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Interview with NextLOOK artist Tarik O’Meally

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Joe’s Movement Emporium Intern Will Webb sat down with Tarik O’Meally to talk about his NextLOOK residency, the Dimensions Contemporary Dance Festival, and inspiration for his new piece, “Night Light.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How long you’ve been training/performing in dance?

Tariq: I officially started at 22. I received my BA of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015. I spend an average of 8-10-hours a day in classes ranging from ballet, modern, and composition, while also auditioning for and performing in student and faculty pieces. Most recently I participated in the Choreographer’s Showcase at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and I was a 2017-2018 New Releases Commissioned Artist at Dance Place.

What’s your take on the support, or lack thereof, for dance in the DMV area?

Tariq If you’re an artist, you’re a hustler. When you receive money for dance, that  money doesn’t cover everything because you have to personally invest. Receiving aid for your art can be a “hand to mouth” relationship, plus you need four additional jobs just to be sustainable.  Dance classes can be expensive and make me think, “$15 for a class? Nah, that’s a full tank of gas.”

What have you learned during your time at Joe’s?

Tariq Understanding the relationships between the staff, the tech team, and the artist teachers at Joe’s expanded my ideas of the importance of community. My time at Joe’s has been a beautiful experience filled with a lot of empathy and support, and seeing people invested and excited to help bring the Dimensions Dance Festival mission to life made it a really beautiful experience.

What were you able to develop during your NextLOOK residency?

Tariq The overall work is called “Night Light”, which seeks to understand a person’s inner monster, what that monster says about them, what it represents, and how we project that onto others.  In this upcoming performance of Night Light, I’m presenting a piece of it called “Whistling Past a Graveyard”, which has concept of walking into an extreme situation and not understanding the consequences of it.  This is the darkest installment of the overall work.

Throughout the week leading up to the performance, my company and I lead fellowship workshops at Joe’s and other locations in the DMV area to give kids and community members a chance to experience the other components of the festival that will fuel energy into the  upcoming performance. I want the people or community be the experience instead of the traditional performance being the centralized focus. Beyond the performance, I wanted to make this festival affordable, I wanted the audience to pay what they can with the minimum starting at $5. I wanted the audience to take away an idea from the experience of what community means to them.

How did you create this performance?

Tariq: If someone’s hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and the host family makes the turkey and the guests or family members bring the other dishes to complete the food for the table, that is the collaboration that I envision. The company itself is the creators of the piece - I see myself as a “tour guide”, showing the company members the idea, and then as a whole we experience the process together and bring the project to life.

Is there any inspiration that helped craft the piece?

Tariq: The most concise answer is yes, there are a variety of clips within the score derived from various people, places, or moments in my life, but the work doesn’t make sense until the sound score supports it, seeing it through its line, like a trail of breadcrumbs. The sound score aids me when developing an idea for a particular part in the piece. The physical idea generates random movements or the empty container of the movement, then expands to how the random movement can become the content of what the idea represents, and how we can take that and project that on to other people, growing different parts of the work to see how it can mold into one being of movement.

What do you want the audience to get out of this experience?

Tariq: I want the audience to not consider themselves as audience members, but as participants in the work, not just on the sidelines or watching the piece as if it was a Netflix special or an infomercial. Not as an artist, but as a person of color, I still feel invisible, because even when I’m getting things done, I still feel like I’m not being seen. I want the audience to grow with the development of this performance, getting them to explore the uncertainties that people of color  experience by external focus. To understand empathy is a radical act - it’s not just about walking in someone else’s shoes or feeling responsible for them, but expanding to see all the components of the shoe. Utilizing empathy makes it harder to be a mean person.

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Will Webb has been interning at Joe’s Movement Emporium since January 2019. You can see his video and photo work for Joe’s throughout our social media and website. Will can be reached by clicking here.

Established in 2014, NextLOOK supports the development of new music, plays, dance and other experiences by regionally-based performing artists. Selected through a yearly application process, NextLOOK artists are given a stipend and access to rehearsal and performance space at Joe’s Movement Emporium. These artists also collaborate with The Clarice and Joe’s Movement Emporium staff to construct innovative methods of deepening the audience’s involvement in their creative process. By removing logistical barriers and providing a sounding board for artists creating new work, NextLOOK invests in the regional arts ecology and creates an accessible, exploratory environment that connects intriguing artists with adventurous audiences.