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McKinley Willis 18 ~ Tom Adams Scholarship

McKinley Willis is a senior at Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, where she is currently a member of the school’s Repertory I Dance Company. She began her dance training at age 7 with the Dallas Black Dance Academy (DBDA) and was an inaugural member of DBDA’s Performing Ensemble – Bloom. She now works as a teaching assistant at the Academy. McKinley received advanced training at Ozsoy’s School of Ballet and New World Ballet School.

Upon graduation from high school,
McKinley will attend college in fall 2011 where she plans to pursue a degree in Dance Performance /Choreography and Graphic Design. Within the next two years, she hopes to join a project-based college repertory company experimenting with movement within its choreography. McKinley is most interested in combining movement from differing styles of dance to find a signature movement.

Group photo, McKinley and Trebien Pollard (composition teacher), repertory class with Ursula Payne and MFA thesis project.

Thank you so much for providing me with the opportunity to attend the American Dance Festival. I learned so much about myself in those six weeks. I met some personal goals and achieved things I had no idea I could. In this program I met a lot of different people with different dance backgrounds and cultures, and with many I built life time friendships.

I typically would be dancing from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day. I was completely worn out by the end of the program [which is exactly how I like it], but the information I gained from being there, and the relationships that I build gave me so much joy.

I took three classes regularly. I had a composition class with Monica Bill Barnes and Trebien Pollard, and a repertory class with Ursula Payne, but my favorite class was Cunningham with Brenda Daniels, because she was amazing at explaining what she wanted me to do with my body and how the technique should be done. She also helped me with one of my weaknesses which is keeping balance. I was also allowed the work with a couple of the MFA students from Hollis University on their final thesis project, one of which I performed in. That process was probably one of the most valuable just because I learned how to and how not to conduct a rehearsal, and when it’s appropriate to have fun in rehearsal and when to get serious.

I really enjoyed being able to see two professional dance companies a week the entire time I was there. I was able to see some very familiar dance companies like “Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company” and Ron K. Brown’s “Evidence” as well as some companies I had never heard of  like “Tao” and “Yossi Berg and Oded Graf”. It was really nice to see dance other than what I’m used to seeing. Some of it I loved, and some of it, I didn’t care too much for, but because I’ve seen it, I feel like I have a better idea of what I want out of dance and art in general.

The entire trip opened up my mind to a broader perspective and I will never experience anything else like ADF. I truly am gracious for the grant.

~ McKinley Willis