Photo by Robbie Sweeney and the Tenderloin National Forest
As a black-dance scholar and dancer, I recently became curious about the methods and stamina—or shall I say “hustle”—that is required in order to maintain dance and dance scholarship as a top priority in my life. As a guest dancer in Hill’s newest work, She-Verse, I had the opportunity to sit down with her after a recent rehearsal and receive insight into her daily hustle.
This is a day in her life.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
Cherie spends the first hour of her day meditating. She sits up quietly on her bed after waking, focusing on inner light and sound. She has been practicing these principles of Surat Shabd Yoga for nearly twenty years. Nearly twenty minutes in, her mind finally begins to rest.
Her cell phone alarm rings and she shifts to turn it off. She checks her phone for important texts or missed calls. Thankfully, there are none. She puts her phone down and heads to the kitchen.
She prepares herself an assortment of snacks to eat throughout her workday: a pear, a bag of crackers, a dollop of hummus, and an energy bar. On some days she will prepare herself a green tea, but not today.
Cherie takes a shower and brushes her teeth. She stands in front of her dresser and pulls out comfortable pants to move in, a tank top and a light sweater. She double checks that she has her keys, cell phone, water bottle, and wallet in her backpack. She has two other bags for the family dance classes she will teach today filled with two signs, a stereo, tablet, CDs, pens, the lesson, a small drum, cups, a pitcher, cookies, and scarves for props.
She spends the next few minutes reviewing the plans for the day with her partner of twenty-one years, Ithiel. Their 13-year-old son, Urijah, not only needs to be driven to his soccer game but also needs a ride to join his friend for their first big concert tonight at the Oakland Coliseum.
Cherie returns to her kitchen and eats a handful of grapes and strawberries before hailing her Lyft.
Her Lyft arrives and drives her to the Richmond Bart station. In the car, she scans her email and begins to prepare herself for an hour-long phone meeting on equity and diversity with Hope Mohr Dance. Four months ago, Cherie began working with the company on their community engagement projects and residencies. This call is a part of that ongoing work.
Cherie exits the Lyft, gathers her bags, and heads to the train platform. She settles herself and puts her headphone jack into her phone.
9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Just as her call begins, the train arrives. Cherie gathers her bags again. Inside the train, she heads to an empty row. Over the next half hour, despite the noise and distractions, Cherie communicates her thoughts to the group. She then exits at 19th Street Oakland and heads into one of her favorite local coffee shops, Tierra Mia. She places her bags down at a corner table and orders a green tea. For the rest of the call she dialogues with the group, collaborating on insightful information to strengthen equity and diversity efforts within the company.
As soon as the call ends, Cherie hails another Lyft to the West Oakland Library where she and her co-instructor Rossana will teach a free family dance class.
Cherie meets Rossana in the main meeting room, unpacks the signs from her bag and places one outside the room and the other near the library’s front entrance. She then organizes the sign-in sheet and the refreshments. For the last few minutes, she and Rossana check in and review their lesson plan for today’s class.
Cherie and Rossana greet the families as they arrive. Gentle-sounding music is playing in the background. Since the course is free and families are not required to sign up prior, Cherie is never sure about how many families or which families will attend. MPACT, which stands for Moving Parents and Children Together, is a program provided through Luna Dance Institute, where Cherie is a dance teaching artist. The goal of the course is to use dance as a means for families to connect and bond. The curriculum is relationship-based and works with creative dance and attachment theory. It is specially designed for families that are in the process of reunification, although all families are welcomed to join. In addition, Cherie is particularly invested in the program being available to families of color living in neighborhoods with fewer resources. Today’s class begins with three families: three adults and five children.
10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Cherie and Rossana gather everyone to form a circle. They start with introductions and then play a name game. They warm up their bodies to movements based in neurodevelopment patterns following a series of explorations of space and energy. They dance together; they dance apart. They shake and wiggle—bursting in different ways. During a kids-only dance section, Cherie speaks with the adults, learning more about their adult and child relationship, pointing out the kids’ dance accomplishments. Soon the kids finish, and they all reunite back into their family units, form a circle, and perform a goodbye dance.
