This is an excerpt from a series of interviews from February 2018, presented in partnership with ICDF’s Network for Men in Dance.
Jeremiah Enna (USA)
Interviewer: You moved to Sweden to join a professional dance company called Eternia Dans Teater, where Vibeka Muasya created the production, We Want To Live which toured for 5 years throughout Europe. It was so poignantly beautiful, portraying the plight of Jewish people in the Holocaust – and we somehow managed to squeeze the entire touring company into our little cottage overnight when you visited!
Now you and Mona have family of your own, and you direct a whole Arts Centre in Kansas called The Culture House. Through your work you are bringing excitement and creative freedom to another generation.
Looking back, what have been your most exciting moments as a dance performer?
I remember a concert in a small village in Sweden. I had recently moved to Sweden from Los Angeles. Prior to that move I had danced in all kinds of projects including some videos, on a tour concert with Donna Summer, a few musicals, modern concert dance, etc. Even though I had done a fair amount of dancing I didn’t really see myself as a dancer. I was an actor who could dance and I just kept getting work. I think I got a lot of work because I danced like a guy and I worked really hard. But, my life was not healthy at all. My soul was deteriorating and I was taking victims with me.
I knew that for my life to be significant, I also had to be responsible. I couldn’t have one without the other, even though there were many voices around me suggesting that lie. So, when I moved to Sweden I met a bunch of these 20-something young artists who were serious about this idea that dance and the arts were meaningful, powerful, but also accountable. It was refreshing to be with a group of people truly willing to chew on these ideas.
After about a year, we performed a concert we prepared in the village where we lived. There was a small theater, about 150 seats, which were mostly full. It was quite a gruelling program physically. But, I remember having a feeling afterwards of the deepest satisfaction that I had finally been working so hard for something that really mattered, that had integrity. There was just a small audience, but I believe I had my first experience of performing not only for those in the seats, but for the God who gives meaning to it all!
There were other concerts around the world, but that was a profound moment.
Would you tell us about your STAR programme and what it achieves?
The STAR program is our program for reaching out to young people who are in difficult circumstances whether by their own fault or just where life has put them. I had done a lot of work with gang teens in Los Angeles, and even runaway child-prostitutes. These are very difficult situations. But, because of my experience, when we started The Culture House, we began this program early on in our work. As I progressed, I realized that there are many good, solid organizations in Kansas City working with these groups. So, the STAR program is designed to be a supplement to organizations who are working on the really hard stuff, using us as an additional service to complement their other work.
Many of these young people’s educational progress is dramatically behind. So, we focus our arts education programs on strengthening their confidence in their ability to learn. Many believe they are permanently stupid. The arts are a great area where learning can come fast and is not nearly as consequential as reading. If you can’t tap well, it won’t prevent you from getting a good job. When a student learns even one move well, the teacher begins the persistent reminder of their success at an actual task. We don’t give empty positive statements to ‘build their self-esteem’ (which is a lie). Rather, we jump on real accomplishments at a micro level, so they can rebuild the reality that they are learners.
Are you still dancing?
I don’t perform any more, but my body is still one that is very physical. I respond to music and wonder what’s wrong with the rest of the world!
Men in Dance Network
Any man interested in dance can just go on Facebook, type in ‘Men in Dance Network’, and ask to join the group.
(If there are women who have questions, or are looking for pointers about working alongside men as dancers, we’ll be trying to build up suggestions and resources for that also, as Frequently Asked Questions. So address any enquiries to Andy Raine.)