This is an interview with Mark Travis Rivera, Founder and Artistic Director of the Marked Dance Project. I first met Mark during his internship at AXIS Dance Company. He is very involved in the integrated dance community, and has been helpful with my goals. I hope you enjoy this interview!
1: When did you start dancing?
I began dancing at the age of 15 years old, training under the direction of Erin Pride, at Rosa L. Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts in Paterson, New Jersey, where I grew up.
2: And what has your journey in dance been like?
My dance journey has been filled with many unexpected turns and leaps (laughs). As a person who was born with a disability, I wasn’t expected to be able to work properly, let alone dance. Yet I remained persistent with my desire to dance because every fiber in my being told me I needed to dance. I needed to be on stage or be in the studio creating works. Along the way I had a lot of people try to discourage me from pursuing dance and forming my own integrated dance company, but I didn’t listen to those people. I remained committed to following my dream and it has led to so many amazing opportunities.
3: How was your time at AXIS Dance Company?
The apprenticeship with AXIS was a life changing and rewarding experience. I got to connect with so many awesome people and move across the country for a short time. My summer with AXIS will always hold a special place in my heart.
4: Can you tell us a little about the Marked Dance Project?
marked dance project is a contemporary dance company that includes dancers with and without disabilities. Our mission is to mold and enhance the artistic abilities of aspiring, emerging, and professional dancers, while fostering understanding of integrated dance among society.
5: When did you first get the idea for the Marked Dance Project?
I was 17-years old when I first got the idea to start my own dance company for disabled and non-disabled dancers. At the time I didn’t know about companies such as AXIS or CanDoCo, but I knew I would need to create my own opportunities if I wanted to dance.
6: And what have been some struggles with the Marked Dance Project?
Like many non-profits, funding has been an issue for us but somehow I manage to connect us with various groups that support the work.
7: Can you tell us a little about your activism and your writing?
Through public speaking and writing, my advocacy work focuses on self-awareness and empowerment while tackling issues that impact the LGBTQ, people of color, and disabled community. I consider myself a storyteller and use my talents to promote social justice and acceptance of all people, regardless of differences.
8: Why do you dance?
I dance because it fills me with immense joy and gratitude.
9: Can you speak a little about the discrimination that is faced by disabled dancers?
Accessibility for dancers with disabilities is still a major issue despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the dance community is still trying to wrap its head around the fact that dancers come in many shades and types of bodies. I think we’ve come a long way but we still have a lot more work to do. Also, a lot of dance spaces are not wheelchair accessible because the idea that someone in a chair can also be a dancer is still not a part of our societal consciousness.
10: And what is your advice for people pursuing a career in integrated dance?
My advice to every artist is simple: know your craft, respect its history, and bust your ass to be the best that you can be. Emphasis on YOU because being an artist is about one’s own journey and if we compare ourselves to others, we will surely find ourselves unhappy.