April 2, 2019 Artist to Watch: Terreze Williams

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Terreze Williams

A Walking Vessel of the Past, Present, & Future

Terreze Williams was born and raised here in Baton Rouge. She’s always been a mover. It was that interest in movement, and all things entertainment, that brought her to the arts. She moved through the worlds of liturgical and academic dance, & has evolved into an educator with blend of dance philosophies that are uniquely her own. She pulls from everything from popular musical influence to modern dance theory to craft her work and shape the minds of young movers in our region. She will be performing Come As You Are, a new piece of hers, at the Ebb and Flow festival, on April 6th & 7th!

When did you first take interest in dance?

Since I was born I always loved to sing, dance, and act. I've been dancing since I was about 5 years old where I would dance at my church at the time, Greater Saint Jame Baptist Church, and at Howell Park Dance Program with my older sister. I carried that passion throughout middle school at CSAL, but I began taking dance seriously when I started dancing at McKinley High School.

Who were your early influences?

Realistically, my very first influence was my Aunt-T Libby Rose. She had us involved with everything. She choreographed all our dances for church and coordinated every production and event. She really inspired me to do more than just dance, but to perform and captivate the essence of our history through our art. Once, I realized she was also on the dance team at McKinley High, I knew I wanted to audition and become a pantherette! Other influences are a mixture of Hip Hop/R&B, Jazz, Soul, and Funk. I was always inspired by my culture and what I grew up listening to and watching. There’s something about that time that will always be timeless and classic to me. I love Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Beyonce/Destiny's Child, The Temptations, The Whispers, The Fly Girls from In Living Color, Tina Turner, Debbie Allen, The Nicholas Brothers, and Alvin Ailey. 

What genre(s) do you find yourself most drawn toward?

I absolutely love Hip Hop and Jazz. They are the essence of who I am and some of the main styles of my movement's foundation. I can't help it. I've been researching and learning different dances that were inspired by the African American community like the black bottom dance. I also lean towards contemporary and modern now since graduating from The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Some of my favorite techniques are Lester Horton Technique, Martha Graham Technique, and Bella Lewitzky.  

How has teaching influenced your art?

Teaching really influenced my art and personal life by teaching me patience. As dancers, I think the main focus after school is trying to perform and leave our homes to pursue a dance company or commercial jobs, whereas now, teaching showed me that you can still pursue your goals and also plant seeds of knowledge in our youth. Teaching gave me a new appreciation of learning better techniques on being a teacher and choreographer by learning how to communicate to a spectrum of audiences, trusting my process and what I can do to create more authenticity and truthfulness for myself as an artist. I am grateful for my teaching artist jobs at Art Council of Greater Baton Rouge and Manship Theatre for giving me the opportunity to work with different schools in the EBR parish.  

How do you feel about the opportunities in Baton Rouge?

I am really, super, duper, extremely excited about the opportunities sprouting in Baton Rouge! A lot of organizations and events are really investing in bringing the Arts to Baton Rouge and sharing their knowledge to the community. I'm seeing more community theatres, film productions, and we now have more restaurant varieties that host events and can become vendors in festivals (especially black owned businesses.) I am forever thankful to be apart of the new growth. 

Tell us a little about the piece you will perform at Ebb & Flow.

The piece I will be performing at The Ebb and Flow Festival is called Come As You Are, and this piece is about healing and reconnecting my relationship to water. As an African American woman, I know there is importance to the relationship between water and the African American community. This piece will evoke a cleanse for ancestral trauma by showing gratitude, love and respect to who I am and where I came from, which is shared by water. I wanted Come As You Are to be refined and modern, but light and delicate so the piece will be performed on the steps of the Levee so whoever is present will definitely experience something special with me. 

What was your inspiration for creating that piece?

I am a walking vessel of the past, present, and future. I am born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana so my family would always come downtown and enjoy the levee and the Mississippi River. With the river, I have past dialogues, present dialogues and near future dialogues that help mold my movement and where I want to go with this piece. I definitely wanted this piece to have a familiar presence like catching up with a friend that you haven't seen in a very long time, but nothing is missing or lacking. You always leave gaining something even if it wasn't anything you expected. 

What other upcoming events do you have?

Upcoming events I have coming up besides Come As You Are is Ten Tiny Dances that will be performed Sunday at the Ebb and Flow Festival. Ten choreographers will be dancing on a stage that is 4 feet by 4 feet so come check that out! For more upcoming events you can follow me on Facebook: Terreze Williams. 

You can get schedule information about the Ebb & Flow Festival on the FlowBR App, available now on the app store!