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Behind the Design: Twelve Dancing Queens (Part One)

Once upon a time, there were twelve Queens who loved to dance. Each danced to a different tune, in her own unique way, with an internal tempo only she could match. While one Queen twirled with the poise and discipline of a ballerina, another popped and locked with the force of a thousand Step Up Movie dancers. One Queen shook what her mama gave her, while another poured her soul from her fingertips and toes with lyrical grace. Every Queen was undeniably different, unequivocally beautiful, and wonderfully expressive. These are the Twelve Dancing Queens, and this is their story.

When I first started this series of drawings, I wasn't entirely sure what the final product was going to be. It began with simple, whimsical doodles scribbled to "get the thought on paper" and quickly evolved into an anthology of color, movement, and even a little history. Back in February, it wasn't The Twelve Dancing Queens. It was simply the desire to make something joyful, inspired by artwork i grew up seeing in the homes of relatives all throughout my childhood. Forever inspired by the movement and vibrancy of this style of art that draws from African culture, I knew I wanted to make something for Enivid that celebrated this aspect of my life. My aunts always had interesting artwork on their walls and collections of figurines, showcasing headwraps, flowing movements, beautiful little details, and sometimes hidden stories. Initially, I thought this would be a simple drawing of a few women dancing together, similar to the one below, but as I began to find references for poses and attributes that caught my eye, I slowly realized that this would be so much more.

References I fell in love with and sought out include images from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, ballet, Jitterbug dancers from the 1950's, and even shuffle dancers from the 2010's. I have a mental catalogue of moments in time where certain dances spurred something in my heart and carved out a place for themselves there, and one of the most prominent being watching the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform Wade in the Water on my antenna tv in the middle of the day with my sister. We were surfing through our bountiful channel options-- there were maybe five channels at most, and majority played awfully dull things-- when we stumbled upon dancers dressed in all white, bending their backs so far it seemed they would fall, as a powerful voice bellowed the song "Wade in the Water." We laughed until we cried, mocking the dance and song as children do, but that performance never left my mind, even twenty-odd years later, and so I sought out images of these ethereal dancers, with their flowing dresses and powerful bodies, and then added my own flair to it. And thus, the first Queen was born.

For the second Queen, I turned to the first style of dance I ever fell in love with: ballet. The way dancers move as if they're made of feathers and still strong as steel has always made my heart flutter, to the point that I once was determined to become a ballerina. (Obviously, that didn't play out for me, but I still cherish my few months of ballet I took as a child. Thanks, Mom :} ) The discipline of ballet takes an unseen toll on a dancer's body, often marring her feet and making her ankles click, but the audience never sees it. They see the freedom of movement, the grace carved from hours of endless practice, the perfect pirouettes and grand jetes children often try to imitate when pretending to be a fairy. When I drew this Queen, I imagined endless movements in my head, felt the flutter in my chest that comes with watching a ballet live or on a screen, and appreciated and respected the endless days and years each dancer spends to create the illusion of effortless grace. I also wanted the add the charm of a Southern belle with the light-hearted airiness of the dresses from the Sound of Music. The outcome of this one was different than I had planned, but I love her all the more for it. She is the second Queen.

Stay tuned, because this will have to a little series of posts. There's just too much to tell you about each of my beloved Queens to fit into one post. Sorry! I'm a storyteller, whatchagonnadoaboutit??? Make sure to subscribe and like if you enjoyed reading more about what goes on in my little (read: big) noggin. Thank you for being here!


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