The award-winning Zimbabwean-born modern dancer and choreographer, whose daring new piece, Miriam, is touring the country this spring, describes how she translates ideas into movement. My medium is my body.
I'm interested in theories of performance that explore what's possible with just a performer and an empty space, in which a lot is created with very little. In dance, you have only your body. You have to create a physical language to express yourself.
Exercise is the best cure for nerves.
Before a performance, I run, lift weights, walk if there's no gym, swim if there's a pool. The exertion creates just enough fatigue that I am calm but still energized enough to perform.
Leadership sometimes means eating humble pie.
As a choreographer, I direct people to work in tandem. If a dancer and I are at odds, the piece can fall apart. So I do what is necessary—like apologizing even if I think I'm right.
I'm terrified—and it works.
I am afraid of not being able to express myself, of failure, of disappointing my mother. So I work. I immerse myself in art history. I study the writings of great artists like Samuel Beckett and Peter Brook. Seeing how other people worked out their own creative issues frees me up to begin to resolve my own.
A teacher can change everything.
In 1998, I moved to the Bay Area and, by chance, ended up in a modern dance class at a local community college. The teacher was so passionate that she inspired me to pursue formal training at Mills College, where I studied with choreographers who helped me translate my experience, my history, into movement.