About Tai

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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.

Haha.

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.

Contact me at taipiyung@gmail.com

 

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17 responses to “About Tai

  • brad gerstner

    thanks for sharing – u have brought a smile to my face as you always do.

    • charles mishael patterson

      i am so grateful that you are my teacher. i’ve learned a lot from you and plan to keep learning and progressing. i looked you up and i am finding soooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! many interesting facts about you and in my eyes your are not only seen as a teacher but a role model . your the best…._-BY C. MICHAEL.P

  • Karen Marzano

    Tai your words are so powerful and encouraging. Thank you for sharing your trials and triumphs with us.

  • Nancy Allen

    Hi Tai-

    I studied at SAB in the early sixties, the really fascinating years. I got to see all the great Russian dancers who defected to the West take class. (Nureyev and Makarova were my favorites.)

    Like you, I lived, ate, and breathed ballet while growing up.

    Unfortunately, at the age of seventeen, the year before I would have turned professional, I tore my ACL landing from a grand jete in Eglevsky’s class (trying too hard to turn out landing from a split jump with the left arm and leg forward and right arm and leg back, throwing off my center of gravity).

    It took me fifteen years to find something else I wanted to do – veterinary medicine. I got my DVM from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell eleven years ago at the age of fifty. (By the way the mental discipline is the same for both being a ballet dancer and being a veterinarian – the repetition, the attention to detail, and mentally rehearsing what to do if something goes wrong (i.e. you fall onstage or an animal crashes) and you need to be prepared to act instantaneously.)

    A few years ago, while working at an animal hospital in lower Westchester, Darci Kistler came in with her dogs. I told her of my ballet background and we had a great conversation. We talked about all the people we both knew – although I knew them as students or young professionals and she knew them as teachers. She treated me like an older sister.

    I live five minutes from the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet in Peekskill, Approximately a year ago I stopped over to the school and, through the front door, saw a class in progress. Ken Ludden was teaching the class, which was comprised of only two women. They were at the barre. I noticed very quickly that the woman closer to the front door was really excellent. I watched her for a while, very impressed.

    Later that day I called the school and spoke to Ken. I introduced myself and told him my background. I also told him about watching class earlier that day. He told me the dancer I was so impressed with was you.

    Ken invited me to come by the school so we could meet, but I never did. Today I was looking at the school’s website again as I think I would like to volunteer there.

    After surfing the school’s website for a while, I ran across your blog. I’ve read only two entries: 8/31/09 (with the picture of you in costume sitting on a stoop holding a sign “Will dance for food”) and 2/2/10 (Techno revo/evo Lution). I think you are not only a great dancer, but an extraordinarily interesting person and excellent writer. I look forward to reading the rest of your blog entries.

    If I go to work at Ken’s school, perhaps one day we will meet.

    In the meantime I wish you all the best. You’re very lucky you’ve had the good fortune to have a wonderful career – that it all fell into place for you. I hope it continues for the rest of your life! (I often think of Madame Tumkovsky, for whom I auditioned for SAB when I was thirteen. I read that she taught until she was 92 and lived to 103.)

    Much love,
    Nancy

  • James Atkinson

    I really enjoy hearing what you have to say.

  • khamaribendolph

    I love you Ms.Jimenez you are very special to me and I have learned to appreciate you so much because your real and I want our friendship and relationship as a teacher and student to only grow from here I got tears in my eyes reading things of what you have posted and your only what we describe a lot of icons in the world…great! You are my icon and I appreciate you as a statue on a plate that stands strong. I want every thing I can get from you because you are what we kids say “real talk” I deeply understand you as a intellectual being from a dancer’s perspective and a person’s perspective! God Bless!

    -Khamari

  • Cicely Thompson

    You are truly an inspiration. 🙂

  • Meg

    Hello!

    I’m Meg, and I was wondering if you danced Sugar Plum for Lubbock Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker a while ago. I was in that cast, and your dancing was such an inspiration. It touched all of us and my family was moved to tears. Glad to know you are still dancing and even though I am not (except swing dancing with my husband now), it was truly a moment in time my whole family will not forget.

  • bluegoldfishclaire

    Ms. Jiminez,

    I took your class on Friday at the HDC and had a great time 🙂 so thank you. I’m applying to colleges right now and I’m glad I got to experience part of the ballet scene at Harvard. I was amazed by how students can take class with such an accomplished teacher regardless of their future goals. The people had such different backgrounds but all had fun in the class, and I hope to be a part of it someday.

    Thanks again,
    Claire L.

  • Gabrielle

    I fell upon a video of you on youtube speaking about your injury and it touched my heart so deeply. I’m 18, and I used to go to DTH, for about 5 years, where you once taught my class. After DTH, I went to LaGuardia as a dance major but then got badly injured and had back surgery. I’m now a freshman at Purchase College getting ready to audition for the dance conservatory. I’ve had so many doubts about auditioning because of my back injury, but the interview about your injury && your blog has really inspired me to follow my heart and continue dancing. Thank you so much.

  • Premdas

    Tai, you stand in Grace and Dignity.

    To show us the way to do it through your own breathe and life;

    To remind us that we become strong on our path when we humbly and courageoulsy perceive the fact that we are so fragile;

    To teach us that we have to learn in practice to listen and express our Truth at each and every step;

    To be who you are – an vibrant and loving offering to Beauty and Truth,

    Thank you.

    Love

    Premdas

  • dani0414

    Tai,
    Your words are incredibly powerful and inspiring. I stumbled onto your blog after a workshop performance I participated in at Harvard several years ago (that you wrote a post about). Right now I am in the midst of preparing to facilitate my first ever dance workshop in Brazil with young adult dancers. It would be so valuable to be able to speak to you– not only as I get ready for this experience, but also to hear more about your life and your work.

    Let me know if you’re open to that. My email is daniella.ciccone@gmail.com.

    peace,
    Daniella

  • Amy

    Dearest Tai: I am off Facebook for the time being, but I heard your news and wanted to say mille congratulations. What an amazing thing. My kids are the best thing I’ve ever done. Hope you are yours are well.

    Much love, Amy

  • Laura W.

    Thank-you for sharing your writing- this tip of what is the individual story you have to tell. It is honest, thought-provoking, and inspiring. It calls us to reflect upon our ancestors, our mentors, our past, present, and future, and it calls upon us to actively seek the inner-peace we all desire.

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