By Dr. Elaine Richardson aka Dr. E, Director, Columbus Women & Girls’ Fest and Empowering Young Voices Performing-Arts Based Mentoring Program
Mrs. Candice Igeleke is the Creative-N-Chief of Candice Flows LLC, a dance maker, choreographer, performing artist, yoga instructor and youth arts mentor who continues to grow in her artistry. She will be performing alongside her mentees at the Columbus Women&Girls’ Fest, Sept. 17.
Dr. E.: I know you’re from New York. How has Columbus been a part of your journey as an artist?
Candice: When I moved here, I was just organizing and just getting to know Columbus and it was a culture shock. Being from Brooklyn, it’s very Black and diverse. It was just this energy. I didn’t realize that something could be different. It was in the midst of police brutality. It was like at an all-time high, so I jumped into organizing with my husband and the People’s Justice Project and after a year of not dancing and not having that outlet, when I did my first dance class, I literally cried. I just felt I could breathe. There was so much heaviness and pain. My first class that I came to, it was a liturgical dance class, and it was African dance. It showed me that not only am I a good dancer, and I enjoy dance; but I needed dance. I needed dance to live and to be healthy. From that moment, I was like, this is what I want to do. I moved here in May of 2015. My first dance class was February of 2016.
I danced when I was a lot younger. I was in dance companies. New York is full of dancers and outlets, but I didn’t have the flexibility, all of the technique, so I was put in the background and didn’t get the solos. In elementary school I was in after school dance programs. I was doing African dance and I enjoyed it then. But when I got to college, I was on the dance line, “Hot Ice.” At my Historically Black College University’s Norfolk State Spartan Legion Marching Band. Somebody told me, “You can really dance. I enjoy watching you. You should do something with this. You’re really good.” I knew it was something I could do; but I didn’t really dig deep and train and have the intention behind it, until I came to Columbus. Columbus has been a part of my journey, affirming me, giving me genuine love and appreciation for my artistry. And people wanted to sow into me. Ms. Suzan Bradford from Thiossane West African Dance Institute welcomed me to join the company. Gamal Brown invited me to come take his Contemporary Modern class for free. He is one of my dance mentors. DJ O Sharp would let me dance at open mics. He knew what to play. He played “See-Line Woman” by Nina Simone. Ever since, Carnell Willoughby, Sheri Neale and others just covered me. I mean like, Maroon Arts Group. I have been wrapped in love! My journey has been beautiful. And also, with the grants and support for artists here, it’s a beautiful thing. All of this has brought me a long way.
Dr. E.: Who and what are your biggest artistic influences?
Candice: From the beginning, Galen Hooks and Parris Goebel. Those two women, the cleanliness of the choreography and the intention. With Galen Hooks, it’s the gentleness of the hard-hitting moves and the emotion. She can do the same choreography with a different emotion. They prompt will be like perform this emotion like you just lost your best friend. Now perform it like you’re in love. It’s the same choreography; but with the emotion, it digs deeper into what dancer are and what they can convey. It’s about movement, emotions, the intention you put behind it, and I love that.
I was hooked on Parris Goebel when I was in college. It’s a very unique style of dance. Parris Goebel is in New Zealand. I learned from her on YouTube. I found Galen Hooks on YouTube, as well. Social media is it. Local artistic influences definitely Gamal Brown, as a social justice choreographer. In his process of choreography, he paints a picture. Before he starts teaching, he narrates the context to put the intention over it and then shows you the movement. From being his dancer and his student and sitting at his feet, he has made thee biggest impact on me. Now I know, I have to trust in myself and the process. If I have a step, or an eight count or something that feels funny-style, let me just go into it, because there are dancers who have their own techniques named after them. There are these whole bodies of work. So why can’t I just have a Candice Igeleke technique? I want to influence myself and continue to lift myself up. I am an amazing artist.
Dr. E.: If someone has never seen you perform, how would you describe what you do as a dancer?
Candice: I make them feel. I emote with such joy, pain or a specific feeling of what I want to convey and wash over you. Not only do I dance with my body; but the energy I put into my dancing is what you feel while you’re experiencing it. So, if it’s joy, you’ll feel like you wanna dance, or you’ll be activated in some way. If it’s pain or if it’s a heavy emotion, or thought-provoking. My movement will have you thinking, “Why did she do this?” “How can I help this situation?” My performances take you on a ride: African dance, contemporary modern, hip hop, dancehall, Afro beat. Now I’m getting into a poetry and singing bag. You gotta practice what you preach. I’m teaching the young girls and telling them, “You can do everything. It’s about practice. It’s about intention.” I’m taking my own advice!
Dr. E.: We are in the midst of movement for body positivity in the Black arts space. What are your thoughts on that?
Candice: I think it’s beautiful. It happened way before Lizzo came out. I know that was like a big marker, like she’s coming out here unapologetically. But I think the focus on body positivity and awareness stems from being unapologetically Black. We talk about showing up as yourself in spaces. People gotta get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think it’s under the umbrella of showing up as who you are, your attitude, your talk, with everything. Especially for Black people and Black women, that I can speak to it, in the workspace, it’s Black pride. I’m unapologetically Black or I’m Black and beautiful. Say it loud I’m Black and I’m proud. All of these things. My body is me. Everybody has their own body type.
When I was pregnant with my child, I was talking to myself like, “My body was made for this moment.” Just affirming life, “My body has created life.” When I actually gave birth, my body was changed and altered. I had to keep that same energy: “This body has created life.” It’s not back to how it used to be, but it’s alright! It was hard and it was stressful, but when I look on social media, people talking about FUPAS (fatty upper pubic areas), “Let it all hang out.” I’m seeing bigger girls, I’m seeing my family. Young girls out here with bikinis on, like “This is my body, what’s up?” That is inspirational and loving yourself. Yes! The narrative is shifting because there used to be so many jokes on social media. Like if you saw a bigger woman in a bathing suit or a crop top. Now they’re talkin about “Get yourself a big girl” or “Look at this big girl.” Even in other spaces, if you hear somebody say something wrong, they are getting checked. People are like “Don’t do that.” In the Black arts space, I think it’s beautiful.
There’s a culture shift with reality TV, social media, music. There’s pros and cons to it. When we talk about the young girls, I’m happy that I’m here because there’s so much that we do that’s just learned behavior. Sometimes we use words and do things because in our context, what we say and do is okay; but for some other group or in some other space, what we say and do might be offensive. Let’s call people in rather than call people out. Let’s talk about it.
See Candice Igeleke performing alongside her mentees at the Columbus Women&Girls’ Fest, Sept. 17.
This article is brought to you by Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art, an initiative of the Greater Columbus Arts Council to raise the visibility of Columbus-based artists. Learn more at ColumbusMakesArt.com.