Back to the Future How a Letter to her Teenage Self helped one Dancer focus on her Dreams
Alvin Ailey dancer Fana Tesfagiorgis is using her past experiences to not only keep her on track, but to inform new students following in her footsteps.
After being approached by DanceSpirit magazine to write a letter to her former self, she has some words of wisdom to share.
“As artists we are so eager for the next thing, we always steer our dreams to the future, but sometimes its good to look back,” said the Interlochen alum.
Her letter states, in part: “I can’t thank you enough for the light that you are. You don’t know it yet, but everything that you do helps to shape the woman that I am today. Thank you for having and keeping the biggest dreams you could dream. Thank you for believing that you can do it.
The habits that you’re developing now may seem a little over-the-top to some, and sometimes even you think it’s all in vain, but keep trusting in your process. It’s OK that you have to try it one more time, or 10 more times, to get better. This diligence will help shape you. I love that when your casting doesn’t match your wishes, you feel what you feel for a day, and then come back and learn the entire ballet. That eagerness will increase your experience far beyond your given opportunities.”
Fana says it’s good to remember all the doubts and insecurities. When she teaches masterclasses today, that’s what she’s trying to help her students overcome. She recommends young students put together a time capsule when they’re first starting out.
“A time capsule’s a great idea,” she said. “Dancers might want to keep a pair of tights and their old point shoes. I have an acorn from my grandfather’s plot in Mississippi.”
Fana knew she wanted to be a dancer since she was a little girl. She comes from a family of artists, so her mom had no problem with sending her to Interlochen Arts Academy High School when the regular dance studio she attended in Wisconsin faced some challenges.
“The training was very intense,” she recalled. “As a dance major I spent 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day learning academics and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. dancing. There were also rehearsals for ballets I took part in. I especially loved the masterclasses from guest artists.”
It was one of those guests, Earl Mosely, who introduced her to the Lester Horton technique, a modern dance style based on Native American dances, anatomical studies, and other movement influences.
“It felt like ballet and more,” said Fana. “I thought ‘I have to do this.’ I always had ballet as my first language, but modern dance expanded my mind.”
This was the path that set Fana on the road to becoming an Alvin Ailey dancer.
“I was selected in my senior year to tour with them overseas; it was a beautiful experience,” she said.
Today Fana is a freelance artist, which means she has to work hard to market herself.
“I think how bad do I want this? There’s no curriculum, so I have a different kind of fire,” she said.
In 2019 Fana decided to expand her horizons and move into musical theater.
“I’m super grateful for all my experiences but after Ailey I didn’t feel as fulfilled so I started to train in acting and singing,” she said. “I like challenging myself to something new, so I took a leap of faith.”
Her first success was joining the national tour of My Fair Lady as an ensemble member.
“I loved watching the principals, they were such elegant actors and gave themselves full out,” she said. “As an actor you can use your ideas, which is not so in dance. I achieved my biggest dream when I danced with Alvin Ailey. Now I have new dreams.”