Brianna Heath is an alumna of Moving in the Spirit who recently completed her first year of college at Columbia College Chicago. She has returned as an intern this summer to Moving in the Spirit. Over the next few weeks, she’ll be blogging about her intern experience and her passion for helping others find their voices through the arts.
When I first auditioned for Moving in the Spirit’s teen company, the Apprentice Corporation, I remember being really nervous. I isolated myself from the other dancers and detached myself from the idea of actually being picked for the Apprentice Corporation. I told myself, “Just dance.”
The next thing I knew, a girl came up to me and asked me my name.
“You’re not supposed to speak to anyone remember?” I told myself.
“I’m Brianna,” I said.
“Nice to meet you! I’m Joni.”
As we were getting into a conversation about Moving in the Spirit and her experiences, school, and where I had danced before, a white lady in black capris, a t-shirt with Moving in the Spirit’s logo and a black jacket wrapped around her waist called everyone on stage into a circle.
“I want to first congratulate everyone on this stage for coming today, because that takes a lot of courage,” Dana said. At that statement, I found myself breathing normally again, and my eyes opened to see everything and everyone in the room.
With my audition number pinned to my back and my heart beating with excitement and joy, I found a spot in the front to begin the warm up. Weeks later, I found out that I got into the Apprentice Corporation.
Being in the Apprentice Corporation allowed me to find my voice and operate in a space that transcended my insecurities. Before Moving in the Spirit, I did not know how to embrace my full truth. When asked my opinion about something, I would tell people what I thought they wanted to hear instead of what I actually thought and felt. At Moving in the Spirit, I was told that my voice did matter, and out of all of the experts and opinions my voice needed to be heard, too.
I was given opportunities to practice my voice as a student representative on the Board of Directors, by leading Conflict Resolution workshops during our national summer tours, and during rehearsals for The Wonder Years–a dance performance series that we staged at the Rialto Center for the Arts highlighting the music and social justice work of Stevie Wonder. All of these experiences showed me different ways in which I could use my voice to speak my truth and create change.
Two Rialto shows, 50+ classes, several board meetings, and two national tours later, I found myself double majoring in Dance and Cultural Studies, at Columbia College Chicago. Going into a new environment with new people in the dance department was challenging. There were times where I felt out of place and my insecurities began to seep back in: “you’re not as good as them,” “you can’t be a choreographer.” I started doubting the person I came to love at Moving in the Spirit.
In times like that, I had to remember the lessons I learned—being vulnerable is not a place of weakness, but a place where I can find strength (Jessica Scudder, Apprentice Corporation teacher); the world is smaller than I think, yet filled with endless possibilities (Dana Lupton, Moving in the Spirit co-founder); honor my truth and existence in the world (Heidi S. Howard, Youth Creates/7Stages Theatre); and, “do the work” and mean it (T. Lang, guest choreographer from Spelman College).
On days when I became really frustrated and only did half of what I knew I could do, I heard Jessica’s voice and saw her stern face saying, “Brianna Heath. Dance.” And, when my roommate and I decided to create our own space where we, and other black artists, could express our truths (more on that in next week’s post), I relied on the confidence and team building experiences I gained at Moving in the Spirit. As I embark upon my senior year at Columbia and into new experiences, I go with no fear, knowing that the possibilities are endless and that I can make a difference.