Iquail and I are about to embark on our 6th year of dancing together. I feel so lucky to have found a director that I’ve been able to dance for, for so many years. This company, and Iquail have helped shape me and my growth as a professional dancer and into adulthood. I was in my first semester of college when he snatched me up and spit me out for my first college performance. It was one of the most intense performances of my life. Filled with athletic dancing, emotions with character development, and talented older dancers that I had to step up to run with. Now, I am the most senior member, and it’s been an absolutely tremendous ride.

All throughout college, Iquail had me running up to NYC from Philadelphia for weekend rehearsals, studio showings, performances, or last minute rehearsals to stick me in a show. Never a dull moment in the company. We’ve also had the luxury of being a part of a choreography competition in Pasadena, California, in 2007. Something that amazes me immensely with Iquail, is his ability to keep fighting and dreaming and successfully accomplishing, even when the odds point in the exact opposite position.

I’ve evolved a lot in my dancing and attempted more modern and contemporary styles throughout my career. However, coincidentally the company has changed and molded in its styles as well. It has totally engulfed a more current modern, contemporary ballet fusion, with obvious roots from the director’s dance upbringing. It’s thrilling to be performing in acclaimed theaters and festivals in NYC and Philadelphia. With SummerStage this summer, it feels like our company keeps trumping itself, so I know there will be plenty more of us to come!
keep dancing.


So it’s been way too long since my last post and I have been terrible about taking photos to go with these posts. I think I just found two minor New Year’s Resolutions.

I was invited to attend the audition for Dance Iquail, which I found exciting. The artistic director has a great background, teaches at Alvin Ailey, and I was impressed by the performance reel I watched on their website. Really great classically based work.

I was expecting this audition to be challenging knowing the caliber of dancer he normally hires, and the audition notice said we would start with a ballet class. At least I knew there was no way I could be as much of a shit-show as I was a regular ballet audition. :-/ *knock on wood*

I headed way uptown for the audition. I got there early and stalled for a bit because I was trying really hard to do my get-the-later-number trick so I wouldn’t have to go up with the first group. I saw other dancers who had numbers in the late 20′s so I figured it was safe to sign up. I ended up with #6. WTF?!

I realized after the fact that there were two lines and the other line had the later numbers. So much for not being in the first group. HOWEVER, I did learn at this audition that it seems the auditors go easier on the dancers who have to go first. More on that later.
I had a lot of time to warm up. We went into the room about 15 minutes before the start of the audition so I was in there early. The room was packed, as per usual. We sped through an extremely fast, un-complicated ballet barre. Everyone knocked shins trying to show off their high extensions. We did maybe four of the exercises a ballet barre would normally consist of and then moved to the center. We then moved right into a pirouette combination (no tendus or adagio! why bother). Of course, I was in the first group. I thought I had the combination down pat, but I flubbed the sequence of steps pretty bad on the right side and managed to fix it on the left, kind of laughing it off the whole way. We only got to do the combination once, so I was sure I was going to be cut.

We went through all the groups – I think we were up to 100 something – and then they made the first cut. I have never seen a more demoralizing first cut in the history of a dance audition. He had groups of 10 line up by numbers and while looking at the dancers (and while all the other auditionees in the room were looking at the dancers), they made their cuts. I stood in line, sure I was going home. Somehow, I didn’t. I made the first cut.
They went through all the other groups of 10 and about one third of the dancers went home. We moved on to a grande allegro. I love grande allegro. I’m so good at big jumps and I love flying through the air. I felt really confident with this one. We got to do it twice and I showed off some cabriolles. Well, THIS is when I got cut. Oh well. I was not sure why they kept some of the dancers they kept and I saw some really amazing dancers get cut with me, so it must be aesthetic.

Even though I got cut, I left this audition feeling very proud. I held my own, I did my best to show off my strengths, and I didn’t take myself too seriously. I learned the routines (pretty well ) and I felt confident in what I was doing even if I didn’t do it perfectly.

Before I left, the lead company dancer who had been leading the class said something very refreshing: “Dancers, I’ve been a professional for 17 years and I never got a job from an audition. Keep going to them, keep meeting people, but whatever you do, don’t give up.” So that’s what I’ll do.

I’m going to have a post coming up with some of my plans/resolutions for the coming year, and I hope you will share yours. I will also have a holiday post, which I will write as I sit at home with my family in Richmond, Virginia eating pecan pie and sipping bourbon. I also have some potential performance announcements coming up (finally, geez….) that I will look forward to sharing with all of you.
Until next time…



We had a great shoot a couple of weeks ago with Dance Iquail, a company based in both Philly and here NYC. Along with doing headshots, background foundation imagery and some shots on the rooftop, we had loads of fun experimenting with water. We got the dancers set for the type of movement they wanted to capture and then with the help of the rest of the people in the studio threw full bottles of water at them while they were moving!

We found that the things that were most difficult to control in order to get a great shot, were the timing of the throws and the trajectory the water needed to travel in. We all got soaked, but a great time was had by all (or at least by me!) and needless to say, the studio was cleaner when we finished than when we started!

