Sofia Rosa Bianchi

On a beautiful November afternoon I caught up with Djouliet Amara, a 23-year old NYC-based professional dancer and choreographer, who is making waves in the dance world with her innovative approach to movement, choreography, and what it means to be an artist in this industry.  Amara greeted me in the doorway of the coffee shop with a bright smile which made me feel like we knew each other in another life.  She commands space in a room in the way that a good dancer commands the space on stage.  Immediately I could sense that I was in the presence of a pioneering woman in dance in the midst of a flourishing career.

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Photo by Camryn Elizabeth

And a flourishing career, indeed.  Moments into our conversation, I was furiously typing in my efforts to catch all of the items on Amara’s extensive list of accomplishments-all of which seemed to roll off of her tongue as casually as if she were reciting the alphabet.  Her demeanor was calm and cool as she explained how most of her days consisted of rehearsals, commercial modeling shoots, and most recently: choreography.  She is the quintessential New York City hustler— always bouncing from one rehearsal to the next, shooting one campaign after another.  In the past, Amara has worked closely with Gentry George (of Zest Collective), Francesca Harper (of The Harper Project), Alia Kache (current cast member for The Lion King on Broadway),  as well as the Alvin Ailey II of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  “I’ve also appeared in Danskin Apparel and Forever 21 ads, as well as features for Refinery 29 and Dance Spirit Magazine,” she recalls.  Most recently, Amara has been shattering boundaries of convention as she juggles ongoing dancing and modeling projects with her latest choreographic endeavors.

When I asked Amara to speak more to me about her latest experiences with choreography, her eyes flitted with excitement.  Immediately I could tell that choreography is where Amara's heart subsides.  She spoke eagerly to me about being introduced to choreography at the Ailey School through composition classes taught by Francesca Harper, founder of The Harper Project.  “Ever since Harper’s classes, I’ve been in love with the choreographic process,” she says.  Amara also spoke with reverence of Stefanie Batten-Bland, whose “raw and organic” choreographic process has largely inspired her recent work.

Amara’s eyes brightened as she began to elaborate on her own choreographic methodology.  Amara speaks with clarity about how she wants her dancers to understand that they are human beings, first and foremost.  “I want it to feel natural, ethereal, goddess, luscious, streamlined,” she declares; it is a firm constitution of her beliefs.  “I don’t want them to feel like robots.”

This past summer, Amara had been commissioned to create an original piece for the dancers of Team Canada, the same dancers that will be performing at the International Dance Championships in December of 2019 in Poland.  Consequently, the piece is scheduled to tour in a series of performances across the US and Canada for the Manitoba Provincial Dance Festival.

“I called this piece: The Number Man”, Amara began.  I could see the wheels turning behind her poised facade.  “It is a piece meant to tell the story of an artist’s journey.”  Amara explained to me how the beginning of the piece is supposed to serve as a representation of some tedious, office-like atmosphere.  “It’s the life of this ‘number man’: It’s clinical, it’s ‘cut-and-paste career’, it’s ‘office cubicle’, it’s 9-to-5,” she explains.  “This is a piece about coming out of a place where you feel stuck...It’s all about breaking out of this need for stability.”  Amara offered words from the heart to me about wanting to inspire these dancers to take risks, as she has so often done in the past.  “It’s part of my own story.  It’s a part of who I am.  Everything I create- is a part of who I am.”

I am struck by the ingenuity of this whole idea.  “So in giving these dancers this experience, you are literally giving them a physical reminder that they should always choose to take these risks, to pursue this passion; this dance will remind them exactly who they are, and why they have chosen to be dancers. ”

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It's this balance of work and play - you need to work while you play.

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“Exactly,” Amara replies, flashing a radiant smile.  I take a moment to marinate in this thought, reveling in the brilliance of it.  Amara begins to nod slowly, and after a moment she adds, “And, you know... it’s not always easy.”

The virtuoso discusses with me the challenges of the world that young dancers have to navigate, how the nature of it is very unstable.  “You have to have a thick skin, you have to be willing to take those risks.  You have to be mentally flexible, adaptive.”  Perhaps the most important aspect of finding success industry, we discuss, is that you have to know your worth.  So many times, Amara explains, opportunities may look good from afar, but once you get close you will learn that the people there will only take what they want from you, and leave you dry.  However, it’s never meant to steer you away, we conclude, but rather to lead you towards a hidden paradise that awaits you behind closed doors.  Part of realizing your place in the dance world is learning how to be in control of your career, learning to treat yourself well.

At the end of the day, you need to give yourself the opportunities that you deserve.  “It’s this balance of work and play--you need to work while  you play,” Amara affirms.  She smiles robustly, and I return the gesture.  Her energy is contagious— a promise of what’s to come.  

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently serving as Managing Editor at bSmartguide as well as pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Fordham University.  She is a current member of the Female Founders Fund Fellowship program as well as dancing in NYC for the Elizabeth White Creative.  In the future, Sofia hopes to find success by pursuing the many facets of creativity.  Her many interests include writing novels, poetry, the fine and performing arts, choreography, and app-development.  

 

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