Contemporary dancer Ebony Williams (B.F.A. ’05, contemporary dance) has done everything from train with Boston Ballet, to perform commercially with the likes of Rihanna, Fergie, and Beyoncé (“Single Ladies” music video, 2009). As a 10-year veteran dancer with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Williams returned to the Conservatory in 2015 to teach at the school’s Summer Dance Intensive and shares her experience with young dancers.
You have strong Boston roots. What is it like to come back to Boston as a guest artist in the Conservatory's Summer Dance Intensive?
The fact that I'm coming home to Boston is awesome and the icing on the cake is that I'm teaching at Boston Conservatory, the place I was reborn as a dancer! It's a little strange, but really wonderful, to be on the opposite side of things as a teacher! I’m really enjoying digging deep into my long-term memory—going back to all the essentials and traditional base—and then merging it with styles of dance that I'm doing now. Being able to give that information back to the students is rewarding.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
I’ve been with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet for 10 years now and I’ve also been dancing in the commercial world, performing in live shows, doing videos, assisting and referencing for artists, and choreographing. I’m also teaching, and happy to say that one of my students recently won the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) competition!
How did the Conservatory prepare you for what you're doing now?
I was totally retrained at the Conservatory. Before I attended, I took six years off from dance, so I had to start from the beginning. During my time there, I received amazing technical training and gained essential versatility. I think the best thing about Boston Conservatory is that the teachers are completely engaged—absolutely no student is invisible.
You've done so many different things in the dance world. Why do you think it's important for a dancer to be versatile?
Versatility is the key to success. The more you can bring to the table, the more opportunities you’ll have.
What inspires you?
I find new inspiration all the time. These last few years that I’ve spent working with young dancers-the future of the industry-have had a deep impact on me. Their curiosity, hunger, and eagerness to learn are amazing to watch. It is a reminder that I'm blessed.
Where is the most interesting place you have danced?
I really enjoyed, and found a lot of inspiration, performing in Israel. It's a place filled with so much history and tradition, but they are very receptive to modern dance.
You've worked in all areas of the dance word, how do you feel the "industry" is changing?
The industry has changed a great deal over the years. Sometimes, the changes are amazing, and sometimes they make things challenging. For example, there are fewer dance companies out there, which might make it harder for a dancer to find a job, but because of this, dancers are pushed to start their own companies, which is great. The addition of social media has also been a great resource for the dance world. People who wouldn't ordinarily see dance have so many opportunities to do so with the internet and television. Another great change is that the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is educating young dancers in the business aspects of dance in a really beneficial way. I think it is really necessary to teach young dancers how to take care of themselves. All we can do is keep moving forward as a community.