Teen Interview #18

Dominick McCluree, 18


Where are you from and what do you do?

I live in Olympia, I just dance and go to school a lot.

Is there a big dance or art community in Olympia?
No, Olympia is like a dead town. I know there’s this one vampire bar, where all the lights are out and the windows are tinted; there’s a lot of interesting people there.

How did you get into Tacoma’s art scene?
A long time ago I was a skunk in a Winnie the Pooh play, and one of the people in the play went to Tacoma School of the Arts (TSOTA). After she introduced me to it I began going there and slowly my whole life switched to be up here.

How long have you been dancing?
I started dancing when I was three, but then two years ago my dance teacher took me to Pittsburg with a bunch of other people and it switched my perspective. So I’ve been really focused on dance for the past two years.

What is the most interesting part of dancing to you?
There are the hours you put into training because it takes a lot of physical form, but I think my favorite part of dance is when you get on stage and you let everything go. You’re just trying to be as vulnerable as you can to whoever is out there and try to connect with them.

Like you said dance seems very personal and powerful. When you are dancing you said you try to connect with people, is that ever difficult to do because dance is so vulnerable?
Yeah, it took a really long time to figure out how to be vulnerable but not read to other people.

You have to switch being vulnerable to yourself and being vulnerable to people in the audience, which is completely different. It’s hard to learn the difference between the two, and how to respect them because they are so important, while still showcasing what you need to in the moment.

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How have you taken your dance out into the community?
I do a lot of performances with my school, and we compete. Recently I’ve been traveling a lot out of state, going to dance conventions and things like that. However, I’m working on my senior project at school right now, so I’ve been working a lot with other dancers in Tacoma that I don’t know. To put together pieces for our show, my friend is making all the music for it which is really cool.

Dance can sometimes feel secluded to people who aren’t involved in it, how do you think people can interact with dance?
There’s been a lot of studies that show how dance can improve your cognitive skills when you’re younger. So, I want people to go out and see dance in whatever form, whether is it’s a school show or they just see someone dancing on the street. I want people to interact by putting their kids into dance because it’s so good for them.

Would you say you make art for yourself or the community?
The one hard thing with dance is that when you’re younger, you have to dance in companies and make a name for yourself; I feel like it’s hard to say if I’m making work at this point for myself or the community. But I definitely want to engage with the community and I want as many people to get involved in dance as possible. Because it’s such an elitist thing, you have to go to a studio and train and all of that. I want as many people to be given the opportunities that I was afforded before I leave for college.

What is your current plan for the future?
It mostly involves moving to New York next year and hoping that I don’t end up homeless. But if I do it’s okay. Some people have these really big aspirations for dance, like, ‘oh I want to start a company,’ but I just want to dance and live off of it. I don’t really care what form that takes, and I’d love to teach at some point.

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Would you say that the art world needs to be more connected?
Yeah, I think there needs to be more cross-collaboration. There are so many different aspects to different art and I wish that everyone would work together a little bit more. And, put on shows with musicians working with dancers or photographers. There are so many cool ways to come together and I want to see them all become cohesive.

What are some steps to expand the art community in your opinion?
I think it’s all about outreach. The more you can get it out there and the more accessible you can make it for people who wouldn’t have the opportunities to experience art is a super important part. Just getting it out there so people can do it.

You mentioned collaborating, does SOTA include a lot of that?
Yeah, for the dance concert we’re doing in the spring, everything that we’re performing to is sung by the choirs at our sister school SAMI. There’s a lot of collaboration, especially in the dance department, our teacher likes to get us to collaborate. So that’s cool, and the students really like to work together.

Have you played around with any other art forms?
I was a skunk in Winnie the Pooh so I acted when I was eight, but I’ve been pretty dance-centric since the seventh grade.

How does the type of music influence your dancing?
I think there are the really obvious differences in genres, like if Kendrick’s playing you’re not going to be doing ballet and all that, but the lines are getting muddled on that in the dance world. It’s slowly becoming more and more able to play around. I think It’s mostly about listening to the music and trying to figure out what that artist is trying to put forth, and you try to visually tell that story as well.

What is art to you?
I feel like art is very hard to define because it means different things to so many people. But, for me, it’s just an expression of oneself that they are feeling confident enough to put out into the world. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot to it, walking across the street can be art if somebody is doing it with the intent to show other people.

What message do you try to convey through your dance?
I try to stick to more hopeful pieces, it’s such a crazy time in our world right now. There’s so much hate and I try to focus on uplifting and hopeful messages. I would say I just try to convey a message if anything.

Do you think the Tacoma art community right now is representative of who is creating art? Do you think it’s an inclusive space?
Yeah, I think it’s a really small space, and it’s hard to break into it and really get involved. Most of the artists I know outside of my school are really involved in the Seattle art scene. But, the people I know that are in the Tacoma art scene are super welcoming and super inviting. I think it’s a very small group and the outreach that’s being done is very new in Tacoma, so I think it’s getting bigger, and it’s been really cool watching that happen. I just think it’s really small right now, but it’s definitely inclusive.

Have you found it difficult to put yourself in the art scene and to discover your own talents?
Yeah, I think it’s really hard coming from Olympia to Tacoma. I left a lot of the Olympia connections from the art scene I was in at the time. So, I’ve been trying to find it and I think I found my niche this year and where I belong in it. I’ve danced my whole life, my mom is really into art so I grew up with it. So when you see people who didn’t grow up with art around them and they’re just starting to discover it, it’s important to support them and help them explore more.

How has dancing helped you?
It’s so cliche, but dance really gave me a purpose. I have a really hard time in school, paying attention and being interested, just because math and science aren’t really my thing. But, dance has always been something that I feel like I can focus on, and no matter what I’m doing it gives me something to work toward and get validation from it.

happy dominick

Watch out for applications to be part of the Teens In Tacoma Collective soon!