For Romy, dance seems to be as natural and integrated to life as breathing is for the rest of us. It might be embedded in her DNA – her mother, grandmother and great-aunt are all dancers. The history and power of dance in Romy’s family merit a published collection of short stories.
Romy has been dancing since she started walking, first studying ballet, jazz, and tap – on an early track to become a professional ballerina. Eventually and abruptly, she left ballet in college and her dance scholarship not because of dance, but because the dance culture promoted a specific ideal of physical beauty and pervasive competition. Then, she stumbled into African Dance and the freedom, exhilaration, and openness of the dance and musical form “blew her ballet dance mind.” She studied, took classes with many different teachers, and eventually, she began teaching African dance for children, then Beginning classes for adults.
Even if Romy has a natural predisposition to dance, she believes and convincingly teaches that “dance is universal and uniquely human. It belongs to all of us, in all its’ forms. It is part of our collective unconscious.”
Romy’s life and her creative path seem to be about fusion – unlikely fusions. Her mother left Germany at 16 years old (leaving behind the cosmopolitan life of her artistic, performing mother) to marry a young man living in rural Oklahoma. Maybe her family history set the stage for Romy to make creative connections that are beautiful but unexpected. Romy’s creative passion for the first couple decades of her life was ballet. Romy’s creative passion for the next couple decades was African dance. Recently, she found space and time to bring her two dancer selves together in Ballet-Afrique - her personal expression of dance and movement. Ballet-Afrique works because Romy understands and experiences both forms deeply. On the surface, it seems an unlikely marriage of forms, but it is simultaneously graceful and energetic, disciplined and organic, calm and joyful.
If you want to see Ballet-Afrique for yourself, Romy is performing at Mnemosyne’s Lounge at Tricklock on March 12 and 13 at 8 pm. Romy is also presenting In the Forest of Her Mind on March 21 at 4 pm and 6 pm at MapleStreet Dance Space. Both performances are part of Women & Creativity 2015. If you want to dance yourself, attend an Introduction/Beginning Ballet-Afrique class with Romy, Tuesdays, 5:30 – 7 pm at Maple Street Dance Space.
Maple Street Dance Space was originally one small dance studio on Maple, St.. Now, it is happily and busily in the heart of Nob Hill at 3215 Central, Ave, NE. Romy and Maple Street Dance Space were presented with a Bravo Award by Creative Albuquerque in 2014 for outstanding contributions to the Creative Economy in Albuquerque.
Romy did not set out to own or run a dance studio. Maple Street Dance Space evolved from the Blue Tribe Dance Studio founded by Rujeko who focused on African Dance, and Romy stepped in when Rujeko moved to New York. Romy’s motivation at the time was a need for herself and the dance community to have an affordable place to teach and dance – she did not think of it as business or a long-term professional plan. However, over time and through a roller coaster of learning, making mistakes, and building, Romy has embraced and succeeded in her role as Owner of Maple Street Dance Space.
Ultimately, the motivation has remained the same – a place for the dance community to thrive, hold
classes, and share the power of dance and movement. A quick look at the Monday class schedule shows the diversity of the Maple Street community - Afro-Cuban dance with Pilar Leto, Belly Dancing with Flo Bargar, Zumba with Sabrina Samudio–Ruiz, and Capoiera with Greg Sukochi. It is a vibrant space that celebrates Albuquerque’s cultural and creative range. Romy has an unconventional and thriving business model where fusion, cultural overlap, and creativity may be the greatest assets. Luckily, Romy seems to have an endless source of movement, energy and optimism to fuel her work.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? A professional dancer – originally, I wanted to be a ballerina.
What are you reading right now? The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies, it jumped out at me in a thrift store!
Who are builders and makers that inspire you? I am very inspired by Women & Creativity – the way it works, the collaboration, the community connections. I am also inspired by Suzanne Sbarge at 516 Arts and how she works.
Receiving the Bravos last year was a beautiful reminder to me about where the studio is in the larger, amazing creative community of Albuquerque. It made me realize I am in the middle – in the hub - of this really cool thing surrounded by these really inspirational people, and that running the space is its’ own creativity.
What is your personal creative practice? I do all of my own choreography in a quiet park in the north valley. I go there daily to walk my dogs and to dance. The inspiration to dance outside and alone in that park was sparked by a 2011 documentary on Pina Bausch, a contemporary dance choreographer.
Photos courtesy of Romy Keegan
BUILDERS and MAKERS BLOG
Thank you for reading this weekly blog dedicated to highlighting people who are building and making with passion and creativity in the Duke City. If you want to suggest an inspirational Builder or Maker living in Albuquerque for this series, email me!