Kay Hampton ’18 is a dance and psychology double major. We asked her to share her experience as part of a summer intensive program at the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in New York City this summer. She serves as the general of the student worker program and leads bible studies for women and African American students on campus. She is also involved in Kuumba Beatz dance crew and The Well.
My introduction to Bill T. Jones’s work was during the spring semester of my freshman year in my dance composition class. My professor Rosalynde LeBlanc taught our class one of his pieces called Continuous Replay, and I had the honor performing it as part of the annual student concert. Learning this piece was world-changing for me in that it was the first time I was able to make my own choices in a performance. I could decide when I would enter, exit, and what movement I would do at a given moment. In the past, I was familiar with learning choreography and performing it exactly the way it was taught. After encountering Bill T. Jones’s work, my prior concept of performance was broken and I recognized other exciting approaches to my craft.
Last summer, I was honored to attend the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company Summer Intensive in New York City on a full scholarship from LMU’s dance program. This was my first time in New York, and while I was beyond excited to train with the company, I was slightly less excited to take the smelly New York subway! After the plane landed, I took a taxi into the Manhattan. Staring out the window at the beautiful skyline, my heart expanded with disbelief at my luck of finding myself in this iconic location.
One day during a technique session, Mr. Jones walked in while we were learning a duet from two company members. The duet consisted of company dancer L-ling holding her partner Antonio’s hand to execute a movement. And Mr. Jones asked, “Why are you holding his hand? Can you complete the move without his assistance?” The class froze and awaited L-ling’s response. Mr. Jones continued, “If you use his hand, then actually be off of your center and let the movement be risky.” During the questioning, L-ling had to defend her choices to her boss. This was a powerful moment to me because it spoke to the intentionality of the company’s movement. It also illuminated the individual strengths of the dancers and the importance of being able to articulate their choices.
During one of our last lunches with Mr. Jones, he asked our class, “Who are you? Why are you here? Why dance?” Upon returning to Los Angeles, I realized how crucial these basic questions are and began to try and answer them for myself. “Who is Kay Hampton?” I asked myself this while spending hours with a journal and pen, digging deep within. The BTJ/AZ Company is purposeful in what they do and do not let the opinions of others to shape their actions. I strive to live my life with similar intentions. It is so easy to be overly concerned with outer appearances and consumed by a fear that others will judge imperfections. I have begun the process of accepting my true self – with all my imperfections.
Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” This vulnerability is required to address the questions that Jones asked the dance intensive participants in New York. He was interested in the fundamental questions of life that many attempt to neglect or ignore. I am beyond grateful to have been exposed to such a phenomenal company and I hope to one day be a part of an amazing group of artists like that of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company.