Saturday, September 7, 2013
I've been around dancers for almost 15 years now, and have seen creativity in all it's forms, but if there is one thing I've learned, it's that you never stop learning.
Late last year, American contemporary choreographer Adam Parson came through the Pure Funk studio as part of an Aussie workshop tour. Now that in itself is nothing special, we get choreographers passing through year round, but Adam's story struck me as interesting.
Here was an amazing choreographer, a dude that has worked with some great artists, been around the world and has incorporated dance into a bunch of different mediums, and yet his bio says he started dancing at 26 years old.
Yes, you read that right. At a time when some professionals are starting to think about winding down their careers, his was just beginning.
I couldn't fathom it. How could someone have the motivation and the confidence, or whatever it took, to make it such a cut-throat industry starting that late? I had to find out, so I got in touch with Adam and tried to find out the secret to his success.
His response was so great, I had to just repeat it word-for-muthaeffing-word.
Bob: What was it that inspired your decision to start your career at 26.
Adam: Being a computer engineer and accounting manager for a top computing company in Georgetown in Washington D.C. was a great job. I loved using my nerdy side to figure things out and be responsible for running the company on the back end, but I missed doing gymnastics which kept me in shape. (I ended up being 230lbs working at McDonalds before getting this job, and then sitting for 8 hours!) When my sister asked me to take her friend to the dance studio and I walked in and saw all the energy going on, I has hooked! It was as simple as that. It was like combining my nerdy side and my gymnastic side into organized movement. I knew that whatever I did from now on would have to incorporate both and it was super inspiring challenging myself to be able to do this at an age when most people are moving into their "steady" careers.
Bob: What(or who) was it that encouraged you to keep it up, as I realize it must have been hard work when you were first staring out?
Adam: My first teacher Terry Peyton was my biggest champion, she pushed me like no other, while guiding me when I would get frustrated. She saw the potential in me and made it happen. "What" encouraged me was taking ballet. My teacher Elan Cooper was instrumental in instilling in me the importance of ballet. I took to it like I was learning a new computer language, it was fun to figure it out!
Bob: What do you think has been a key factor in allowing you to continue to be a creative as a choreographer?
Adam: Growing up in Kenya would be one, going to a British boarding school with an international student body would be another, but mostly having teachers like Cindera Che, Terri Best, Helene Phillips, Randy Allaire, Keith Clifton, Charles Anderson, Eliana Alexander and a piano Player named Betty(who taught me the differences in notes and intonation). These people helped to shape me to the choreographer that I am today by seeing who I was and not trying to change me to fit their image, but rather helped me find my own voice.
The big takeaway that I got from Adam's inspiring story was pretty clear - don't settle for what you have if it isn't what you love.
Whatever it is that you're passionate about, chances are it is what you should be doing. That's not to say it won't take a lot of hard work and commitment, and that you have to surround yourself with people who both push you and support you, but when you find what you should be doing, you'll know it and you should go for it.
Responsibility and fear of change may compete in your psyche for supremacy over what you finally decide to do, but ultimately doing what you want will benefit not only you but those around you.
Experiment and found out where your passion truly lies, and then go for it. Even if, like Adam, you're not 18.
It's never too late to start.