“You have nothing to prove, but everything to share.” – Ulysses Dove
Projecting so many of my personal frustrations and emotions in front of an audience through spoken word and dance was an incredibly overwhelming experience. The YDT Inheriting Ailey project was the most meaningful performance project that I have been a part of and I gave myself fully to it.
Sharing my personal story is a choice that many times I struggle with. Sometimes I feel like I am exploiting my experience as “this is what makes me unique.” Especially at a place like Yale, it is one way to distinguish myself. Other times, I feel like it is really no one’s business. Being adopted into a multi-racial family is not really that different. Except when it is.
While being an international adoptee is a very important part of my identity, it is not something that I think about often. I am lucky to be where I am today and I almost feel a moral obligation to focus on gratitude. I’ve written about my experience many times – and the thoughts and feelings behind those writings are genuine – but they have never shaken me to the core as this project as.
Given the opportunity to express my confusion, frustration, and sense of loss in such a public way, incorporating an art form that I have come to incorporate into my identity, was immensely emotional. After the performance I spent two hours on the phone crying while my mother talked to me. They weren’t really tears of a specific emotion but a combination of sadness, frustration, confusion, anger, happiness, love and relief. I was utterly overwhelmed.
After the performance I met Renee’s mother. She complimented me and told me that I performed so well I must be an actress. While the first few times I did have to consciously think about projecting and emoting, by the time of the live performances I was no longer acting. Everything I felt, I portrayed.
Unfortunately, I do not think I reflected upon the experience as much as I should have. I never fully processed my emotions. While I am proud of the work and flattered by the positive audience response, in a paradoxical way, the experience highlighted a sense of isolation for me. Although people have expressed how moving and powerful they found the dance, although we all shared in the experience of the production, it doesn’t change the fact that others will never truly understand my story.
Even though I was very conscience in what I wanted to share, I know not everyone took away from the performance the message I wanted to communicate. The most difficult take-aways from this project was coming to terms with the fact that I have no control over people’s perceptions and the ultimate isolation in my experience.
The opportunity to have a space in which I could explore these emotions, work with such talented and humble artists, and be truly valued as a dancer and human being is one that I will be forever grateful for. I am honored to have worked with Matthew, Renee, and my very talented peers. While I may not have affected people in the way I set out to, the project certainly affected me.
“You have nothing to prove, but everything to share.”
Thank you for letting me share.