Kevin Wynn’s class at Purchase College set the trajectory for my entire career. It was immensely challenging for me. Still, I committed to conquering it.
I came from a classical background, starting with Ballet Tech under the direction of Eliot Feld, and later at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, so Kevin’s way of moving was entirely new to me. [Wynn’s performance background includes the Limón Dance Company and Dianne McIntyre’s Sounds in Motion.]
I often had to tell myself “You can do this—you can improve.” For four years I immersed myself in his world, and by my senior year his intricate, fast movement had ignited my own voice.
Kevin was the only African-American teacher at Purchase. I was drawn to him because he looked like me. His teaching style was direct and sharp, yet still soft and open enough to leave room for dialogue, which allowed us to peel back the layers that may have been holding me back from releasing fully into the movement.
He taught me to be open, and to pursue everything with confidence and clarity. In a sense, he taught me to forget about the steps and just move. He relieved me of the idea that dance was about shapes, and taught me to let movement be the guide for what was being asked of me.
We spent a lot of time together outside of the studio, going to lunch and talking about his career. It was so special for me to see my teacher in a different light—as an artist navigating the same field I was entering. My biggest takeaway from those conversations was to believe that I add value to the space I am in. As we talked about my future goals and what I wanted to do with my life after college, he told me to believe in myself, and to trust myself. Artists so desperately want to be hired, but it’s helpful to know that we are valuable whether someone tells us we are or not.
These lessons have had a great impact on my professional career. As I embarked on my first tour with Martha Graham Dance Company to Seville, Spain, I remember feeling overwhelmed and overcome with emotion. Thoughts of self-doubt seeped in as I was preparing for my very first professional performance, and I vividly remember finding a quiet space to have a moment of stillness in which I thought back to Kevin’s class. I recalled the freedom I felt there, and his words telling me to “just move”—it was all I needed to feel prepared to take the stage.
Now that I’m with Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M), I’m fortunate that my current director, Kyle Abraham, was a student of Kevin’s as well. Their movement aesthetics are really similar, so I came into this company with that already inside of me. I often think of Kevin’s voice whenever I’m overthinking steps during the creation process. I keep his lessons in my mind: Release into the movement, focus on the character, think less.
Tamisha Guy is a dancer with Kyle Abraham’s Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M) and an adjunct professor of dance at her alma mater, Purchase College (State University of New York).