up sitting at a table with about 10 other women whose discussion fixated on freedom. We spoke about what freedom is in the first place and how boundaries and rules enact more independence in some people’s lives than others, but mainly how we as humans need to respect and understand everyone’s differences and beliefs to not stifle anyone else’s freedom in the path to increase our own. We also spoke about the woman’s body and the wanted censoring of something that has always existed and most definitely will continue to (I’m talking boobies y’all!).

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Overall the night was fantastic. I love to connect with our audiences after our shows as more than just a performer but as a human sharing the same planet, trying to get the absolute most out of my life just like the rest.

Day 7: Sunday, January 18

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The next day we got to sleep in a little since we didn’t have to leave for the airport until 1PM. Once we checked out of the hotel the ladies and myself went back to a restaurant in Uptown to say goodbye to southern comfort food and grab some tasty brunch. You might as well believe chicken and waffles dominated the table. Yummy in my tummy. We then headed over to the hotel to find a beautiful sunny day, perfect for selfie lighting and hilarious videos so we wasted our time doing that before hoping on a plane and heading back to NY.

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So long sweet home AL! I’ll never forget you.

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Letters from the Road: West Palm Beach

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By Jeremy “Jae” Neal
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Our arrival in West Palm Beach couldn’t have come at a better time! Don’t get me wrong, Sweden and France were beautiful and I had an amazing time dancing for beautifully large and gracious audiences. The scenery was breathtaking and the people were incredibly hospitable; not to mention spending all that time with my dance family and friends. But West Palm Beach?! What better way to welcome ourselves back into the States! I stepped out of the airport with jacket in hand, not on my back, nostrils full of fresh southern air and a grin from ear to ear. 
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We were welcomed with warm weather, and had a much needed three days off. What to do…what to do… Well to start I got myself a nice long massage - well deserved if I do say so myself - followed by a lengthy walk back to the hotel, taking in all the American sights I could get (enjoying being able to pronounce all the signs I pass).
THE SHADE FACTORY.
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Day off #2 began my descent into temptation. It started early, darn jet lag, with continental breakfast and a jog around West Palm, followed by a trip to Wendy’s just because I was in the States and I could. Finally it ended with a trip to the outlets, which, did I mention, are across the street from the hotel? There was Nike and Adidas, Aldo and Watch Station, Forever 21 and DSW, Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth, oh my!! After too many hours on my own I left with hands full of bags and a sore back from hovering over clothing racks. Whew!! I was pooped! 
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Day off #3 was much like the previous. Another very American, i.e. hearty, continental breakfast, a morning workout, and then, after sharing my shopping success stories with the rest of the company, another trip to the outlets. Again I left with bags in hand, though this time not everything was for myself. It is the holiday season after all, can’t let this 78 degree weather fool me!  We rounded that evening off with dinner at Red Robin, which coincidently is named after my favorite color and the bird of my home state, and a brief photo shoot in front of our hotel’s neighboring Target! Yes that’s right I said Target. It was too good to pass up. A.I.M. next to a Target…HA!! Welp, our days off have come to an end and it’s only four shows in two days before I’m back in the Big Apple just in time for to bring in the New Year and hopefully see a little snow (I am from Michigan after all) before hitting the road again. 
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Here’s to 2015 and all that she may bring! Always A.I.M.‘ing high!
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Letters from the Road: Swedish Style!

by Tamisha Guy

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Day 1

The 26-hour travel day was A LOT. Our journey consisted of two planes including a four-hour layover, a bus, a train and a five-minute walk to “Hotell Grepen” in Vara. The city of Vara is a small and cozy town filled with friendly people and quiet streets. The town is a bit dark but I soon learned that during the winter Sweden is fairly dim all day. It is going to take some getting used to. Each morning there were five people at the breakfast table, which I did not mind at all. Breakfast was pretty delightful. Nutella and turkey sandwiches were my go to. The company’s first performance was November 18th at a venue in Vara and it was truly a blast. The crowd was very receptive to Pavement and we even got a few screams and clapping during the performance.

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Day 2

The following day we all traveled to our next stop on the tour, Stockholm! Stockholm is truly beautiful. The large buildings, lights and insanely large crowds of people made me feel right at home. The Scandic hotel was fairly massive and luckily it was one door away from Dansens Hus, the theater in which the company would later perform. The hotel had a snack shop, bar and restaurant on the ground floor which meant that I did not have to go too far for food. Whoo! The first night I enjoyed a Caesar salad and a chilled Sprite.

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Day 3

The following day on November 20th, 2014, the company had the day off. The morning of the 20th I woke up fairly early. While I enjoyed a cup of tea I listened to my morning playlist, which is a mixture of Max Richter, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston and Jah Cure.

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In the afternoon Maleek and I were off to explore the city. There were a lot of sites near the hotel so we walked quite a bit. We spotted H&M, Zara, and the body shop, just to name a few. We could not resist so of course we did some shopping. We walked around for hours, also admiring the natives’ stylish fashion looks and the talented people singing or playing an instrument at the side of the street. It had a similar New York City vibe, which intrigued us. Our day concluded with a satisfying burger at a place called “Flippin Burger.” I enjoyed a cheeseburger with caramelized onions and lettuce, along with a cream soda to wash it all down. Yum!

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Day 4

The following day we had two performances, a school performance and an evening performance. Dansens Hus is a beautiful venue. The stage was grand and each dancer was able to have their personal dressing room. The walls were covered with one liners or signatures of past companies who’ve graced the space. I even spotted the signatures of a few friends. The school performance was quite interesting. The students were incredibly vocal and they did not hold back at all, often randomly clapping or making a remark at the end of a section. This was a new experience for me. The evening performance was AWESOME. The audience was extremely quiet but when the performance concluded the audience went mad, applauding and screaming bravo, bravo! Following the performance there was a nice reception for the company. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine, small hors d'oeuvres and engaged in great conversations with other guest.

