Honesty Hour: My Senior Project

Let’s get candid about my senior project.

Over the course of the past five or so months, I’ve been asked to talk to numerous people about my senior project. Groups of people ranging from auditionees to faculty have heard me talk about the work I aim to create, why I’m creating the work, and how I got to this idea. I’ve written numerous grants, abstracts, and journal entries about this work and why it’s important to me and to the field. I love talking about my work because this idea I’m investigating, it’s something that took a while for me to find. Long story short, I am truly passionate about the subject matters.

Don’t ask me about my process though. Please… don’t.

That’s a bit dramatic, but that’s honestly how I’m feeling about the process right now. I’m great at verbally articulating my ideas, theories and methods. The execution though? This project is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and will be the most valuable work I’ve created thus far in my life. Trying to pull my ideas out of my head and manifest them is not like writing about it in a blog post. Oh, how I wish it was.

To keep it short and sweet, my senior project is to perform an intermedial solo piece about Black joy. To be more specific, my experience with Black joy. I wanted my senior project to really be a culmination of my undergraduate experience which is why I’m performing a solo with projections and dance films (since Dance Film and Technology is my focus within the major), but I think the most important thing I’ve investigated within these past four years is my Blackness. Instead of focusing on the plight, I want to focus on the resilience despite the downs. I want to talk about the #blackgirlmagic that runs in my veins.

It seems simple enough, right? You know what you want to say, so say it! Step into the studio and make that innate magic, Gab! Turn on that music and go be happy! Right?!

I will be completely honest and say this: I did not anticipate my insecurities and fear of vulnerability to stun me as much as it has. I mean, I’ve been talking this project up for months! I think about it every single day. I’ve been strategizing and planning for what feels like eons… but I get in the studio, or I get in the media lab to edit footage and I’m just stuck.

Many things have changed about my artist statement, but the two most important things to me have always been:

  1. The belief that people’s stories matter, no matter how big the following. This includes my own story.
  2. Authenticity is everything.

What I’ve learned in my creative process both in physical practice and in my filmmaking is that it is so incredibly obvious when the joy is fake. Forced joy isn’t joy. I want to create a feeling. The feeling I get when I hear someone blasting a Chance the Rapper song. The feeling I get when I listen to “Every Ghetto, Every City” by Lauryn Hill and think about riding home with my mom from combination class at Mayfair on a Saturday morning. That feeling I get when I see people being unapologetically black and carefree. The feeling I get when I’m goofing off at my house with my friends. You know, that overwhelming feeling you get when you see someone’s dreams come true right before their very eyes? That one.

It’s scary, guys. Sharing something so close to your heart for everyone to see is scary. Dancing, my physical practice, is when I do my most intimate sharing. To add to that, this is my movement too? These are my videos? Woo, child. It’s like giving someone keys to your brand new car and just hoping they don’t trash it.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m insecure about my making abilities. I don’t feel like much of a maker right now. I haven’t really put my energy behind choreography since sophomore year. Going into the studio every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. is like jumping into the deep end. I feel like I should be so much more comfortable with generating movement. I feel like I should be confident with the movement I do. I feel like I should have taken more composition class these past two years. I feel like I should have done something else. The fact that I want to be better than I am is pretty much always in the back of my mind, but it gets glaringly bright when I step into my creative space.

I’m afraid of my movement. I’m afraid of my song choices. I’m afraid that people won’t get what I’m trying to say. I’m afraid that I’ll do all of this work to get in front of an audience and… fail at feeling the love that I know is inside of me. It’s terrifying… but I think that’s the beauty of this work. It’s forcing me to do the things that I want to do, but am afraid to do. Do the work, and own it.

That’s why I love to dance. That’s why I love to share.

So, I may not be there yet. I still have inner work to do, as well as choreography and filmmaking. There are other stressors that do with producing an entire show that are completely unrelated to the work itself that I have to deal with. I guess I’m just here to remind myself that it’s okay to be where I am right now. I may be skeptical, but I will work through it. Trust, honesty, and vulnerability. Ain’t that it.


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