a new dialogue: a closer look at timmy lewis in process
Tell us a little about what makes you, you! Where are your roots?
Being a Black & Puerto Rican boy from New York City is a big part of my ROOTS. From the culture of the Bronx, including everything from the soul food to salsa dancing, everything that my parents are, I am too. A big part of what makes me who I am is the fact that I've always embraced that. I love where I am from and who I am. One of the things that excites me the most about "A New Dialogue" is that I'm finally really fully embracing my queerness. What I mean by that is, while I embraced every other part of me, due to me being apart of the entertainment industry, I was always told to kind of hide my queerness so I can book a job or be seen a certain way. In the wake of many things happening in the world right now and me taking ownership of who I am, I find myself loving my queerness and really fully embracing myself as genderqueer. I'm gay and I love that about myself. I'm also a human, same as the next person. Which is what "A New Dialogue" is really about. Embracing yourself fully so that your reflection and your relationship with yourself is at its purest...
When did you get your start in dance?
I actually started dancing at the at age of six at the Starlite Dance Studio in the Bronx, New York under the direction of the late David Melendez. There I studied salsa and hip hop for about 9 years before I had began any technical training in Ballet or Modern Dance.
The Bronx is a melting pot of creativity. How has growing up there influenced you as an artist?
Growing up in the Bronx has had a huge influence on my artistry. From the way I talk, to the way I dress, to even the way I carry myself, New York City drums to its own beat and so do I. One big thing that has always influenced me, even at the very young age of eight, has been relationships. Growing up in Bronx I found a lot of the times as a kid that I didn't understand corrupt relationships. I observed many unhealthy relationships being tolerated and ignored and that affected me heavily. As I became a teenager and started to explore myself, my own relationships, and movement, I became obsessed with having pure and genuine relationships and expressing the ups and downs of that in my own choreography.
Has choreographing always been apart of your dance history? Or is it something you just recently starting doing? How has that evolved your perspective as a dancer?
I started choreographing my junior year while attending LaGuardia High School in New York City as a dance major. Thanks to Ms. Michelle Mathesius and Steve Weinstock I learned so much about dance, music, and choreographing techniques. I quickly realized that choreographing was something I was really into and from there I just kept creating. Choreographing definitely keeps my perspective as a dancer on a constant growth. Because of it, I am constantly finding new ways to move my own body and constantly learning how to communicate better through dance. When creating pieces, I find that choreography helps me address my own personal issues and influences what I have to say heavily.
What inspired this piece for you? What does it represent?
This piece initially started with the idea of being genderqueer. For those that don't know what that means exactly, it's a term that refers to people who do not adhere to strictly male or female identities and roles. This person presents themselves as a gender-free individual, whose identity may shift and change over time. In the past two years, I had really been exploring myself as an individual and I had really come to embrace the idea of being a genderqueer person myself. With that, I began to really open myself up and come to terms with things I had no idea I had even been facing, like fully embracing being my full self. "A New Dialogue" is about breaking down barriers that not only society creates, but that we create ourselves. I truly believe that when you strip yourself of labels you don't actually fit into and are able to have a truthful and honest relationship with yourself, your relationships begin to change. You become a more present human being and you can influence your surroundings and relationships with presence and energy, instead of words. Thats what "A New Dialogue" is. It's allowing yourself to be open and honest in order to start a new conversation.
Explain your creative process for this piece!
The creative process for the piece was insane. I believe a couple of days before shooting, I hadn't locked down a full cast and I didn't have any music either. I did know that Darrin Bush and I wanted to shoot a one shot. One shot to get the full piece, the full concept. The night before my first rehearsal I had finally locked down a song and I just listened to it over and over and over again. I imagined the space, the dancers, and the movement, and then I just went from there. Ironically, I finished the the end of piece during the first rehearsal and didn't finish the beginning of the piece till 30 minutes prior to us shooting. I mostly just made up movement on spot and spat it out on to the dancers and adjusted the choreography to how their bodies interpreted it. From there, I imagined myself as the camera and created patterns based on what I wanted the viewer to see and how I wanted them to see it.
What is your favorite thing about being a dancer in Los Angeles? Your least favorite?
One of my favorite things about being a dancer in Los Angeles is using all my training to my advantage. I was very blessed at a young age to receive so much training. I traveled and performed around the world as professional ON2 salsa dancer and went to Laguardia High School where I trained in classical ballet and Horton and Graham (Modern) techniques. Most people in LA honestly only train in hop hop or are strictly technical dancers. Its not to say that's a bad thing, but I truly believe a large part of my success is my diversity. My least favorite thing about being a dancer in Los Angeles is that I really wish there was bigger focus on dance education. It's important to not only know about your body and health as a dancer but its also very important to know where dance came from and where and when it started. If you're doing Fosse style, I believe it's imperative to know who Bob Fosse is.
Social media is becoming an extremely important component of being a successful artist out here. What's your take on all of that?
I think Social media is great. It may not be great all the time, but it's a big part of why people are able to see my work. I like the idea of taking a stage piece and redefining it to become visually accessible. As far as online fame and going viral, those two things don't concern me. As long as I'm living and expressing myself in truth, my true hope is that people see my work and it inspires them to live their truth to to tell their own story.