Alexeya: When Movement Meets Music
Choreographer, dancer and singer Alexeya first caught our attention when we saw a mesmerizing video of her dancing in a red ball gown, kicking her legs high above her head, her dress flowing intriguingly around each motion. Imagine the ultimate red dancing woman emoji. A quick glance at her social media revealed that she wasn’t just a dancer but also a singer with a soulful debut EP called Dancing with the Devil. A master of movement, Alexeya helps choreograph other artists while she’s developing her music career. We spoke to her about the power of social media today, her creative process and how the ’90s R&B era inspires her.
In your work you merge dance and leadership, can you tell me more about that?
Alexeya: I have a degree in Dance with a concentration in Leadership. What I learned in college is all about personal development, making you really aware of yourself, refining your strengths, and learning how to lead spaces. I teach young dancers leadership so that they can create their best life and future. They no longer constantly need to look for someone to hire them or give them an opportunity because they know how to maximize themselves and others to create anything. This helps them not be a starving artists and be a boss instead.
That seems to be a frequent problem for many artists, not being able to monetize their art. Is that something that you’ve had to deal with?
Yes, I am still figuring it out. When you study art in school you’re not given any other tools than art history, cultivating and creating. However, you’re not given tangible tools to make a living off of your art. No one tells you how innovative you have to be to survive. In this culture of social media everyone is an entrepreneur; it’s so important to be in tune with yourself to show “I know who I am and what I can bring to the table.” It’s good that the kids are getting this now in high school, so hopefully they’ll have less of a struggle after college.
How does social media help artists get work? Have you had any business opportunities through social media?
Definitely, just curating your Instagram page, for example, gives people an idea of your aesthetic and style. I can easily show people what I like to do with music and dance without having to meet someone. However social media can put a lot of pressure on artists — as an artist you do have to spend a lot of time in solitude to dig and go in themselves to be creative.
What does a typical week look like for you?
It can be so different — I could be spending a week writing, making movement, sending out pitches and creating ideas. Or I could be doing a photoshoot or meeting someone to choreograph their music video. I started reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, she’s a famous choreographer, and the book is about how she has a very ritualistic life. She does the same thing every morning; wakes up at 5:30 am, hails a cab and goes to the gym for two hours, right after that she gets food and goes to an empty studio without dancers and creates movement. The book is about how as an artist you have to create a ritual in order to make your creations more productive. When you’re all over the place you can’t get into the same flow. For me when I wake up, I say affirmations. One in particular — “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say?” I try to live every day with the intention of giving rather than receiving.
How do you work with other artists?
Half of my time is spent doing my own projects and half is working with other people. In terms of choreography, a concept will come to my mind and then I’ll think of people to collaborate with. I work with dancers, filmmakers and makeup artists. It’s always interesting to navigate being a collaborator — I am always thinking about how can we influence each other’s choices so that we’re moving in one accord? With music, I primarily work with one producer, Q. Ivory. I like to write something a capella and then we create something together rather than just have someone send me a beat. We go back and forth and come together with what we hear.
Are you more focused on music or dance right now?
Right now, it’s definitely music. Because of my dance background creative direction just comes naturally to me. I am learning the ropes with music as I go. People expect me to be a dancer that sings, but because of my art background I want to create art that makes an impact. A challenge for me is to find out how can I use my background in movement and still create a sound that’s true to me. Long-term I want to be a household name as a performing artist, I want to create music that people associate an emotion, a feeling, a memory with.
Your look reminds me a little bit of ’90s R&B singers, are you inspired by that era?
Yes, definitely. I’m really influenced by the ’90s, when I was younger and I had all these dreams of being an artist and that was the art that was flourishing. Women of color from the ’90s were very pure and didn’t wear a lot of makeup or have an over the top energy. It was very, “this is me and I’m just effortlessly fly.” That’s the energy I am trying to encompass I can just be pure, genuine and poppin’ [laughs].
Top two image by Mark Clennon, last image by Jarrod Anderson.