Dance is one of the most masculine things you can do
Eric Bean, Jr, 26, is a professional dancer. In todays modern world, there should be nothing remarkable in that, and yet when he talks with young people about dance, the topic always comes up.
Mr Bean was one of the choreographers at the Troika Dance Workshop Marathon held last weekend. He tours with the world renowned Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia and also runs his own youth dance charity in Bermuda Jaricco Dance Company.
People do encourage the arts here in Bermuda, but there is this big bias around dance that it is a very feminine activity, he said. That is not the case at all. I actually had a conversation with a group of young people in Louisiana last week when I was on tour with Koresh. I told them dance is one of the most masculine activities you can do because it requires so much skill and strength.
You have to be extremely fit in order to do this. All we do all day is move and partner. We are constantly working our muscles and our minds. A lot of professional athletes cant do what dancers do, but dancers can do what they do, because they are so much more physically fit, prepared and agile. That is why a lot of professional athletes take dance training in order to become better at sports.
He came into dance relatively late in the game when he signed up for lessons at United Dance Productions (UDP) at the age of 15.
I feel like I always danced around the house and jumped up and down, he said. I told my mother I was going to be on Broadway. I think dance was always in me to do. I have always been very creative. I originally thought I was going to go to school and be a culinary master. Then I thought maybe I would go to school to study music.
He ended up obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a focus on Modern Dance and Choreography. Since then he has had the opportunity to work with a number of world renowned educators and choreographers including: Robert Battle, Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Itzik Galili, Director of Galili Dance, and Elisa Monte, Director of Elisa Monte Dance company, among others.
In Bermuda, he maintains a strong relationship with UDP, and calls UDP Artistic Director, Suzette Harvey, one of his mentors. While he was in Bermuda last week working with Troika, he was also working with UDP to choreograph an upcoming dance programme.
One of the organisations he credits his success to is youth charity Pride Bermuda. He was a member of the organisation for most of his childhood and later became qualified as an international Pride trainer.
It adapted itself to me and I adapted myself to it, he said. It allowed me to be the person I am today. Pride always trained us to be very proactive and very strong and gung ho about life. Because of that I use it in my every day practice. Because of that I am so driven.
It was through Pride that he made life long friends with Shoa Bean and Seldon Woolridge who went on to become the founders of Troika.
He started his charity Jaricco Dance a few years ago. In 2012 he brought down three male international dancers and paired them with six young female dancers in Bermuda. Together they put on a dance concert Return to Paradise.
Return to Paradise went over fantastically, he said. I was extremely nervous as I was not very sure how the local community would take to my presenting a full evening of concert dance. The response was beyond my wildest dreams as I was met with nothing but love and support for the production as a whole.
Knowing that I was able to open minds and expose young people and even some adults to an area of dance that they might not have seen otherwise is definitely the most amazing memory I have to date.
In August, he plans to do another similar show in Bermuda called Through the Looking Glass. He will also be offering a summer intensive dance programme in July with a focus on different styles of jazz dance.
The best advice I can give up and coming dancers and choreographers is never stop learning, he said. Dance is always changing and growing and the more you know, the more you can show.
Also, stay true to yourself and your vision of what you want to be as an artist. There are lots of challenges out there that will make it really difficult and even make you want to give up, but nothing good comes easy. Hard work and dedication will always pay off if you push yourself to follow your passions.
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