Meet Noelani | VCU Dance| Modern Dance | Richmond Dance Photography Project

I started dancing when I was really little. My earliest memories are dancing in church and watching my big sister when I forgot a step or two. After that, I transitioned into taking jazz, ballet, and tap at local dance studios. Much of my motivation to dance was my big sister, Christal. For all of my younger years, I wanted to be just like her so I tried to do everything she did from elementary to the beginning of high school.

Around the end of eight grade, I had two major auditions to face: Thomas Dale High School Specialty Center and dELIRIUM, the competition team at Chesterfield Dance Center. I remember going to these auditions knowing that was I behind the other dancers and just having fun. My first year in dELIRIUM and Specialty Center lit a fire under me when I noticed that everyone else was just plain better. At this point, being behind was my greatest motivation as well as my greatest insecurity. Throughout this period, I found my love for modern dance, improvisation, and choreography. Throughout the program, I made many discoveries that sealed in my love for dance. I found that modern dance felt amazing on my body. It fed me spiritually in a way where I would leave modern dance class feeling capable and strong. Improvisation allowed me to finally be right! There were a lot of days where I felt as if I did everything wrong and that I was an imperfect person in a studio full of gorgeous artists. Improvisation allowed me to do what I wanted, and allowed me to feel beautiful. And then there was choreography, it allowed me to portray the images I saw in my head through movement, and I had never felt that kind of expression before. I’m so thankful for my high school dance journey, because I was able to grow immensely as an artist. It wasn’t solely focused on my technique so I was given the freedom to explore my quality of movement. I choreographed all throughout high school and that love and passion I felt led me to pursue dance and choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I had wanted to go to VCU for as long as I remember, but I didn’t always know what I was going to be studying. Once, I found the Dance & Choreography Department, I was sold! These past couple of years, have taught me so much about my body, my artistry, and who I am as a dancer. There were times where I fell out of love with dance and dance had become some sort of a job, but those moments strengthened me and taught me resilience. Every dance day isn’t going to be perfect, but I have learned how to negotiate that within my body and translate that into a continuous growth of love for dance. I am currently in a place in my dance journey, where I have never been more in love with dance. Each week is full of learning, creating, and just completely going for it.

I have found that my happiness in dance relies on the giving and receiving of this art form. I am able to receive dance as a student to many teachers, and nothing can replace the feeling of taking a dance class. The giving of dance comes from choreographing and teaching. When I choreograph, I create these worlds that invite the viewer or audience in through movement and creates an urge within them to dance. When I teach, I am able to strengthen dancers of all ages and share my passion with them. As I continue my dance journey, I believe that simply giving and receiving will always lead me where I need to be.

I picked the VCU Dance & Choreography building, because it’s been my home for the past three years. The first time I ever walked into it, I knew it was home. This place has watched me grow into the artist that I am now, and the walkways and roads leading to the building, have led me home more time then I can count. Whether I’m by myself or surrounded by people, there have been many times where I’ve walked these paths stressed to then walk them later relieved. It reminds me of the waves of life and teaches me to go with the flow.VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0011VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0012VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0013VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0014VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0015VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0016VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0017VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0018VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0019VCU-Dance-Photography-Session-VCU-Arts-Richmond-VA_0020

Meet Megan | Dancers of RVA | Richmond VA Photographer | R.A.D.A.R

I give gratitude to my past.

Peace for my present.

And confidence and courage for my future story.

~ Megan

PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATRINA BOONE

As the story goes, the evening after my 4th birthday party, I declared that “next year I want to have a dance party.” I didn’t begin formal dance classes until the age of 6 but my love of movement clearly started much earlier.  Initially, my ballet classes didn’t fully captivate me.  After a year of dance in first grade, I moved on to the world of gymnastics. The combination of strength, agility, poise and technique that is required for gymnastics held my attention for five years. The highlight of my tumbling career was when I met members of the 1996 Women’s Olympic gymnastics team, an event that was ultimately the catalyst for my dream of one day going to the Olympics. After being asked to join my gym’s competitive team, my family and I ultimately decided that this wasn’t the route for me. Ballet was drawing me back in.

The ballet training that followed during my formative years was an invaluable time of growth. Dance provided a routine. A sense of purpose. Something to work at and build upon, with seemingly infinite combinations of movement and possibilities.  If I felt anxious at school due to academics or social pressures, I had dance to look forward to. The studio was a place where I was excelling and could express myself more confidently.  Over the years I fell in love with movement, with the human body and all of its capabilities, and with the bonds that you form with your fellow dance colleagues. The sense of community that is developed from dancing with a group for many years is certainly part of what keeps me involved in the process.  It is hard to believe that at this point I have been dancing for over half of my life. My 3.3 decades of experience with movement have undoubtedly shaped the person that I am today.

As high school came to a close, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, so I pursued a B.A in Dance from Radford University.  I have had the opportunity to work and perform with several companies, not only in my birth state of Tennessee but in Washington, D.C and Richmond as well.  I have gained knowledge and experience in arts administration and have also developed a strong base for dance and movement education.

Through my years of teaching dance, I have become more confident in my abilities, not only in terms of my technical and artistic abilities, but with my presentation and performance as well. Working with a wide range of ages helps keep my skill-set diverse. As I continue to perform, I am forced to keep working on my technique, while also navigating the changes in my body as I age.  Just as dance can be so fluid, I too must move with the currents.  Growing and adapting and shifting so that I am able to sustain a career in movement.

Like most growth processes, the journey hasn’t been pain-free. I have experienced serious self-doubt, body image issues that carry into my adult life, physical pain from either injury or pointe shoes, and even being a part of some dance communities that were toxic and damaging to my psyche. Yet, somehow, I have always come back to movement. These experiences also led me to pursue another personal interest, the holistic therapy of massage. I’ve been able to combine my love of the intricate human body with the healing power of touch. My goal in pursuing massage therapy was never to leave dance but rather to provide another outlet in which I can share my knowledge and experiences.  Now I can use my body awareness, strength and agility to help others feel better in their bodies.

I look forward to continuing my practice of movement and therapeutic modalities, exploring even further how to combine and share two such essential elements in this life.

I give gratitude to my past.

Peace for my present.

And confidence and courage for my future story.

About my Location:

Richmond is the first place that I have truly been able to call home in my adult life.  I fell in love with this city after moving here four years ago.  One of my favorite things about Richmond is the access to outdoor recreation, particularly the James River, with its’ winding trails, hidden ruins and sweet spots to hang a hammock.  After several years of living in D.C., I appreciate the friendly and down to earth nature of the Richmond community, as well the amenities and infrastructure of a larger city.  The Pipeline Overlook is a beautiful and unique representation of the things I love the most about this city!!

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