Angela Harris founded Dance Canvas in 2008 as a career-development organization for emerging choreographers, to foster and diversify the next generation of dancers, and to attract new audiences. She is on the faculty of Emory University’s Department of Dance and Movement Studies.
The pandemic has taught me that the world changes quickly, you have to be nimble, open to change and to failure. I saw a lot of innovation, too. People were making things happen under dire circumstances. The only way we stay relevant in this changing world is to do things differently and figure out new ways to keep the arts alive. This time of year is always great because I see my students graduate from college and see their excitement about the future. I get excited about their success and am happy I could spark something in them. I am an artist, too, and I am taking on some new projects outside Dance Canvas that will stimulate me.
Since the beginning of the pandemic we have been very deliberate in working with the Emory School of Nursing guidelines. Their protocols keep us safe. I have been back teaching in person at Emory since August, with 10 feet of space between us. We made the decision for the Dance Canvas [May 15 performance], that if the cast was fully vaccinated and comfortable being mask-less, since it was outdoors, they had that option.
This period has been hard. A teacher who was very instrumental in my dance life passed away early in the pandemic and a very close friend passed away the weekend leading up to the Dance Canvas show. The distance and inability for us to gather has made it very difficult. It puts a lens on what’s important. Her funeral is today. It’s fresh.
In the wake of the George Floyd killing and the renewed focus on social justice, there needs to be Black ballet dancers onstage in Atlanta or the field is not relevant. I am focused on holding the ballet world accountable. I am usually bubbly and sunshine-y, but there are things I am passionate about that need to change. We have sugarcoated it for too long. This is nothing new, it just needs to be fixed. Students now shouldn’t be going through what I went through or what Nena (Gilreath) and Waverly (Lucas) went through.
My family, my friends, are my support system. It’s great to have people in your life who support you no matter what. We are a very close family, and I am thankful they have been safe. My parents live in Baltimore, and my husband and I took an 11-hour drive there at Christmas. We didn’t go into their house. We just waved and blew kisses and left gifts at the door. I value my husband so much. He’s not a dancer in the least bit. He offers me some separation from dance so I am not absorbed in it all the time. I force myself to go on vacations and see the world and understand that while dance is an important part of my life, it’s not everything.