Who: Courtney Paige Ross
Where: New York, NY
Connection to New Orleans: She is a native New Orleanian who began her formal dance training with the NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance and also is an alumna of NOCCA and Lusher Charter School
Q: When is someone else’s experience more important than your own experience?
CPR: A big thing for me is giving back and working with community. That’s a big reason why I wanted to be with Evidence. So a really important part of someone else’s experience is for them to feel like they have learned something, that they are important, and for them to feel like their confidence has been enriched or strengthened.
A big component of the show in New Orleans is that we are including a lot of community dancers. We are going down early, there will be auditions and then rehearsals before we all take the stage together. It will be wonderful to see people who do not usually get to touch a stage walk on a stage and perform with professional dancers. That is a specific instance where I want their experience to be great. I want it to be more important than mine.
Q: Who makes you smile when you think about them?
CPR: My parents. [Smiling]. When I think about my mom I smile. She has stuck with me through some of my dark moments when I’m not the easiest person to deal with or when my financial situation is not where I want it to be, and my mom has always been my support system both mentally and emotionally.
I also love, love, love young kids. I love being in the studio with kids, teaching dance, and being around that young energy. It makes my heart burst.
Q: How has the concept of beauty either changed or not changed in your life?
CPR: The concept of beauty is really interesting, especially in the world of dance. We are always having a conversation about where people of color are included. Pairing that with beauty and dance really makes it complex.
This has been a journey for me, and so much about concepts of beauty depend on what organization you’re in. One dance company will want this kind of body and a different organization will want a different kind of body. They all have different ideas of what beauty is, and I can’t fit all those roles. Training with different organizations and seeing that those ideals are constantly changing helped me accept and love what I have.
In a way, the concept of beauty has formulated into what beauty is for me. As a younger dancer, I wanted to have a certain body; I wanted my legs to go a certain way and be shaped a certain way. Over the years, you’re in the studio and you see your body every day in the mirror. The only way to get over those ideas that you have to look a certain way is to look at yourself and realize that this is the body you have been blessed with. You are not going to have another one. I’m not going to wake up and have my legs or feet go this way or go this high.
I’ve really worked with loving what I see in the mirror, so my concept of beauty has been about accepting myself. Accepting who I am as a person and what I have to offer as an artist. You find what you see in your mirror and your reflection and don’t live up to another person’s standard. Are there things I can change about myself? Yes. But I’m always going to be in this body, and that is beautiful.
Q: What is something you still want an answer for?
CPR: You know that infamous question of, ‘Where do you see yourself in ten years?’ My answer is always, ‘I want to dance.’
Yet, I don’t know if I will be a performer, if I’ll be teaching young dancers, or what I’ll be doing in the dance world. I would like to have a more concrete answer to that, but also stay open to whatever comes my way. I just know that I want to be involved in the world of dance.
Q: What do you think is rare in life?
CPR: I’m hesitant to say this, but one thing that is rare is to be at a point in time where every situation that you have your foot in is 100% satisfactory.
That is where the whole idea of being grateful for what you have is important. I don’t think there’s a point when I’ll wake up one day and not have anything in conflict. That’s where the beauty of life comes in—when you feel alright with a con on the list because you have all those other pros.
Whenever I have too many pros I’m always thinking, ‘Okay, this is possibly too good to be true. This was too easy.’ I seem to always be staying ready for anything, but maybe the first time I felt a lot of pros was my first contract with a professional dance company. I had this moment of ‘All of my dreams are coming true.’ There’s that ‘ah-ha’ moment where everything you worked for is coming to fruition. Then you have the challenges, such as switching your persona from student to dancer.
I like to think about it as leveling-up. You level-up and then you get used to that and level-up again. You think about how you can fix something about yourself, not beat yourself up about it but continue to grow.
Trying to find the peace and gratitude with the cons is the way to go.
The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) and The NOCCA Institute present Ronald K. Brown / EVIDENCE for three performances at NOCCA’s Freda Lupin Memorial Hall on Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, January 29 at 2:00 p.m. With a singular gift of telling stories, Ronald K. Brown masterfully creates spiritual and earthy dances that move the mind and the heart with an “undeniable sense of joy.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) His superbly articulate dancers embody his unique style of blending contemporary dance with African and Afro-Caribbean rhythms and dance forms. Capturing the spirit of community, the company will be joined by a multigenerational, New Orleans-based cast of 30 for the uplifting finale On Earth Together, set to the legendary music of Stevie Wonder. The local cast is comprised of students and faculty of NOCCA and the NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance (CFD), and participants of the CFD’s Senior Dance Fitness Program. The program also includes the poetically spiritual Four Corners, originally created for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2013. Audience discussions with Brown and the dancers will be held following the performances on January 27 and 28.