Accomplished dancer and emerging choreographer Felicia McBride has returned to her hometown of San Antonio to build her arts life.
Photo by Sarah Annie Navarrete.
Felicia McBride, one of Texas’s most outstanding contemporary dancers, has recently moved back to her hometown of San Antonio to develop her work as a choreographer. She brings a wealth of experience having danced with many companies, including Ballet Austin II, Hubbard Street Dance 2, Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens, Owen/Cox Dance and ARCOS dance. Now she has stepped out on her own. A + C editor Nancy Wozny visited with McBride on life back in SA.
Was there much dance in San Antonio when you were growing up? Did you have to leave to train?
I studied under Mayra Worthen and Julie Morton Simpson from when I was 12 to. 17 years old. At that time all I really knew of the dance scene was at the studio. From that perspective, as a teenager wanting to dance professionally, I knew early on that I would need to leave San Antonio in order to get the full training and professional company experience that I wanted and needed. I left when I was 17 to train with North Carolina Dance Theater, which is now Charlotte Ballet.
Hubbard Street 2 is a terrific training company. What were some highlights during your Hubbard years?
I learned so much there. I learned how to be my own dancer, not trying to be something else. They really taught me to embrace my flaws and mistakes on stage and turn them into something special. I learned how to move bigger and more sincerely. I learned that I needed to feel the movement rather then execute it. We had opportunities like touring all over the country and to Germany, working with Alonzo King, working alongside the company, taking company class everyday, and seeing countless performances by the company and being so floored with amazement everytime.
Some of the time you spent away from SA was actually in other areas of Texas, which is where I met you when you were dancing with Dominic Walsh. How did you grow artistically during that time?
Dominic was a huge step for me from Ballet Austin. This is where I really began to explore the contemporary side of my dancing. I knew I wanted that while I was at Ballet Austin but didn’t really have the chance to get into it like I did in Dominic’s company. I had the chance to work with amazing artists who taught me works by Jiri Kylian and Mats Ek. I was pushed to limits I never thought I could achieve. Those two years where definitely huge in shaping me into the dancer I eventually became.
Next you showed up in Austin dancing with the wonderful Erica Gionfriddo at ARCOS. How did you stretch yourself there?
ARCOS gave me wonderful opportunities to be more of a soloist. They really gave me the freedom I craved to influence other dancers and work in collaboration with them. It has always been a two way street with them, which I love. It is also closer to the down and heavy contemporary movement that I find challenging but also so fulfilling.
You are back in SA now, your hometown. What kind of dance community did you find when you returned?
It has seemed to be a similar dance community. Not a whole lot has changed as far the fact that there are many dance studios still in competition. I have found it still seems to be very exclusive to which studio you are in and only staying with that studio. For me, I wish it was more of a community. Dancers supporting dancers and encouraging each other. There is definitely some change happening currently, more teachers getting together to take class together. Since moving back I have committed myself to find ways to bring dancers together .
All cities struggle maintaining dance communities. How do you see SA’s dance niche as unique?
SA is very affordable. As an artist I don’t feel that I am struggling to pay my rent. Since moving here from Austin, my pay scale has gone up and my rent has gone down. It’s great to be in an affordable city to allow me the chance and freedom to keep doing what I am doing!
That is great to hear because struggling to pay rent takes up valuable artistic energy. Talk more about what you are trying to build there.
I recently organized an event called MESH, an evening that involved nine different artists collaborating in pairs to create five pop-up performances that flowed throughout the evening. I felt it would be so great to bring different artists– dancer with an illustrator, film artist and dancer, drummer and singer and many others–together for a night of collaboration. The thought of mixing people that normally might not get the chance to meet or work together excites me.
You are a choreographer now. Who are your big influences?
Since I am just starting choreography I still feel like I am figuring out my influences. But I will say I am definitely still influenced from all the experiences I had at HS2. I have always loved Sharon Eyal’s work! I have also been working with my husband on all original music, and for me right now, his music is a huge influence on what I create.
What are you working on right now?
After MESH, I will be leaving SA to dance with Owen/Cox Dance Group for four weeks in Kansas City. I have built a relationship with them and go there at least twice a year for a short contract. Once I am there I will begin a new solo based on one of my hosts’ late husband’s work. He was a prolific and well known contemporary artist from Kansas City. His work is so abstract, colorful and interesting. I will show this solo in a few works-in-progress type performances.
What advice to you have to a dancer who is returning to their home?
Don’t be discouraged that you may be taking a step back and coming home. I definitely have felt that way since the change. But it really can be a fulfilling experience once you find your groove and your “new way” back in your hometown.