The director, Iquail Shaheed, is focused on eclectic movement but what most captured my imagination is his emphasis on story telling through his work. His goal is depicting, connecting and engaging his community by working on themes that are the everyday of their lives (at least that is what I get from working with them.. see for yourself at their next performance.Summerstage on July 2!)

Stay tuned for the next round of images with Dance Iquail: we will be working on specific pieces of choreography and story work and I’m supper excited to shoot the more dramatic moments of their work! Until their newly revamped website is up at you can check them out on facebook and twitter. And check back in with us for an update and another Dance Iquail video soon!

Interview I recently had the pleasure to work once again with Dance Iquail before the new year. We were working on some new ideas for re-vamping the Dance Iquail website. I thought a little Q&A with company director and choreographer Iquail Shaheed might be interesting, as he chose to do something very different with his images, in particular with the dancers’ headshots.

Iquail, can you give us a little 101 on your company, what you are about and your “mission,” so to speak?

Working in the universal language of movement, Dance Iquail is committed to creating and presenting works that confront the destructive and divisive nature of racism, sexism, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the needs of the poor, and the importance of family support and unity. These debilitating problems affect all people because they transcend limitations of ethnicity, gender, or social status. As a result it is ultimate our priority to reflect those beliefs through the works we produce, the programs we present, and through the diversity of our people, on and off-stage.
Since Dance Iquail’s inception, I’ve been dedicated to developing a brand that exceeds stereotypical labels, such as a “Black Dance Company,” originating from a cultural bias inflicted upon or reflected by a company. My commitment to deflect such distortions is evident in the company’s roster of artists, works, programs, staff, volunteers, and board members, who collectively represent a multitude of peoples and communities.

What is your inspiration for much of your work?

The inspiration for my work comes from deep, dark stories. I’m interested in telling the stories that connect to people on the most personal levels. I tend to gravitate to those works and artist who share that in common with me. I believe it is through our selfless sharing of those autobiographical situations that will heal our intergenerational problems, our problems of socio-cultural, political, and or spiritual indifference.

How do you choose the dancers and collaborators you work with? What are you looking for in an artist?

In most cases, I look for emerging dance artists who are invited to audition, or are selected based on their close relationships with the company, the dancers, and or my artistic staff.
I appreciate dancers who take risks, who are thinkers and experimenters. When I’m teaching, I like to see what a dancer is thinking. What kind of choice he/she has decided and what type of risk he/she is willing to take. That REALLY turns me on (LOL!). In the process, I can often see something in a dancer that he or she has that maybe is untapped. This too gets my creative juices flowing. It is the challenge of drawing it out of them without them being resistant. It is almost like knowing when the grapes are ready to be plucked. Too soon and it’s forever bitter.

Iquail, many dance companies these days are all about budget in their marketing and imaging needs. What made you decide to spend the time and resources on coming up with a very different look for your dancers in their headshots?
Well, like those many companies you’ve mentioned, I too am seeking to differentiate Dance Iquail’s brand in ways that will be distinctive and easily relatable to our work. My vision for our Headshots and new website stems from my desire to have a company of completely different personality that is as unique as my dancers. By doing so, I’m able to present them as superhuman or almost godlike because that is the way I hope my audience would view these artists.
Furthermore, it sets the stage for me to present my company to those who are of less fortunate situation as living examples of people who are triumphing over adversity – this of course ties right back into our mission. What was the most important aspect for you in the preparation of our shoot?
Really making sure I know the personality of my dancers well enough to truly capture their spirit when they are in front of the camera. Also making sure I have the right team of hair, makeup, costume people who can take my vision to levels that I didn’t even think were possible!

What have been your most interesting successes and failures up until this point in your career?
HUUMMMMM let’s see! LOL

Dance Iquail has been fortunate to have a host of individuals who TRULY believe in the vision and direction of the company. They have donated their time, talent, money, skills, and did I mention money (LOL), to ensure we have a sustained vitality. This has lead to many blessings including receiving FREE legal services, our 501(c)3, new websites, press interviews, international booking, choreographic recognitions, and so much more.

Not to be big headed, but this was all in the first year! Now as we’re approaching our 5th anniversary in 2013, we’ve started receiving grants and corporate support for the first time in our history. That feeling is awesome. This growth kind feels like those of a parent when he talks about the accomplishments of his child.

In terms of failures: I don’t see failures as Failures. Let me explain. Yes there have been many upsetting, frustrating, disappointing, disparaging, and discouraging moments, within my innumerable amount of sleepless nights. But at the end of it all, I needed to go through, and continue, to go through those experiences in order to appreciate the successes I was to receive. My grandmother’s generation called it “Paying your Dues,” but whatever you call it, I’ts true! Everything in life has a cost, but there is one saying I believe whole heartedly: ANYthing worth having is worth fighting for. And that’s just what I will continue to do, Fight.

When can we look forward to seeing your work performed in 2012?

Glad you asked. Our Home Season concerts will be March 16 & 17 at New York City’s Harlem School for the Arts, and May 18 &19 In Philadelphia’sPainted Bride Arts Center. Tickets start at just $15. You can’t beat that in this days and recession. All this information you can find on our new website: