All photos by Ernesto Galan
As a child, I had a strong intuitive knowing. An inner voice guided me, watched me. (There were less distractions then). I was perplexed by others around me who seemed disconnected, fragmented.
As I got older, that voice guided me to a new truth towards a direction I feared. Feeling lost, without a map, I pushed my own wisdom aside. My resistance was met with disastrous results.
For the past twelve years, I worked on healing myself and restoring my connection to Spirit. My practice includes meditation, contemplation, writing, teaching, yoga, crystals, rituals, community-building, earthing, tarot, divination and dancing.
When I was little, I just danced and danced and danced. I was in an almost constant state of Bhakti, communion with the divine. My dancing then was not performative. It was between me and the Isness-that-is-everywhere and it felt as natural to me as breathing. It was a state of bliss. Of no-separation. Anandamayakosha.
I was sent to practice dance in a school and it was there that doors to my inner world shifted. I began my process of separation, of wondering whether or not I had IT, as opposed to my earlier years of just being It, without question. Many years of intense practice ensued, with nary a scant flick of bliss to be found. I don’t know what held me together during that tedious period, traveling to and from Manhattan to Rochdale Village every day, falling asleep on the E train over a pile of unfinished homework.
To a great extent, it was the beauty of other dancers that kept me inspired. I saw Virginia Johnson and Christina Johnson (no relation) at their practice. I saw Francesca Harper’s strength and virtuosity. Those narrow Egyptian hips made sense to me. I saw Judith Fugate in Madame Darvash’s class and got my ass whipped, in the best possible way, by her sister, Jodi Fugate who taught for Madame. I saw Darci Kistler and Lourdes Lopez in class. I saw Jean Emile and Desmond Richardson, Troy Powell and Raquel Chavis in class. I laid down and watched, up close, like a camera, as Kelly Cass’s feet attacked fifth. How did she do that? I was mesmerized by Donald Williams. I saw Moira Dorsey as Mirtha, Queen of the Willis, and that is something I will never forget. Those years of training were so hard. It was the beauty of great dancers that pulled at my heartstrings. I wanted, so badly, to be of that beauty.
I remember my audition for Dance Theatre of Harlem. I took the second company/ensemble class, taught by the great teacher, Nancy Schaffenberg. I was 17 and buoyed by my Water Genie that day. He twirled with an unapologetic flair. I felt a rare burst of confidence.
I went on to become a principal dancer with both the Dance Theatre of Harlem and with Boston Ballet. My roles included the Firebird and Giselle, as well as an extensive classical, neoclassical and contemporary repertoire.
During an hiatus with DTH, I also performed on and off Broadway, including the roles of Miss Turnstiles in the George C. Wolfe Broadway revival of “On the Town,” in Maria Irene Fornes’ “Letters from Cuba”, in Debbie Allen’s “Soul Possessed,” in pop superstar Princes’ “Rave unto the Year 2000” concert video, as a featured dancer at the Oscars and in film and commercials.
Though I achieved a lot professionally, I was unhappy, unfulfilled, emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally. It is no secret that the dance world can be competitive. I got lost in a toxic swirl of my own creation until I no longer recognized myself in the mirror.
One day, I was on my way to therapy when my inner-voice spoke to me. It said that the nature of my problems was spiritual and that I would have to find my answers there but that advice came without a map. I found my way to Andrew Cohen via the Sivananda Ashram bookstore.
I sought Spiritual healing. I went on retreats. I danced around the sacred fire all night long until the sun came up. I burned in the fires of Ayahuasca and in the fires of the sweat lodge. I bathed myself in sound, buried myself in the earth, heard the shattering bark of the coyote while camping alone, restored my connection to my ancestors, learned to divine and practiced and practiced and practiced until I felt whole again. My inner voice returned and now my yoga is to constantly tune to that. I still make mistakes, but can more easily find my way home.
After leaving Boston Ballet in 2007, I began teaching. During my ballet company days, I never wanted to think about becoming a teacher, but when the opportunity presented itself, I fell into it quite naturally. I found that I had a lot to say about the art-form. Teaching brought me into the practice of direct service to others. It brought me to a higher version of myself as it tested my authenticity to the core.
Joke: How do you know someone went to Harvard?
Answer: Because they tell you.
I’ve taught at Harvard University, Phillips Academy Andover, Boston Arts Academy, Boston Ballet School, Dance Theatre of Harlem School and at many other institutions. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. I also teach company class for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and have recently added yoga to my teaching wheel-house.
Though I learned a lot through teaching, something still gnawed at me to find a form of expression that felt authentic to all parts of me. I could no longer perform ballet, because it lacked the context for who I had become. Also, I left ballet in despair, at the end of my rope, so to speak, so I have a lot of sadness associated with it. I’ve had to make my peace with that.
I needed redemption and longed to experience joy through dancing again, in this new form, as a teacher, a mother, an elder, a cobra, a shape-shifting-Arcturian-Speaker-Woman, but I needed a new language that was vibrational to my experience.
In 2018, after a ten year absence, I returned to the stage performing in a style that I call soft-pop, or more specifically, as a movement meditation in the language of Soft Pop. It is an improvisatory combination of ballet, modern, hip-hop, poetry, butoh and love-crazy, wisdom. I was nominated by fellow dancer, Marsha Parilla, to become a Luminary Artist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston, which has allowed me to explore and develop my creative voice. www.vimeo.com/taijimenez
Since I was helped tremendously through spiritual guidance, I also offer that to others seeking to heal, to awaken their vision, to embody their purpose, and to be at peace.
I would like to acknowledge my dancing and spiritual mentors, great souls who have helped me to stay on my path: my mother, Blanche Jimenez, Gabriella Darvash, Arthur Mitchell, Robert Garland, Malidoma Some, Ken Ludden and Sergio Magana. Thank you to my blood ancestors Tilly Mendez and Jesus Jimenez, to my artistic ancestor posse: Ali Farka Toure, Martha Graham, Frida Kahlo and Rumi. Thank you to my immediate family, Cyrille, Colibri and Chulo who keep me anchored to this world and deep, throbbing gratitude to the insatiable water genie that dances me. May he stay hungry.