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Artists in Residence: Akeim Toussaint Buck (Q&A)

Akeim Toussaint Buck is an interdisciplinary performer and maker, born in Jamaica and raised in England. His movement interest has a wide range of inspirations, from Capoeira, Kick Boxing, Contemporary Dance, Contact Improvisation, Caribbean Dance, Hip Hop, Yoga and Release Technique.

Read our Interview with Akeim:

· What’s your artistic mission?

My artistic mission is to tell the stories of the unheard and unseen. I believe that I am a storyteller, using words, movement, the voice and film I break down and challenge what we think we know of life by bringing the experiences of the downtrodden people to the forefront. Reframing these people as victorious and beautiful.

· What’s your contribution to the dance sector?

My contribution is me. No one can be me, that is the gift of being me. I'd further this answer in saying my contribution to the world is me. I don't see my landscape as just the dance sector. The dance sector is simply one portion of the landscape I exist in. This way of thinking has really freed me up and helped me see that I don't just bring my practice of a fusion of movement practices to dance: Jamaican folk dances, Capoeira, numerous influences from HIP HOP styles to Contemporary Techniques and Ballet. I bring my intentions, my dreams and aspirations, I bring my world which expands the dance realm to new heights.

· Can you tell us more about your movement vocabulary?

My movement vocabulary is an ever expanding archive of my journey with my body. Everything I have ever experienced with my body in the form of dance or theatre lives in my choreographic language. Starting off with HIP HOP and Jamaican folk and modern styles/elements (Kumina, Dinki Mini, Undulations, Body Waves, Screechy, Wacky Dip, Log On etc). I am a child of a 90's Jamaica so these dances still live in my body and influence me everyday. Further in my timeline I experience Krump, Tutting, Freestyle, Experimental ways of using HIP HOP and this influences me daily too. Later in vocational training came Ballet, Jazz and modern/postmodern Contemporary Techniques such as Graham, Cunningham, Limon and Release Based approaches, like Flying Low. Somewhere in between all of this I found Capoeira, Butoh, Khatak, Yoga and Bharatanatyum all from different cultures however they have shown me that the body is a sacred archive where we as people can always find home whether for creative professional purposes or for the essence of ritual and personal practice.

· What are your main inspirations in the arts sector?

I have many inspirations. In music Bobby Mcferrin has really placed a sense of liberation and has sparked an ambition to literally use my voice in my work. In film I'm intrigued by animated and martial arts films, Studio Ghibli and Toei Animation inspire the way I envision movement before I physicalise. I have a deep respect for Bill T Jones' work, his practice and his tenacity to create from his heart and his mind. I like the fine line between intellectual work and very emotional work, finding the realm where both elements exist together. I am inspired by the ethos of Nina Simone, believing artists should reflect the times they live in and to take that further; I believe we have a responsibility to imagine the solutions, to inject hope and faith into our audiences. My biggest inspirations amongst all of that are my pears, I love seeing us achieve and being received for our true selves. People inspire me, the social stratosphere of community from cosmopolitan cities to the simple tribal life, it all speaks to be and feeds my soul.

· What is the best memory in your career?

The best memory in my career is a difficult one as there are so many. The most recent highlight would have to be working with Vocab Dance (Alesandra Suetin). I was going through a difficult time and everyone who was present held space for me to process and soundboard my feelings and frustrations. This made me reflect on the fact that when working in the creative world you can find these spaces where your emotions are totally welcome and people truly believe in you and want to lift you up. Another memory has to be coming out of lockdown and not knowing where work was going to come from and so I waited and low and behold I was offered a part time position at Kingston University as a lecturer in Dance. This became the back bone of my work activity the past year and started an avalanche of calls that brought me a well of opportunities. This reminded me that the fact is, I have planted many seeds and they are always coming closer and closer to the light.

· You were an Artist in Residence at IRIE! Dance theatre between 2018 and 2020. How was your experience?

My experience of being an artist in residence at IRIE! was nourishing in terms of the opportunities I received to grow. I took those opportunities the best I could and learned what I needed to from them. Working with the students was really good in the times I got those opportunities. To tell the truth I wanted to do that more and the students always asked me when I'd be back. I used most of the time to continue developing my class and to research my duet Sib Y Osis. IRIE! was always a call or email away for advice and other support, speaking with Beverley is always something I look forward to and I know that although i'm not an Artist In Residence anymore the door is always open. Overall I had a really good time and as I was new to London at the time it really felt great to have a sense of a dance base.

· Do you have any advice for emerging artists?

Be yourself. Ask questions, no matter how big or small. Research research research. Find out what you like, find out what you don't like, find out why then find different ways to reinvent yourself yet still be yourself. Be open to learn and collaborate. Learn to manage time and to be able to do multiple jobs yourself, before outsourcing, this way you know what you like and how you want it so when it comes to directing someone it's much easier and clearer.

· Do you have news and upcoming events to share with us?

I am about to be announced as Associate Artist at Deda Theatre in Derby so keep a look out for that one. I am also working on a number of film projects with organisations that include Artreach in Manchester, Cast in Doncaster and Estuary Festival in London. In November 2021, I will be curating my Wild Card event Radical Visions at Sadlers Wells, where I will premiere the cinematic adaptation of 'Windows.' The line up for this event will be announced soon and includes incredible dance artists who make work that speaks volumes of our Black British culture. Over the summer i'm Researching new work 'Souls & Cells' with collaborator Crystal Zillwood, this is supported by Deda Theatre, Kalasangem, Dance Studio Leeds, Sadlers Wells and Arts Council England. There are plenty more but it's not time to reveal yet so keep your eyes peeled on my instagram @toussainttomove to get in touch and involved.

Photo Credit: Karol Wyszynski

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