11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.
As the families leave, Cherie and Rossana pack up and leave the lively meeting room. They head back into the library and find a quiet place to snack and reflect on what they saw in the class and what they felt were challenges with the curriculum. They also spend some time thinking about ways to promote the course and involve more families. With the cultural changes occurring in Oakland, they want to promote the program’s original goals and ensure they serve families that the program was originally intended for.
12:20 p.m. to 12:40 p.m.
Cherie is happy to see Ithiel and Urijah pull up to the library. She remembers that it is a big day for Urijah who is attending his first concert. She takes in her son’s excitement and enjoys these few moments of being with her family as they drive through traffic to drop her off at the 81st Avenue Branch library in East Oakland for her next class.
12:40 p.m. to 1:05 p.m.
Now at the next location, Cherie heads inside of the library towards the back classroom where her second co-teacher-of-the-day, Aiano, is stacking up the chairs in order to clear the space for the next MPACT class. They greet one another, and like she did earlier with Rossana, Cherie and Aiano prepare for the lesson.
Cherie walks towards the main lobby and asks the librarian to make an announcement that their class is starting. Cherie quickly scours the library to personally invite families to join. Five families consisting of six adults and eight children attend the class.
1:10 p.m. to 2:05 pm
Although she is co-teaching the same lesson she did earlier, it feels different. Cherie is vibing off of Aiano’s fast-paced energy.
2:05 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
With snacks in hand, Cherie and Aiano prepare next Saturday’s lesson. They debrief about what they experienced with the families and plan the lesson for next week. By the time they pack up, it is nearly an hour and a half later, and Cherie sends Ithiel a message to let him know she is ready. She responds to emails while she waits.
3:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
As they head home, they drive near the crowds heading towards the Coliseum. Cherie imagines Urijah flowing in the midst of the crowd—her young son amongst these young adults. She remembers him in the car earlier and reminisces about the clothes he had on and the cologne he was wearing. A rush of sentiment comes over her as she relishes in the gratitude of the moment—her son is growing up and she is grateful to be able to witness it.
4:15 pm to 6:00 p.m.
Cherie and Ithiel settle into home-life. After meditating for twenty minutes to wash away the day’s stresses, Cherie heads to the kitchen to make herself a late lunch—a vegan cheese quesadilla with avocado. She relaxes while watching a few episodes of Caribbean Life and daydreams about one day opening up a bed and breakfast/artist residency on a Caribbean island somewhere.
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Cherie begins preparing for She-Verse’s rehearsal the next morning. They have a show-in-progress on Wednesday, and Cherie needs to solidify the work’s sections and order. She calls Imani, the piece’s video artist, about video edits. She texts back and forth with Brizion about the music for the piece. Moving around her living room, she shifts between marking the choreography and taking notes. She is unsure about the section transitions but mentally maps out what she thinks will work for Wednesday’s showing.
8:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
Ithiel tells Cherie that dinner is ready and they eat—just the two of them. After dinner, they tidy up various parts of the house, mixed in with resting and daydreaming.
9:15 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.
Similar to her morning, Cherie is back to packing her bags for the next day’s rehearsals and photo shoot. She packs some of the costumes for her dancers, her tablet, her journal full of rehearsal notes, a portable projector, makeup, and lots of hair ties. She texts her dancers to remind them about rehearsal and the photo shoot. She then maps out her plans for her second rehearsal at USF while Ithiel goes to pick up Urijah. Cherie rejoices in the few moments of alone time and jumps around her house with the last bit of her energy.
Before falling asleep Cherie reminds herself that despite how full the next day will be, she will enjoy the moment, take it one step at a time, be present, and breathe. She feels extremely busy, but the artistic opportunities she’s engaged in make it worth it.
Cherie premieres She-Verse, a multi-media piece inspired by drifting water, land, ancestors, bravery, and eco-feminism, this December 5-7 and 12-14 at CounterPulse in San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased at http://counterpulse.org/event/performingdiaspora2019/.
This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of In Dance.