"There’s no greater gift than to honor your life’s calling. It’s why you were born.
And how you become most truly alive."
The beginning of the new year is often a popular time to revaluate our lives, identify our calling and set goals. I had the opportunity to sit down with one of my favorite dancers, Alicia Graf Mack, and talk about what moves her. Her career has had many ups, downs and turns but one thing for sure, she knows she has been called to dance!
SP - Who are you?
AGM - I identify as a dancer, but not in the sense of it defines me because I consider myself a mover in all senses of the word. I move for my profession but I like to move people and inspire people move through different spaces and transform their lives in different ways. The physicality of moving keeps me alive so maybe I should say that I’m a mover and not a dancer. I am figuring it out day by day with a lot of experience and understanding of who I am and where I want to be. I’m a mother and a teacher and a wife. So many other things but I identify as a mover.
SP - Does you family dance?
AGM - I don’t come from a dancing family but my mom was always very physical. She was a model so she would teach aerobics classes to her modeling students. When I was little, I would imitate her and she would think, wow that was crazy for a 2-year-old to do. So that’s how she started to put me in dance. She is very tall and elegant so she looks like a dancer but she has never had any training. My mom is African American, my dad is Jewish American from NYC, his mother was an avid ballet fan so when she learned that I loved to dance she really exposed me to ballet, taking me to performances, sending me photos, so that’s where was my base was. My mom’s modeling school was in the same building as the dance class. She would bring me to dance and the teacher just said let me in class. For a long time, my mom was a professor at Howard University. My base is education. My dad was a community organizer. They both encouraged us to pursue our passion. Passion makes us live our best life. My sister is a dancer, actress, singer, my brothers don’t dance but dance has always been a part of our lives. My kids dance at home.
SP - What motivates you?
AGM - The idea that you do your best and let God take care of the rest. Mom instilled putting your full self into what you do. Aiming to put my best foot forward. Especially when you are having challenges. All four of us are perfectionist. That idea as I got older, what’s worth it will remain, what’s not worth it will fall. Everyday I aim to put my best foot forward. I don’t like to do anything half way. Also means I have to make good choices.
SP - How has dance made a difference in your life?
AGM - Dance is my life, it has always been the driving force in my life, whether I’m dancing or not. There have been times when I was injured, my undergraduate time at Columbia happened because I was injured and because of dance or the lack there of, I had to reinvent myself. The way I move through the world, the discipline, work ethics, how we lift each other up, that’s all because of dance.
SP - You've been through many injuries and endured pain throughout your career. So why do you still dance?
AGM - I dance because I believe I was called to dance. I don’t think it was my decision. I know I was given a gift and everyone is called to do something. We are all guided by the gifts we are given.
SP - What brings you joy?
AGM - my children, especially when they are in good mood, my students, when I see them accomplishing and overcoming challenges, they didn’t think they could overcome. I have a lot of joy when I see someone living in their truth. Whether that’s a musician like completely embodying music, or seeing someone on the street. I like to see people joyful, it’s contagious. I love seeing people joyful.
Alicia encourages all dancers to strive for what they want in your life and obtain their goals.