It is my pleasure to introduce a dear friend of mine this month, Anna Librada Georges. Anna and I met in Virginia Beach last year, and a few short months later both of us moved away on PCS orders, she to Rota, Spain, and I to Poulsbo (Bremerton), Washington. But it was one of those instant connections that was so sparkly and easy that I know will prevail over distance and time. Anna is a dancer, and she is one of those people that embodies every beautiful image that the word invokes- impassioned, twirling, loving, vivid, young of heart, wise of soul. I can’t wait to dance with her again the next time our paths intersect.
Now, in her own words, Anna Librada Georges…
Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as an artist and a military spouse, and where you are today.
There was never a doubt in my mind that dance would be part of my life no matter what I did. My mother always impressed upon me that I NEEDED to dance. “You will always be ok if you are dancing,” she used to say. I dance. I always have and always will.
My husband and I grew up in the same town and dated through high school and most of college. We are from a small, liberal college town in the Hudson Valley, NY–about 70 miles north of NYC. Growing up in the Hudson Valley shaped me as an artist. I had my first experience with modern dance when I was 9 years old. A local modern dance teacher brought Earl Mosley from Alvin Ailey to teach us parts of Revelations. This burgeoning bun head threw away her bobby pins and toe shoes (and yes, I had a teacher who put me on pointe at 9) and never looked back. Of course, I continued with ballet all the way through college but I had found the dance technique that looked like I felt when I danced.
At 15 years old I was invited to join the Vanaver Caravan Dance Company; a modern and percussive dance company run by a couple that started traveling the world in the 1970’s learning and preserving world dance. Working with Livia and Bill Vanaver shaped who I am as a dancer. We studied percussive techniques from Appalachian Clogging, to Rhythm tap, flamenco and Irish step dancing. The training and exposure I gained from working with them has made me the artist I am today. I am a veteran performer, I have danced everywhere and anywhere from a rickety stage at a rolicking folk festival in Nowheresville, NY to a full run at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow. Bill Vanaver’s insistence that I follow my Southern Spanish blood led me to the art form that has changed my life and become my passion: Flamenco.
I majored in Arts Management and Dance at Emerson College in Boston. My junior year found me in Granada, Spain where I finally decided to heed Bill Vanaver’s advice and give this flamenco thing a try. My first class left me feeling like a complete idiot as a dancer and a disgrace to my Andalusian blood. But I was hooked. Despite my protests to let me drop out and use my tuition money for dance classes, my parents made me go back to Boston to finish my senior year.
Jack, my husband– then boyfriend— and I parted ways before I returned to Spain. He went on to graduate from Northeastern University and enlist in the Navy as a Combat Photographer and Navy Diver. I was so distressed at his decision that I told him if he enlisted he’d never see me again. He told me I would never find someone who loved me like he did. Fast forward five years. Jack found his passions of diving and photography and traveled the world with the Navy. I had been living in Spain hustling to stay there and dancing at every free moment. To support myself I became a certified TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher and yoga teacher. I also started my Masters Degree in Social Work because of a very loud voice inside that had been telling me that I needed to help people heal through dance and movement.
Jack and I reconnected and got married. Now, he is a Public Affairs Officer. I have my MSW and we are living in Spain with our two beautiful daughters. Life is miraculous.
How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Agreeing to become a military spouse was an easy decision for me to make. It was terrifying, but the choice to share my life with the man I love was simple. As any military spouse will tell you, we never really know what we are getting into.
I knew these things:
- I wanted to be with this man and start a family with him more than anything in the world.
- There would be a possibility to live in Europe and perhaps Spain.
- I would have health insurance and financial support so I could finally stop hustling and focus on what I really wanted to do: performing/teaching flamenco and using my MSW to practice somatic movement therapy.
On good days, I love the military and the opportunities it has offered me. I am back in Spain. I am sitting in a cafe in Jerez as I write this. Spain feeds my soul. The military has challenged me to fight for my art. I am a multi-faceted artist. I can get my creative fix from yoga, sewing, quilting, knitting or drawing (something I have only recently returned to), but as my mother has always reminded me; I NEED to dance like I need to breathe. When I become complacent about this, I get unhappy.
