Ambassador Outlook – January 2023

Dance Source Houston is back with our ongoing series of informal interviews with the 2022-23 Dance Ambassadors Mimi DiLuna, Diedre Graham, Bethany Logan and Isabella Vik during their ambassador term, which runs through February 2023. As the cohort continues to meet and plan towards individual community discussions, we’re asking them a few questions each month to learn more about each artist and their place in the Greater Houston dance community.

Have a question you would like us to ask the cohort? Send it to us at!

What are your aspirations for the new year? What do you hope to accomplish?

BL: This year I hope to have more dance in my life and grow connections with the local community. I aspire to see more dance, teach more, create more, and experience joyful movement for myself even more this year. I hope to share this joyful movement with others, both dancers and non-dancers alike. I hope to see my current relationship with The Women’s Home, where I will be teaching a Dance & Expressive Movement workshop, bloom into a fruitful ongoing partnership.

MD: This year, one of my goals is to delve deeper into the world of music. Through my experience in choreography, I have quickly realized that music is vital to the overall experience of a performance and has an emotional effect on both the performer and the audience. This year, I want to focus on my musicality and compose original music for my choreographies. 

IV: Within the New Year I hope to find myself choreographing more, refining myself stylistically, learning new or expanding techniques, and continuing to find new ways to bring visions to life. My focus is to continue in the trajectory I have been on for the past few years and continue to push my boundaries to discover more about how I can use my creativity to help with tangible change in the world. Finding the balance between performance and practice, resistance and rest. Continuing to strengthen my intuition and discernment in creating, allowing my work to stand freely on its own.

DG: Within this new year, I will accomplish a few goals: premiering my one-woman show, launching a new apparel business, and creating meaningful work through collaborating with the amazing artists in the Houston Arts community.

Why do you make your specific type of dance work?

BL: The work I make is rooted in storytelling and abandon through contemporary movement. For me, contemporary dance is where I feel most free. It is where I feel lines can be blurred and the rules are meant to be broken. I feel that storytelling–based on the voices of those helping to create a work–is a way of truly connecting with an audience. Sharing in a raw emotional journey that stems from a kinesthetic response opens a form of communication between performer and audience that is unreplicable. This is why I make this work: to connect, to be recklessly free. 

MD: Storytelling is the essence of my type of dance work. I’m currently training in Kathak, North Indian classical dance. The word “Kathak” is derived from “katha” which means story. One method in Kathak that I enjoy exploring is when a single performer depicts a story through portraying multiple characters. To signal a change of character, we usually take a “palta” which is a type of turn. Switching between characters back and forth requires a quick change in body language and facial expressions. In my work, I like incorporating theatrical elements which include portraying different characters and utilizing facial expressions and mime to express emotions and actions. 

IV: I think that coming from a ballet-dominant background, I have always felt a need for something that doesn’t hold many limitations or formalities, I was always searching for something different than what I was told to do. My dance work is a reflection of myself, which is nuanced, experimental, free-spirited, and often challenged. I want to create visceral images for the viewer to dissect and interpret their own way, creating something not so abstract that it’s not relatable, but not giving all of the context to stop the viewer from formulating their own thoughts. I make this type of work because the exposure of the uncomfortable sides of myself brings catharsis and allows me (in theory) to reach people on a more human level.

DG: With my work, I hope to raise awareness for many topics that are dear to me. My work combines a range of dance genres and mixed media. Often times my work enters spaces where very few people who like me can be found. So, I try to make sure I convey authenticity through my movement while taking the audience on a journey.

How do you deal with rejection?

BL: Transparently, rejection hurts. It sucks when it happens. But it is such an inherent part of the work of a dancer… I’ve learned to use rejection as fuel for the fire. Some of my most ‘successful’ dance career moments are when I took a rejection and turned it into something to learn from and grow. For example, I’m rejecting a big grant I needed for a project budget, so I brainstormed and planned fundraising events, raising more money than I originally asked for.

MD: There is a saying which goes, “When one door closes, another opens.” I would also add that “if you don’t find a door, build your own.” I build my own “doors”  by doing independent projects, initiating collaborations, and learning new skills (such as audio and video editing!). That being said, I’ve also learned that when you are ready, opportunities will come. Around age 11, I decided to study ballet seriously to become a ballerina. At that age, it was considered “late” to start training for a professional career. I auditioned for Houston Ballet Academy for a total of 4 times in the span of 2 years before finally getting accepted. At the time, with all the audition rejections, I felt very frustrated that I wasn’t seeing the desired results of my hard work. Since then, I’ve realized that learning takes time and it’s not something that can be rushed. Even today, I’m just starting to see the fruits of the efforts I put forth years ago. In life, there are seasons of hard work, seasons of rest, and seasons of reaping. Through the ups and downs, I’ve learned to exercise patience and have faith in myself.

IV: It depends. I think generally, I’m so numb to rejection because of feeling like an outsider in most places, but when speaking in a bureaucratic sense, like applying for a grant or applying for a program, I try not to let it bother me too much. There is a language in applications and sometimes mental gymnastics to maneuver when asking an institution to fund your work, so I go in understanding that. It can be discouraging, but the world is operated in such a way that makes art incredibly discouraging to do. Plus, there are different reasons for rejection and some of them can be valid or just straight-up classist. Regardless, I think having a strong sense of self, good support from friends who understand your work and people to talk with is what helps me with rejection. Rejection has ever stopped me from performing or continuing to make art.

DG: At an early age, I had to learn how to deal with rejection, specifically in dance with being told I didn’t have the right body type for dance. So, instead of letting that deter me, I created my own experiences. And I use that formula currently. Most of the time I am thankful for the rejection because it pushes back on the path to my true destination. 

What is your creative process? 

BL: My creative process consists of using movement “games” in collaboration with the dancers, as well as outside inspirations whether it’s a poem, film, photograph, article, etc. These “games” often utilize improvisation and the dancers’ first instincts in terms of movement reaction to a word or obstacle. Using these tools, we put together numerous phrases of movement. Sometimes these phrases don’t make it to the final product. Sometimes they get pulled apart and made into 4 different versions. And sometimes, they stick with the original way it all came together. Once we have a sufficient array of phrasework to choose from, I begin piecing together the phrases quite like a storyboard. I usually add music last, however, there are times a piece of music is the initial inspiration for a choreographic work. 

MD: An important part of my creative process is constantly reminding myself why I started the project in the first place. Whenever I’m faced with challenges and doubts, I go back to my initial inspiration and motivation to create the project— this renews my courage and determination to keep going and creating from an authentic place. 

IV: My creative process differs from project to project, but usually starts with an image or the final image. Since I begin with point Z, executing a start is always the most challenging. I’ll usually spend time focusing on the image and researching the context related to it. Then I’ll set aside time to explore improvisation within a studio setting which I document and write about in my journal.  When I start to focus on the movement itself, I find it easiest to go off intuition and experiment with others in the studio. Creating in real-time rather than coming in with a phrase is usually the route I take, although I come in with the research from prior. It helps me keep my mind open to possibilities instead of clinging to an idea that might manipulate and change with different bodies. 

DG: My creative process varies depending on what I’m working on. Generally,  I do lots of research that includes watching videos, reading articles, and interviewing people. I love journaling. So, I write down my ideas to flush them out. And I also record voice memos. My secret weapon for the process involves my car! Ha ha! I love getting in my car and driving around the city to let my brain work. 

Stay tuned for our next Ambassador Outlook edition! 

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