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Day 5

The next day we had the first part of the day off and to follow was an evening performance. Matthew, Maleek and myself ventured out to an area called “Old Town” which is known as the hipster side of town. On this 20-minute walk we passed a great deal of Christmas decorations, carolers, and a few monuments such as the palace and the Nobel Peace prize museum. There was a Christmas shopping area, which to me was similar to the festive shopping area at Union Square in New York City. It was incredibly packed with people shopping their lives away. It was only right to join in on the fun so I purchased a few Christmas gifts for my family.

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That night the performance went well and the company added our names to the wall. The night was young so a few of us went out to experience the nightlife. Two people that currently live in Sweden, a native and another that moved from Italy joined us to kick off the festivities for the night. They were extremely friendly and willing to show us around. We ended up at a club called Strand, which was super fun. The music ranged from hip-hop to pop and a little reggae was thrown in the mix. We all danced the night away and even made up a gesture phrase towards the end of the night. Lol. The night was a success and the following day we were off to our next stop, Gothenburg!

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Day 6 & 7

I was beyond excited to head to Gothenburg because I would get the opportunity to see a great friend of mine who’s birthday happened to be the day before we performed. Gothenburg was only three hours away from Stockholm so we got in fairly early. I was a bit exhausted so I stayed in until dinnertime. The following day we had the day off and my friend invited some of the members to take class with his colleagues. It was his birthday so I was beyond excited to see him. The class was amazing and it was so refreshing to be in a studio again.After class he gave us a tour of there beautiful facility, which was massive.

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As we walked outside I saw a glimpse of the sun and I was beyond excited, smiling from ear to ear. My friend jokingly stated that we brought the sun to Gothenburg. For the remainder of the day I relaxed for a while until the evening.

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Kyle, Winston, Maleek and myself went to an authentic Dim Sum restaurant and it was by far one of the best meals I have had on this trip thus far. I ordered shrimp dumplings, a spicy sautéed fish dish and a side of rice. The portions were fairly small but it was just delicious. That night Matthew suggested that we all go bowling and we were all game. It was a 15 minute ride to the bowling alley and we were joined by Brittanie Brown, a former dancer with the company, her partner, and my friend Nigel Campbell who’s danced with the company in the past also. We divided ourselves into teams and it was game on. We all had a blast. I scored a strike which made me very happy but that was no match to Winston’s 5 strikes in a row. He was on fire that night.

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Day 8

The next day was the performance and we had our usual day of spacing and dress rehearsal before the show at 7pm. Stora Teatern, the theater in which we performed was very intimate and it was just a 5-minute walk from the hotel. The renaissance style theater was such a beautiful space and we performed for a full house that night. After the show the company along with some of the dancers from Goteborgs Operans Danskompani went out to dinner at Vapiano. It was a night filled with great food, hilarious conversations and getting to know some really nice people. I was so sad to leave so soon but the next day we were heading to Kungsbacka, a fairly smaller city than Gothenburg.

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Day 9

Kungsbacka is similar to Vara in the sense that they are both quiet towns filled with friendly and warm people. The hotel was located directly across the street from the train station and the theater was ten minutes away from both. I arrived in the city a few hours before the other company members because I was scheduled to teach a master class. The theater was located in a school so there were students in the halls, some singing a tune and others rushing to there next class. The master class truly made my day; the students were so pleasant and eager to gain new information. After the class I walked around the town for a while, stopping at a nearby grocery store where I found these bag of chips that I have been on the hunt for. When I got back to the hotel I watched a bit of the news and devoured the bag of chips. I would say that I had a pretty great day.

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Day 10

The following day was November 27th, which was Thanksgiving as well as Winston’s birthday. I walked over to the theater earlier than usual to do my laundry and to just be in the space. The crew laid down a brand new floor for the company, which we appreciated greatly. Our official day began at 1:30pm to warm up and get ready for the dress rehearsal. After the dress rehearsal a wonderful dinner was prepared for us. Mash potatoes, lasagna, salmon with vegetables and delicious slices of bread. It was finger licking good.

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The performance that night was sold out and I even spotted a few of the students that attended my class. A beautiful Thanksgiving meal was organized for the company after the show. We had a creamy soup with a warm baguette to begin, followed by sweet potato puree with a succulent turkey. It was by far the best turkey I have had ever. This was my first Thanksgiving I have celebrated away from my family and although it is not a big tradition in my household, they were missed. I definitely enjoyed the company of my colleagues and I am truly thankful to be on this journey with them.

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Day 11

The next day we headed to our final stop in Sweden, Falkenberg, which we were notified, is even smaller than Kungsbacka. The hotel was located across from a river, which was such a peaceful element to wake up to. It also had a really great wellness center equipped with a sauna, steam room and a massage chair, all of which I took advantage of. The day of the show I spent an hour in the center before heading to the theater, which was 10 minutes away. It was just what I needed to kick of our final show in Sweden. This was the earliest evening performance we’ve had thus far; it was scheduled to start at 6pm. My body was fighting me a bit but I made it through the performance in one piece.

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The night was young but we were preparing to head to France the following day so I planned to stay in. A few of us got together for dinner and a game of spades. Endless laughter and phrases such as “yes diva,” “divaaaa,” “you did that diva” were thrown around. It was comical. This journey was an unforgettable one and I am so fortunate to be here performing with these amazing people. Off to France we go!