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POSTCARDS: William Ervin Explores Self-love in "NARCISSUS," Commissioned by Accent Dance NYC

POSTCARDS: William Ervin Explores Self-love in "NARCISSUS," Commissioned by Accent Dance NYC

Published on September 7, 2023
William Ervin; photo courtesy of the artist.

Hello from one of our final rehearsals for my newest commission, NARCISSUS, which will be having its first in-studio showing on Friday, September 8th at 7:30 pm at the Ailey Studios! This work was commissioned by Accent Dance NYC, and has been a wonderful experience to bring my passion for choreography and my passion for education together. I was most interested in applying for this commission because of Accent Dance’s mission to bridge the gap for all voices in dance while exposing students to the arts. 

Accent Dance NYC's dancers in rehearsal; photo courtesy of William Ervin.

Loving one’s self is great in theory but the practice of is significantly more challenging. This is the root of the inspiration behind my new work, NARCISSUS. Environmental factors such as home life, community, ethnic, gender, and sexual identity all play roles in how we approach the person who looks back at us in the mirror. When you add the fact that most people are not taught how to regulate their emotions, trauma responses, or how to actively love themselves, the concept of self-love becomes a lifelong project of re-parenting yourself. The working title for the piece — NARCISSUS — is partly inspired by Greek mythology and the negative connotations that people perceive around self-love, while partially inspired by the flower itself and the beautiful side of that same coin. 

Narcissus in private garden in Italy; photo from Wikimedia Commons.

With our first showing just days away, we are nearly ready to share this work with our community. The performers are versatile and adventurous and take corrections and notes extremely well. Our Rehearsal Director Zaki Marshall’s attention to detail continues to bring this piece to a more elevated level with every rehearsal. We started the process with learning movement first and working on the mechanics of the vocabulary I utilize — a blend of popping, waving, house, contemporary ballet, and modern. We spent this past week honing in on the importance of the concept and how character work, and dynamic quality will add the remaining layers to the work. 

After the showing, NARCISSUS will be incorporated into Accent Dance NYC’s robust Social Emotional Learning (SEL) education curriculum in classrooms across the boroughs. Focused in themes of self-love, self-worth, superheroism, reality vs. fiction, and community engagement, lesson plans will focus on starting important dialogues:

  1. Who am I, and what makes me Me? What do you see when you look in the mirror? From here, the students can journal to explore these questions and begin to uncover the unique elements about themselves.
  2. What do you think about yourself as a person? What do you think about how your unique mind operates? Let’s talk about how creativity, resourcefulness, and the quirky, strong, soft, and other qualities that make you you are awesome! No one can be you but you!
  3. Who are the people you keep around you? Do they make you feel supported, and as awesome as you are? Do you make them feel just as awesome? If not why? If so keep that connection and grow it!

There is also going to be a talk-back following the showing with dancer and educator Maxwell Waterman to dive into these topics with our audience too.

William Ervin on stage; photo courtesy of the artist.

When I think of education I think about how most students are not taught real life skills and have to learn them when adulthood has already started. The internal dialogue of defining self-worth is something everyone deals with, especially artists like myself. The themes in this work are important to me because it also reminds me that surrounding yourself with a good support system is essential. I am a multifaceted being and there are so many experiences that have gone into what makes me, me. But without self-worth, creating great experiences for myself and others will be that much more difficult as I continue through life. 

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