Dancer finds calling in NYC: ‘It was the one thing I could completely lose myself in.’

Erica Lindegren can waack, lock and vogue like nobody’s business, and it’s not even her day job. She is a dancer and videographer living in NYC, who moved there to pursue her passion. Though her experience has not been without struggles, Erica talks about finding a spiritual sense of peace from the art. We got a chance to ask Erica some questions, check out her responses below.

“I decided to pursue dance because I realized that it was the thing that made me feel most alive. It was the one thing I could completely lose myself in.”

Tell me about your background in dance. 

I grew up in a very musical family and have been kicking to the beat of my own drummer for a long time, apparently since I was in the womb, according to my mother. I took tap, jazz and ballet in a small town competition studio from ages 5-11 but became disillusioned with their negative focus on body weight and stopped dancing for almost six years. In high school I was heavily involved in musical theater, spent a year in Colorguard, and dabbled in hip hop, tap, ballroom, and West African dance. In college I took up hula hooping and discovered contemporary dance through Afro-Fuzion Modern dance classes with Fuzion Dance Artists. When I spent a summer in NYC doing thesis research, I fell in love with Vogueing and started to study Vogue, Waack, House, Locking, and other street styles.

What kinds of dance do you most connect with?

Contemporary, Vogue, House, Hula Hooping, and Contact Improvisation. I like movements that are really grounded and explosive, athletic in unexpected ways, with dynamic accents and gestural phrases. I think there is as much beauty to be found in capturing the stillness of a moment as there is in rapid-fire continual motion, and I’m also interested in the people creating the movement. Who are they? What stories do they have to tell?

How has dance affected your life?

Dance has changed my life and saved my life in many ways. It has completely changed my priorities. It makes me focus a lot on my physical body, my health and my creative self. When my priorities shifted to improving my physical self, I noticed a huge shift in my mental health as well. When I focus on self-care, I have so much more room in my heart and my mind to create art and to take better care of the world around me.

“When I dance is when I feel most alive.”

When I dance is when I feel most alive. It is the one thing I always derive the most joy from and can wholly accept the amount of pain and discipline I must give to it. When I am able to dance with my whole heart, I feel an almost out of body/spiritual connection to the audience, to the universe and to myself. I get swept away in the moment and lose myself completely to the movement, and I think that is when my performance is the most genuine and authentic. When I see dancers completely embracing the moment and releasing their bodies to the music, that is what I find most captivating to watch. That is what I strive for in class and in performance.

What motivated you to move to New York City? 

I needed training to be a better dance artist, and I was really behind because I decided to return to dance relatively late in the game – most people study dance from a young age all the way through college, and I returned to dancing after college. I’d say the typical dancer in a professional dance company has been dancing since the age of at least 8 or 9, taking ballet 2-5 times a week in addition to contemporary, jazz and other genres. I’m not necessarily striving to be in a mainstream contemporary dance company, but I wouldn’t say no. I’m still exploring what possibilities are available to me. I had to dedicate my whole self to this dance endeavor or I was never going to be able to survive as a dance artist of any kind.

Once this realization hit, I knew that NYC was where I needed to be if I was serious about dance. It’s the dance capital of the USA, and arguably the world. NYC also has a thriving scene for emerging and alternative artists, incredibly experienced and professional teachers to take class from and a seemingly endless supply of dance companies, performance artists, choreographers, dancers and videographers to absorb information from.

What was your experience when you arrived? Instant stardom? Struggling artist?

Haha. Struggling artist for sure. I’m a very, very small tadpole in a gigantic sea. Trying to find myself here is a continually humbling process. When I arrived I had put aside enough savings for a deposit on an apartment and was lucky enough to have some good friends who let me crash with them until I found my own place.

“Trying to find myself here is a continually humbling process.”

I had been applying for administrative/professional jobs I was qualified for about five months before I moved with no luck, and kept applying for another two months once I arrived. I eventually just gave up on the 9-to-5 world and after about a month of stalking Craiglist ads and job sites, I took a job as a barista in a vegan restaurant. It was supposed to be temporary, but I’ve been there for over a year and a half and now work part-time as a server. I found a sense of stability and support in the people I worked with and flexible scheduling that would be much harder to find administratively.

What are projects are you working on in the not-so-distant future?

Currently my major projects are launching my own website that’s half dance and half video to propel my work as a freelance videographer and dance artist; continuing to work with Babel, an acrobatic dance theater company, and collaborating in dance and video multimedia work with Adele Fournet and her indie-rock band The Soon-Another; and starting to create and present my own choreography in NYC. Last year I choreographed a Yiddish theater hip hop ballet with the Mohawk Arts Collective that premiered at Abrons Arts Center, performed in a hip hop piece in a women’s basketball half-time show at Madison Square Gardens through PMT Dance, danced in a series of vignettes in a physical comedy/dance/theater piece by The Red Glove Project, taught beginning hip hop classes to adults through Liberated Movement and was a video intern for Urban Bush Women and BODYART Dance companies.

I’m still looking for jobs that could fulfill me creatively and support my training and financial needs. It’s a constant struggle, but the sacrifice is worth it every time I take a really brilliant dance class in the middle of the day and I walk out having challenged myself with a smile on my face.

Thank you to Erica Lindegren for sharing her experiences as a Renaissance Woman. For more information about Erica’s endeavors, visit www.elinddance.com.