It’s hard for me to imagine my dance career anywhere other than Los Angeles. I was born and raised in California, went to college in Orange County, my dad grew up in the Valley, and my dance mentor has not only been based in LA her entire life, but was mentored herself by a lineage of LA Dance pioneers. It seems like a given that I would end up dancing for LA Contemporary Dance Company, among many other LA-based companies for the entirety of my professional performance career to date. The culture of Los Angeles is practically in my blood.
Yet, LA was not on my radar for the majority of my professional training years. As with many conservatory-trained dancers, I was led to believe New York was the epicenter of dance culture for the United States. So, over Spring Break in my senior year of college, rather than driving the 2 hours up the 405 freeway to check out the LA dance scene, I flew the 6 hours across the country to audition for a handful of New York City choreographers.
Fortunately, through a series of personal and professional events, Los Angeles would be where I’d land after graduation. At first, LA felt like an accident, or maybe a way station on my path toward something new? Don’t get my wrong, I was loving all of the opportunities LA was providing and all of the new friends I was making. I just couldn't help wonder if staying in California - the only home I had ever known - was a default rather than a choice.
It wouldn’t be until I traveled to Europe, about 3 years after my move to LA, that I would fully understand my connection to the City of Angels. If NYC was the US’s epicenter of dance culture, then Europe must be the global epicenter (or so I thought at the time). But, as I traveled through 4 different countries, saw countless performances, took a variety of dance classes, and even performed in an international art faire, my perspectives expanded, as did the affirmation of my identity as a Los Angeleno. Telling people I was from LA became a point of pride. I began to recognize how the mix of Wild West sensibilities, Hollywood glamour, and the conflicting landscapes of urban dwellings, sweeping valleys, rolling hillsides, and ocean breezes created a dance scene that not only supported my personal artistic values, but wholeheartedly invited me to become an active contributor and participant in the development of LA dance culture.
This has been my driving force. A guiding light I had assumed would make up the entirety of my career. Little did we know, of course, that 2020 would put a halt to most of the cultural practices I had considered the foundations of my home in Los Angeles. So, after much deliberation and with a heavy heart, I’ve chosen to take pause with temporary residence outside of LA for the first time in my post-college life. While I recognize this as the best choice for me in this moment, it does leave me in a state of questioning. Already this year, many of us have been forced to prematurely ask “who am I if not a dancer?” Now I'm asking “who am I if not a Los Angeleno?”
But what if the symbiosis I felt with LA had nothing to do with its locale at all? I've always thought of culture being defined by our physical proximity to people, landmarks, and events - but what about our proximities to attitudes or values? What about our proximities to historical or social understanding? What about our proximities to aesthetics and interests? Where do those proximities get shaped in a world of virtual connection and global possibility? What parts of ourselves remain undeveloped by “sticking close to home” or by not exploring beyond the readily available (as in, perpetuating a belief in the Eurocentric standard for dance culture)?
As experienced in my travels away from LA, in what ways does spatial distance force a more conscious relational closeness?
These questions certainly don’t provide any clear direction and only time will tell how my relationship with LA will develop. I’ve never felt so far from the self determination of my own future - I can barely plan my week, let alone think beyond this month. Yet somehow, the further I veer from the direction I thought my life was going, the closer I feel to finding comfort in the uncertainty.