Ill Nana/DiverseCity Dance Company is the winner of this year’s Buddies Queer Emerging Artist Award. Conceived as a way to acknowledge up-and-comers from across the performance community, the award is given to a recipient that is selected by a team of both current and former artistic directors from Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. We caught up with this year’s winners (Jelani Ade-Lam, Sze-Yang Ade-Lam, and kumari giles) to chat about their win and how they plan to spend that cold, hard cash.
Daily Xtra: What does winning this award mean to you?
Kumari: As someone who’s been through the youth programs at Buddies, it feels like a huge full-circle experience and a recognition of our ongoing artistry and community organizing.
Sze-Yang: Hearing Brendan speak and seeing the video Buddies made about us made me have to stop and think “wow.” Through the joy and the struggles of our lives, we really have done a lot, and some amazing folks are noticing.
You’ve been at this for about eight years. Do you still feel like emerging artists?
Jelani: We’re in a constant state of growth, so emerging sounds fitting for this moment in time. In our eight years we’ve learned so much about what it takes to run a dance collective without hierarchy, and how to be dedicated educators who are always learning, growing and changing.
The award is specifically for theatre artists, though you work in the field of dance. Do you feel being included under that umbrella is a natural progression toward including a broader range of practices in theatre?
Jelani: Dance is the art of movement storytelling, and we each have so many ways of communicating our stories, so it was a natural progression to start incorporating lots of different mediums to relay the messages that we wanted to get across. When we started this journey, we had to create a space that wasn’t open or being shared with us. With the support of Buddies and Brendan Healy we’ve been given the opportunity to explore the way we storytell on various platforms, allowing our craft to deepen and grow.
Kumari: We believe stories exist within movement and that theatre is about sharing stories and making magic happen. I think the marriage of dance, text, video [and] audio that we use helps to push and expand boundaries of performance.
The award comes with a cash prize of $1,000. What are your plans for the money?
Sze-Yang: Pay for our bills! (laughs) But for real, we’ll put it towards stuff like admin to allow us to become more sustainable and be able to keep on keeping on in ways that are better, smoother, more efficient. We are in it for the long haul!