Dance is an artistic discipline that is enjoyed throughout the world. It has the ability to push past many barriers that otherwise would hinder people from engaging with one another, such as language. Dance provides moments of freedom for those who embrace it and grants lifelong friendships and bonds on and off the dance floor.
Each dancer photographed for this project made the choice to leave their homes in the United States, Spain and Senegal to pursue a dance career in Paris. Their preferred style of the art form has enabled them to navigate many unknowns in their new city and guide them into spaces that are familiar as they establish themselves and their futures.
They have found love, friendships and extended their families because of dance. Some teach a variety of dance styles to children and teens as a way of giving back to their community. All of the dancers confess that no matter where they are mentally or physically in life, dance will always be their home.
(L) Rashidi Lewis (R) Dámaris Aire
Medoune Top is from Senegal and has lived in France for eight years. He began breakdancing after being inspired by American hip hop. He is a part of a break dancing crew, The Vagabond Crew, and teaches young people the art of hip hop dancing with the organization T2T: Tribute to hip hop based in Bondy. Medoune’s immediate family does not live in Paris but he has been able to develop a circle of support amongst his dance community and calls Paris his home now.
Rashidi Lewis is a dancer from Miami, Florida and moved to Paris with his French-born husband shortly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Donald Trump presidency. Rashidi began dancing in church at eight years old and took his first formal ballet class and training professionally at sixteen. He first saw his now husband in a dance class in New York City and later connected through social media. When he eventually moved to Paris, Rashidi taught at a dance school in Le Mans and is now living in Paris and is a cast member of Le Roi Lion/The Lion King. He and his husband have set a goal to eventually move (back) to the US.
Dámaris Aire is from Spain and is also a cast member of Le Roi Lion. Dance has been her happy place and she has been able to establish a familial relationship with her fellow dancers.
Afovic is a Peruvian folkloric dance group based in Patterson NJ. Many of the members migrated to the US as little as less than a year ago while some of the members are first generation US citizens of Peruvian immigrants and joined the group to help connect with their culture. Some of the Peruvian-born members were members of Afovic dance groups in Peru so and joined Afovic USA to continue dancing and meet fellow Peruvians in their new home country. The group practices weekly, rain or shine, and participates in parades and other events. Members have shared that the group feels like a small family and that they do things together like go to the movies, shopping, etc besides practice.
(L to R) Medoune Top and Rashidi Lewis with Dámaris Aire, Rashidi Lewis