We had the good fortune of connecting with Cylene Walker-Willis and Jessica Murphy Wildly Brave Dance Company and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cylene Walker-Willis and Jessica Murphy, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Cylene Walker-Willis and Jessica Murphy of Wildly Brave We met in graduate school. That environment meant we had very similar schedules and allowed us to be in the same room a lot which was great. It was easy to carve out rehearsal times, meals to chat about life, and our own personal time once the school day was over. After we graduated our work-life balance and how we worked together changed. Since we live several hours apart, it became difficult to meet up frequently. Very quickly we settled on weekly FaceTime meetings. The dates of those meetings were flexible, usually changing from semester to semester as we both started out teaching in higher education. In those early meetings we would always carve out time at the beginning of our meetings to be social. We would vent and fill each other in on our life. Then we would use the rest of our meeting for our creative projects. In the initial stages of our projects these meetings were more freeform. As we got closer to the end of our projects, we use our shared Google Drive to make itineraries, sometimes scheduled down to the minute, so that we could fit everything in our meeting time. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, our work lives have both shifted dramatically. Cylene has taken a full time job in healthcare and Jessica is working a part-time retail job until enrollment increases enough that the schools she works for need adjunct professors again. This shift in careers has meant a huge change in schedules and has made it much more difficult to schedule our weekly FaceTime meetings. The working hours, lifestyle shift, and stress from living during a pandemic has also put a huge damper in our artistic endeavors (cancelled show, postponed festival). We are a people-first company and we never want to force people to make art or stress ourselves and our fellow collaborators out more with projects when they are all experiencing dramatic shifts in their lives right now. Therefore, our company work has a much lightened load this season. We turned our festival performance into virtual filmed solos that were featured in Modella Art Gallery’s “Second Saturday.” Our 2020 Spring performance has been put on hold for the time being. We are currently working on a low-key virtual performance with company members who feel they are up to it, and we are planning to premier a new duet sometime this winter. In regard, to our FaceTime meetings, these have become primarily social calls as we process and deal with our new normal. We struggled to produce and feel any energy to create when our attentions were constantly being pulled to the life part of work life balance.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Our Mission Statement: Life is tough. It can be difficult for people to work through and solve their own problems, especially when they feel isolated and alone. We believe that dance can connect people and act as a mirror to the audience helping them to reflect, process, and better understand themselves and others. We make art that matters. We reject the notion that dance should only be used to entertain, distract, and numb people from their shadowed realities. Instead we make dance that inspires, ignites conversations, questions, deepens understandings, and develops empathy about the world and the people who inhabit it. We believe that dance can create real change in the world. Through our dance-making and community engagement efforts we connect the individual into the collective community. We celebrate the humanity of mistakes, conflicts, glorious failures, and the new exciting movement possibilities and conversations that they lead to. Yes, life is tough, but together we can be Wildly Brave.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would definitely go to Modella Art Gallery to see the latest art installation and have dinner and drinks at Louie’s Grill and Bar in Stillwater, OK. Then we’d spend time at the local Botanical Gardens and check out the local boutiques downtown.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We dedicate our shout out to our company members and our families!
Jessica and Cylene photos credit: Britt’s Eye View Individual photos credit: Wildly Brave