Yes, moving every two to three years has impacted my career. The nature of flamenco as an art form is that it needs a group of musicians and dancers to exist as flamenco is meant to be performed. It’s improvisational structure means you simply cannot dance to recorded music. This makes it hard when you don’t have a community of flamenco artists. I work around that by swallowing my pride when necessary and “dancing” to prerecorded music. It is not ideal, but if it is a question of working or not, I choose to work.
I maintain strong ties with the Vanaver Caravan and other artists in New York. I try to organize master classes and performances when I know I am going to be in the area. I dream of the day that my family can plant some roots and BE in a place long enough where I can form a “cuadro flamenco” (flamenco group), a body of students and start working on my Social Work licensure and Somatic Movement Education and Therapy certification with the goal of opening a private practice.
You’ve recently moved (back) to Spain for a PCS. What are you up to or planning during your time in Spain (artistically or personally)? What tips or advice do you have for artists getting back to work after a PCS?
Life in Spain: A gift from the Navy Gods.
Being a flamenco dancer in Spain is my dream, but it is impacted by motherhood. My daughters are 5 and a half and 2 years old. My eldest daughter is in kindergarten in a school in our neighborhood and I am home with my two year old. Full-disclosure: I find that my role as a MOTHER is much more challenging to my artistic career than the military is. I am trying to balance everything. I have two young children and a husband who works long hours, I have to be realistic and efficient about what I can accomplish in the three years I have in Spain.
I believe that life is lived in seasons. Certain passions, projects, and aspects of life need to lie fallow while others are nurtured and cultivated. It is NECESSARY to allow things to lie fallow in order for them to be healthy and grow. This is my mantra as a military spouse, mother AND as an artist. How do I implement this rather ethereal thought?
I try to keep focused on my art and career through the perspective of the current season. What I was able to do during the last four years, when my husband was away more than half of the time, is different than what I am able to do now.
Before we moved to Spain I came up with three artistic goals relating to my flamenco. These new skills and experiences one can only gain here in Spain. I have found two teachers who can help me achieve my goals and each week I take a private class with one of them. Currently, that is what I am able to do. Privates are the best use of my time and my money. I teach a few private flamenco classes when asked. The Americans in my classes like that I speak English. I also teach creative movement classes to offset the cost of my studying. Next year, I might be teaching yoga at my daughter’s school. I keep Morning Pages in my bullet journal/planner and am constantly checking in to make sure I am staying focused on my goals. Because of my particular quirks, I have to reality check almost daily to assure myself that I am being fair in light of what season we are in. For some reason my inner critic still judges me as if I were a single twenty-three year old. Anyone older than thirty can see the negative implications of that!
What’s next for you?
My “up next” goals have to be in list form. If I go too deep into depth I will never stop. I would love any input or ideas that could help them move along…
- Produce the First Annual Hudson Valley Flamenco Festival in 2018.
- Plan three gigs for the three weeks I am in NY this summer.
- Choreograph the basics of one new piece before September.
- Work on my Social Work Licensure when we return to the States
- Begin work on my Somatic Movement Education and Therapies Certification.
In this season:
I have three daily goals: do something for self-care, do something creative, do something toward my flamenco goals. It can’t be five hours in the studio, in the zone, sweating and weeping over my outpouring of brilliance. My daily flamenco goal is usually a stolen half hour whilst trying to ignore wails for my attention. But that is life right now. It won’t be life next year or even next month. This is my season of mothering; of having young children who need my caring love and nurturing focus all the time.
I can be found:
On Facebook at Anna Librada Dance
On Instagram as anna_l_georges
As a inconsistent at best blogger at annalibrada.wordpress.com
Thank you, Anna, for sharing your work and your words. Now, dear readers, are you inspired, engaged, or curious? Don’t be shy, post a comment below or on our facebook group or facebook page. MilspoFAN artists love to hear feedback (and adoring praise, or course!) from you.