CityDance Community Programs Teacher. Read her full bio after the interview.
1. WHEN DID YOU FIRST FALL IN LOVE WITH DANCE? AND, WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT IT?
My love for dance has been a long journey. When I began dancing at a young age, I loved it, but not to the point of considering making a career out of it. When I was deciding what to major in college, I began to research professional dance. That is when I really became fascinated and wanted to try it out. In college I wasn’t always sure I wanted to dance full time. I love the vulnerability of dance. When I dance I feel free to express my inner most thoughts that I otherwise hesitate to share with people through speech.
2. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH CITYDANCE COMMUNITY PROGRAMS? WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM IT?
I enjoy the kids! They are too funny. And I love their honesty and openness. I also really love the vision of the CityDance Community Programs. The idea of engaging kids in their communities and challenging their minds and bodies through dance is so encouraging and beautiful. I am STILL learning patience! But I am also learning the beauty of just being who you are. My kids are unapologetically themselves! I love it. The training they are getting through CityDance is not a means to change who they are, but to hone their character and help to develop the best version of themselves.
3. WHAT WAS IT LIKE PREPARING FOR THE WIZARDS HALFTIME PERFORMANCE?
Preparing for the Wizards performance was exciting. This was a first for me as for a lot of my kids so I was excited, nervous, and anxious right along with them! We rehearsed a great deal though so I felt confident in the work they put in. They worked extremely hard in their individual classes and in the extended combined Saturday rehearsals.
4. WHAT WAS THE HIGH POINT OF THE PERFORMANCE FOR YOU?
Honestly, I think the high point for me was seeing them run out from the court after their performance. THEY WERE SO HYPE. Their energy was so high and contagious. They were so proud of themselves and I was even more proud of them. It was a beautiful feeling.
5. THE DREAM ANNUAL PERFORMANCE IS COMING UP, HOW ARE YOU PREPARING?
The DREAM Annual Performance is cool because we challenge the kids to take everything they have learned throughout the year and apply it. This is THEIR show. They choreograph their piece, they title their piece, they choose their costumes, everything! We, the teachers, guide their process, but the ball is totally in their court! And they are super creative and excited to finally take leadership and ownership. We have been doing activities to brainstorm what kind of impact they want to have in their community and how they can use that idea to create art. All of their pieces are inspired by the community service project they are doing.
6. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PART OF THE DC/MARYLAND AREA DANCE COMMUNITY, PARTICULARLY THE TOWSON UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY?
Wow, I am so blessed to be in the amazing communities I am a part of. I didn’t even want to stay in the DMV, let alone attend an in-state college. That was actually my absolute LAST choice! But now, it is nothing but a blessing. Being a part of these communities reminds me that I have a place to call home. I love traveling and would love to do a lot more traveling in the near future, but this place will ALWAYS be my foundation, rock, and home. And to say I am grateful to be apart of the Towson community is an understatement. The people there are just fierce and I love them all. They have all continued to support and encourage me even after I graduated.
Hear more from Zenas in Part II of her interview
Zenas Okanlawon joined the CityDance community as a teacher for the 2013 summer program. Not long after she joined the DREAM youth development dance faculty for the 2013-2014 school year. During her senior year of high school Zenas decided that she wanted to pursue dance as a career. The following year she enrolled in Towson University and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts last spring. Currently, Zenas is involved in a variety of dance projects and working with various choreographers. She recently performed with Christopher K. Morgan and Artists, and is also continuing work with VTDance. She also performed in CityDance’s Dancing in One Language for the 2013-2014 school year.
Interview by Berenice Medina, Senior at American University, Marketing and Development Intern for CityDance