Tell us who you are & what you do... My name is big tara. I am a dancer, an NYC culture keeper, a health /wellness coach and an herbalist.
When did you start dancing? Why? I started dancing when I was 4. Well that was when my ma first put me in jazz, tap and ballet classes. When I was 6, I started breaking since that was how we danced in my hood and I loooved Beat Street. Since it was a social thing, it transitioned with time to more hip hop and I could learn hip hop easier from friends and tv.
Do you feel like black women are represented in mainstream and underground dance culture? I actually don’t. We fought to get our Black Girl Magic recognized but we still don’t get full credit for our contributions. I feel like certain types of black women are more easily represented and embraced. I don’t feel like there are so many black women like me who are bgirls and women who are more natural (natural hair, light to no make up). I would love more variety in terms of our individual stories. This is supposed to be art. When I first started I couldn’t get by with my natural hair, without tons of make up and being sexualized. I just wanted to dance but not under those conditions. It took away from my enjoyment and freedom. Social media and people learning to embrace different types of beauty have improved things but I think it’s still distorted. I do think there is colorism, ageism, and too much catering to industry standards.
What are the typical beauty/image standards synonyms with black women dancers? When I think of black woman dancer stereotypes, I think of Ciara, Megan, Teyana so generally speaking it’s that kind of build like a toned stripper, long hair or weave, big booty, in their 20’s or 30’s and ready to slay. Meanwhile dancers come in all types of shapes, shades of skin, sizes, and ages. I recently was learning this dance piece to Arianna Grande’s “God is a Woman” and while the message of the song said one thing the choreographer chose to only cast a certain “look” and age to be part of this piece. It was a great learning experience to see how closed minded people are when it comes to casting and also how scared people are to take risks when it comes to thinking outside the box and having a real vision that can include more than one type of woman.
Does social media take away from the authenticity of dance? I think that social media takes away from dance in the sense that it provides more of an opportunity to spread wrong information, more opportunities to plagiarize, and it sometimes takes away from the integrity of a dance if it’s appropriated in the process. Social media does have its pros. You can connect with and discover awesome dancers, learn more dances from all over the world and it is a healthy outlet to share your gift.
What do you want people to know about black dancing bodies? When it comes to Black dancing bodies, it would be great if people loved black lives, black bodies, and the black history that created the black dances everyone is so excited to learn and emulate.
Any last thoughts? I would love for us to keep strengthening our community, protecting the integrity of all the culture that black dancing bodies create and for black people and all that they bring to be honored with dignity and love.
Tell us who you are & what you do. Hola, hola, hola! I go by "Chi-Chi" I'm originally from the Bx and I am a lot of things. Dance and other creative things (dancer, actor, choreographer) is what I do, but I am a performer. In whatever way a story needs to be told, I am willing and able to tell it. That's it. For now.
When did you start dancing? Why?I don't know when I started dancing. I was born dancing in a way. It's my superpower and when you have a gift, you have to use it. Even if you end up doing something else with your time/life, your gift will always draw you in to where you are supposed to be. It won't let you leave it. I started dancing professionally after finishing at Rutgers University. I was molded in my teenage years to forget about my superpower and keep it as a hobby. My freshman year in college, my best friend Tom (just a teacher at the time), reminded me that I had something special. I wanted to wait until I was finished with my degree because that meant a lot to me, so that's what I did. I started professionally in 2005, why? because I had to. My superpowers made me.
Do you feel like black women are represented in mainstream and underground dance culture? Yes and no. I feel like Black women in mainstream dance culture are turned into something/someone else. Throughout history, "our" history, we've been turned into "things to look at". Our bodies, our shapes, our range of skin, eye colors and hair textures are very special because there is no other being on the planet made like us. We are a wonder of the world. But we're turned into a sort of spectacle that takes us so far from who we really are that I feel we are PRESENT in mainstream dance culture, but as something or someone else. For example: I used to wear my hair in a ponytail piece for every audition and job mainly because I knew my hair wouldn't mess up that way and I look cute in a ponytail (smacks gum, flips hair). Anytime I wanted to wear my hair out (curly fro, frizzy curls, curly puffs, etc), people thought it wasn't appealing enough. I needed "extra" hair: a half-wig (knew nothing about that until the dance industry). "You would like nice with a long weave" they'd say. "Make sure you wear the long pony" they'd say. "You should straighten your hair again, it looks nice like that"... they'd say. So I and women like me (in mainstream dance industry) have to look a little less Black while the white girl with the cornrows dancing next to me is Poppin! I see black women in their full and true essence more often in underground dance culture, and while I have been removed from both for a few years now, what I see most in the underground are women from Japan, Sweden, Italy, Germany (insert European and Asian Country here) looking like black women, more than I see actual black women.
What are the typical beauty/image standards synonyms with black women dancers?Are there any? I don't know.
Does social media take away from the authenticity of dance? umm YES, next question.
What do you want people to know about black dancing bodies? The black dancing body is directly connected to the psyche of that black dancer. Whatever anyone has ever said about the black dancing body ends up a notch etched in that dancer's subconscious and dictates everything he/she wears, how he/she dresses, moves, etc. They (Black Dancing Bodies) represent strength, power and resilience no matter what they look like, because the Black dancing body is very different from one woman to the next.
Has motherhood changed your relationship to dance? If so, how.Motherhood changes the body, period. It changes not only your relationship, but also your understanding of your body and what it can and won't do. With respect to dance, I think the relationship just changes. Something as simple as jumping is just completely different. For a long time, I had to just find ways to do things differently with this "new body" of mine-whatever that means, I haven't reached the point where I fully understand it. I can't afford (in time or money) for dance to be a top priority any more (unless it's worth the time and worth the money). I have had to change who I am to dance, even though what dance is to me has not changed (it's still my superpower, but now breastfeeding and being awesome to Kane is on my supershero list too). Which just means I won't go too far, but even if I do, dance is going to bring me back when the time is right.