Basia is a teacher, performing artist, and founder of the jewelry donation project, JewlzbyB. She focuses on how dance and entrepreneurial work can evoke joy and lasting change in our communities.
What and who inspired you to become a dancer?
Basia: I started dancing when I was three years old. My mom saw that I was very fascinated by watching figure skaters on TV and decided to enroll me in ballet. What has kept me dancing and what led me to pursue it more professionally was the freedom and joy I got from performing. I really love being on stage. I love to have a platform to express myself through movement. Growing up in ballet classes I never enjoyed the barre, I would be dying to get to the center where I could express myself across the floor doing pirouettes and jumps.
What has been your most memorable moment in the studio?
Basia: The most memorable moment I ever had in a studio was actually at an audition. I was auditioning for the program by taking class with the current dancers. The teacher was giving one of the students a correction about a pirouette, and [the student] was getting frustrated that she couldn’t execute it. The teacher just looked at her and instead of telling her how she could improve her pirouette technically, he started talking about how her mindset could be getting in the way of executing her pirouette. The girl started to cry, you could tell she had been holding a lot of emotions in. The teacher gave her a hug. It was such a raw moment that took place in a ballet class, a space where you are often expected to act a certain way and hold your emotions inside. You could tell that the teacher cared about the dancers as people. He went on to lecture about the importance of being kind to yourself and taking care of your mind and body while navigating your dance career. This moment has stuck with me forever and I aim to pass this mindset on to my students.
What defines how you collaborate with others, onstage and off?
Basia: Authenticity, genuineness, and generosity. I can’t stand people who are ingenuine. Haha. When I work with people, I want to work with them because we genuinely want to work together and we are passionate about working together. If our work stems from this place of authenticity, it creates a beautiful space for collaboration. When I have built a connection with somebody, I get so excited because the work represents the vulnerability and generosity that comes with sharing different thoughts, talents, viewpoints and lived experiences.
What is your favorite work you’ve performed, and how might that experience have informed the work you create today?
Basia: I do not necessarily have a favorite work that I have performed. All the pieces I have performed have been very different, and I gained something from every one. However, I would say one of my most memorable performances was performing George Balanchine’s Serenade. It was the last piece I performed before I went off to college. While I don’t necessarily agree with many of Mr. Balanchine's actions and morals, I loved performing this ballet because of the energy that it created on stage between the dancers. While it is a very technical ballet, it is not super flashy. Performing it felt like we were all dancing for each other and the audience just happened to be watching. My emotions were very genuine when performing because I got to dance next to some of my closest friends, but also I knew that it was the last time we would dance together. Going into college and beginning to create my own work, I found this idea of connection crucial in everything that I made. It is so important to me that everyone is connected to the work, and connected to each other. Ultimately this makes the audience engaged and connected to the performance.
Can you describe how you came to found JewlzbyB?
Basia: I picked up jewelry making as a fun hobby over winter break after a trip to the craft store. I had extra supplies so I created a small shop on Instagram mainly to sell the jewelry to my friends. After the murder of George Floyd and the surge of support for the Black Lives Matter Movement, I decided to use my leftover materials to make jewelry and sell it to raise money for organizations that were helping fuel the movement. My friend Amelia approached me about creating a website to help me manage orders and it grew from there! I got a lot of support and donations and was able to get even more supplies and organizational materials to keep the business running long term. I have now been able to expand my project to donate to multiple organizations that I support, and I have more lined up for the future. I have always been interested in becoming an entrepreneur, so it has been really fun to combine a lot of my interests and use it to evoke change in our communities.
What does a typical day look like when running your own business?
Basia: It depends on the day! Leading up to a launch a lot of my day is spent on the computer. I connect with the organizations, order new materials, come up with new designs, and host meetings with my website designer Amelia and my team of friends who help me make decisions and offer advice. After a launch most of the days are spent making and packing jewelry. My mom and I like to make the jewelry together, and it is really fun to bond with her.
How do you foresee the role of JewlzbyB in the lives of young dancers?
Basia: Long term, I would love to turn JewlzByB into a program that benefits the careers of young dancers who do not have access to the same opportunities as others. I would like to specifically focus on young ballerinas of color because the ballet world lacks heavily in diversity. This is very discouraging to children of color that want to pursue this career. I believe we have to start at the core, with the schools. I have recently begun teaching ballet to children and teens and my goal in my teaching is to educate while also undoing the toxic structures and focus on the joy, artistry, and freedom that comes with dance. I would love for JewlzByB to not only benefit these dancers financially but also boost their confidence through creativity and provide them emotional support in navigating this predominantly white artform.
What has the quarantine revealed for you in terms of the sustainability of dance and fashion as a digital art?
Basia: I think in a lot of ways dance and fashion were already finding ways to bring digital aspects to the art forms, and being in quarantine has sort of forced artists to explore these ideas even further. For my final concert at school, I had the opportunity to restage a piece I choreographed for a virtual audience. While it was slightly challenging for me, it was exciting to edit the work and view it with the context of what was happening in the world around us. I have seen a lot of amazing work created by artists as a result of this quarantine. Ironically enough, having restrictions often causes artists to become more innovative and creative because it can help break habits or signatures that we normally fall into.
What is a wish you have for the dance community when in-person activities fully resume?
Basia: I think that the quarantine was a nice time to take a step back. It fell right around audition season when tension was high and there was a lot going on. The dance world is oftentimes very cutthroat, and I feel that a lot of the time through the craziness of it all, we forget the true roots of why we even dance in the first place. A lot of things that we used to deem very essential to dance, such as studio spaces and live performances were taken away and dance still continued on as an artform! My hope is that when in-person activities fully resume, everyone will bring the life lessons that they learned throughout this past year into the studio and we continue to dance and make art rooted in genuineness and passion.