Natalie Aceves: Dance Student 

Spotted: Downtown Berkeley ​

What are you up to today?
I'm in search of a couple costume items and hairspray.

That sounds fun! What are your preparing for?
It's my last semester at Laney College at the dance department. Our show is this weekend, and I choreographed a piece for that. So I'm running around before dress rehearsal.

So how long have you been studying dance at Laney?
I've been there about two years.

What kind of piece are you guys performing?
It's a very spiritual piece. In terms of style, it's a blend from hip-hop to modern contemporary, improv, [and] partnering. It's a mix.

Is it like a final?
It's also my final, yeah! I was elected to choreograph it. My teacher was like, "You get to choreograph a piece—and you have two weeks to do it!"

Wow, that's fast!
The pressure was good though.

Did it help you focus?
Yeah! It was great—I loved it!

What kinds of things were your influences?
The creative process was definitely a journey. [laughs] It was kind of . . . I guess where I am in life. We travel on this horizontal plane every day, we're, like, back and forth, just movement, and we don't have enough time to just sit. It's like this vertical line, it's like the spiritual line. And from rushing around horizontally, we lose that.

I never thought about it visually like that, that's interesting!
Yeah, well that's my process. The piece is about this resistance and surrendering to your spirit. I think a lot of times we get so wrapped up in life that we lose our spirit. And I think [within] humanity—we're running around with this void. We're hungry. And it's that spiritual; that vertical line that I think can actually fulfill that hunger. So that's where I'm at right now—just trying to center myself on that plane, and it's been coming through in the piece. I've been doing a lot of meditations for it. I also do bodywork, intuitive healing with people on an individual basis. As I go through my own personal healing journey and facilitating other people's journeys creatively, [it's] been a huge influence. We can take our own baggage and our own work as creative projects themselves, rather than just saying, oh we're full of flaws, or we're full of these limitations or habituations that we create. Whether it's past life imprints or from birth—these things that encode inside of us. So until we really heal though them, we have these limitations that can keep us in the same struggle. So this piece is also about stepping out into new waters and breaking free of these limitations that we create.

So breaking out of comfort zones or what we're used to?
Yeah! There's been a lot of different things that have been feeding the process.

What's something that has sparked your interest lately?
Music-wise, I've spent a lot of time in Brazil and that definitely has fed who I am; my spirit.

What did you like most about being in Brazil?
I think, overall, people are more relaxed there. Here we're just so uptight, and we live in so much fear. We have all these imposed ideas and oriented goals, and professionalism becomes the destination, rather than the destination being internal and being secure within yourself. So I just think the overall energy is more lax, and then of course the music and the dancing is a way of life, versus here it's just like entertainment rather than an experience for the people—joy. Music, I listen to about just every type of music you can think of. But meditation has really been a co-founder for this project. And nature. Spending time in nature is everything. 

Where are some of your favorite places to go?
Ooh I can't tell! [laughs] Well, I was born here, but I grew up in Mendocino County, so I grew up in nature. That, for me, has imprinted in many beneficial ways, so I try to sustain that inner nature while I'm here walking the cement. But there's a lot of great places! Even if you just go into the hills here in Berkeley and Oakland you find a tree, you find a rock and you just sit. Sitting is very important. Just sit for a minute, because then we just start following the pace of our minds, rather than like the pace of our breath and our spirit. And I think that's what causes all the anxiety, all the depression, all the madness.

I usually ask people if they've heard any great advice but that's some great advice right there. Any challenges that you've overcome recently?
Definitely unplugging from these things that hold me back.

Was it something that happened from work with other people, or was it just a sudden realization?
Since this piece happened so fast, there's been no separation between this and my daily life. I'm just walking the streets, things keep happening, and it just brings me back to the piece. And then I'll be directing the piece, and then it brings me right back to experiences I'm having in life. They contribute to each other. And they've deepened and expanded each other.

Sounds like you're on an interesting track there! You've got some momentum going!
Yeah! It's been amazing! A lot of different currents and revelations.

Before I forget I also wanted to ask you about your personal style, and where does it all come from?
Well, I'm one for personal expression! Jewelry for me is just like tattoos—they're just extensions of self. I wear them every day. I put them on first thing in the morning. This ring is from India, this bracelet is a gift, this bracelet is thrift shop, this other one is from Tibet. There's things that are just always on me.

That necklace is really cool!
I made this. This has a lot of energy and prayer. I pray with it, I put energy into it, and I wear it every day so it's a powerful piece for me. This shell is an old piece of a necklace that my mom gave me from India. This is just a piece of metal that I had, and this is the swirl of life right here, right by my heart.

The pants are great too.
I love baggy pants. And these are my dance shoes.

Yeah, you look like you're ready to start dancing!
This is like my — I have dance clothes on, but also a little bit of style on top of it. But I'm able to dance in it if I need to! [laughs]

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