Emma is daring. Emma is different. Emma is a dancer. Emma Emma Emma.
That is how I feel when I see her in motion. I feel like playing that one song you really like because of the rhythm or beat. When you want to dance, you hit play. When you want to feel, you hit play. When you want to be in the moment, you hit play.
I am purposely repetitious because the feature artist, Emma Davis, brings that sort of spirit to her environment. She brings a consistent hardworking ethic to this art form. She believes in offering up dance as a gift to the world. And what a gift it is – to dance over and over again until everyone dances with you. I have had the pleasure of watching young women dance with Emma in the Flint detention center. They watch how she and the music become one. In her dance workshop at the center, she is a facilitator and instructor. More importantly, though, she is an inspiration to the young women.
Emma explained that when she began community college roughly a decade ago she had no idea what she wanted to do. A year and a half later she transferred out and attended the school where her mother was pursuing her nursing degree – University of Michigan-Flint. Emma majored in English and Journalism and minored in Dance. At the time, dance was just a hobby, although she had been dancing since childhood. She started a student dance organization at the university. The dance troupe encompassed all styles of dancing. In her senior year she choreographed a show that was student-focused. Soon after, a friend who had been dancing for fewer years inspired her to pursue dance more seriously and professionally. She helped Emma realize her own potential.
I asked her, “What does dance do for you?” Her response was encompassing, “What is a world without dance? Dance is about relationships – the relationships you have with other people. Dance is that thing you can do without having anything to say. Dance speaks.”
She explained that dance was a constant in her life, especially during rough times when watching her parents’ relationship. “My parents didn’t like each other.” They divorced when she was young and moved to different Michigan cities. While living between two homes, dance became her comfort. It carried her throughout primary and secondary school. She was considered an outcast. She talked about not fitting in and being discriminated against for being an artist, but this didn’t stop her from doing what she loved. She said, “Dance was my form of acceptance.”
Emma dreams of pursuing a Ph.D. in Performance Studies one day. She completed her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on American Theatre. Her thesis is on one of her inspirations, Anna Halprin, a pioneer in the postmodern dance movement. She learned about Anna in 2012, the year she created her own dance group called “Flint Dance Collaborative.” This group during the summer of 2012 started performing on the sidewalk during a monthly community event in Flint, Michigan called Art Walk. Again, Emma was giving back to the community by showing people that dance was more than an art form. Her group explored both movement and cultural environment when they performed outdoors. Anna Halprin’s work was just as communal and inviting. Emma explained that this amazing woman of Jewish descent in the 1950s used dance as therapy. When working on her thesis, as well as creating an artistic space in Flint, she applied Anna’s philosophy specifically to the Riverbank Park, located in downtown Flint. At the time during the 1960s and 1970s there were movements to revitalize urban communities, in hopes to increase engagement in the neighborhoods. When I researched Halprin, I understood the link between these two women. Yes, Emma heals others through dance whenever she performs, teaches and simply shares this gift. But most of all, Emma looks within and heals herself through this art form. She is indeed a healer.
Emma is daring. Emma is different. Emma Davis, an inspiring dancer, is her name!
The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.
Traci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential. “The Phoenix Rising Collective is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.