This post written by A. Nia Austin-Edwards is a part of a series by SLMDances, as we process our recent participation in the Dancing Diaspora conference in February 2014.
When I traveled to San Francisco with Ase Dance Theatre Collective, I had no idea what a tour manager was. When I met Marjani Forte and her dancers in Washington, D.C., I felt like there was so much more I could do to help. Over time, I have learned how I could apply my various skill sets to support the artists I was working with, and then I decided to start my own business.
My life in arts management - literally life, I have been at it since I was 12 - always seemed normal to me. Everybody does everything. That was the mindset of the dance studio I grew up in. Some of us were better at certain tasks, but no one ever said that’s the stuff the artist doesn’t really want to do. No one ever told me supporting artists could be a career path.
What does this have to do with the Dancing the African Diaspora Conference?
I did not partake in a single full session of the conference. But you know what I did do? I made sure Sydnie and the company had everything they needed to facilitate an amazing workshop that featured a phenomenal performance. I watched my sister debut in her dream company and let a tear drip past my smile as every audience member fell in love with her. I sat up until 3am on 3 hours of sleep and made a new sister-friend who I look forward to supporting and continuing to learn from. I watched a teacher I haven’t seen in years enjoying life through performance and smiling in a way I never saw at NYU. I had the surprise pleasure of spending time with a beloved big brother who can’t decide if he wants to live in New York, Atlanta, or North Carolina (then again, he doesn’t have to!). I shared an amazing airport experience with a woman who gave me all new kinds of perspectives over a good ol’ glass of white wine. I got to sip sweet tea, smile at the sun, remember visits to Biscuitville, make a few U turns, enjoy a margarita... and try not to cry as I stood in front of a nation of scholars, artists, lovers, and healers and told them I am here to HELP.
Did I enjoy the partial session I attended where I learned about the power of “epic memory” from Sheron Wray? Yes. Did I admire SLMDances’ facilitation, performance, and dialogue while filming on a tiny camera screen? Definitely. Did I love breaking bread with Sydnie, the dancers, and our brother while debriefing and planning our next moves? Of course. And let me tell you there are big moves a comin’! But there is something more, something greater than ALL of that that I took away from this journey...
PURPOSE. My business supports artists and activists in the manifestation of PURPOSE-full work, and all of that helping, supporting, loving is my PURPOSE-full work.
I am so glad SLMDances was one of the FIRST to jump on board, and I look forward to continuing to support this company along with any and everyone else that I can.
Here’s to many more moments full of purpose. Ase.