At age 9, Katricia Linthecum Eaglin was volunteering at the West Dallas Community Center. At 15, she was tutoring younger kids, helping the elderly with yard work, and being honored for her community work while studying dance at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. At the University of North Texas, Eaglin was a beauty queen, winning pageants by dancing ballet pointe solos. She has just completed her fourth season with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and after this week’s Art&Seek Q&A, Eaglin might finally rest for a minute.
Art&Seek: How does a dancer-choreographer survive in a tough economic climate? Are you able to make a living through art alone?
Katricia Eaglin: An artist is typically “artful” with their finances. I am no exception. This time of economic struggle feels like any other year being an artist – making ends meet and loving what I do. I am extremely blessed to be able to dance full time with Dallas Black Dance Theatre where we have an 11 month contract and a secure payment schedule, but I do teach on the side out of love and for the extra income. Most times I am living through my art alone, unless I get a part-time job to prepare for some future plans. Most of my extra jobs are in dance though.
A&S: You are very much a product of North Texas institutions. Do you touch base regularly with your teachers from Booker T. and UNT?
KE: You’re right! I am a North Texas baby. I do keep in touch with my teachers. Some of them have been mentors over the years nudging me to dance professionally, encouraging me to choreograph more and being a part of many of my teaching opportunities. In fall 2007, I had the privilege of setting choreography on Booker T. Washington’s Repertoire II Ensemble. This piece is entitled Bad Company and was executed very well by the ensemble. Then in fall 2009, I had the awesome opportunity to teach for a week at the University of North Texas, and was the rehearsal director for one of their new pieces of choreography that I had performed when I was in the Second Company with Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
A&S: Does rivalry and competition play a role in achievement?
KE: My only rival is me. My goal is always to become a better Katricia, as a dancer and as a person. When you get caught up in comparing yourself to others in order to compete, it stifles growth rather than fostering growth. No one can beat you being you.
A&S: Dancing seems to take a lot out of a person physically. Do dancers prepare psychologically for aging? Or is that something that never really crosses your mind?
KE: Well … I’m 28, so the reality of aging as a dancer is live and well. One’s preparation for aging as a dancer really depends on their personality. Some dancers are idealists who think they are invincible and will dance forever. This is typically the case until you get your first serious injury, then reality hits you. You learn your body more and therefore dance and live with a little more care.
A&S: Is the pursuit of a career in dance different for African-Americans than for their white colleagues? Different from other minorities?
KE: I think this answer depends on what arena of professional dance you pursue. Sometimes companies go for a look, which includes height, weight, body type and sometimes ethnicity. I have been fortunate. Thankfully, we no longer live in times where African-Americans were discouraged to train in ballet and opportunities were slim to none. Everyone I know – no matter their race – has worked very hard either to get into a company or to stay.
A&S: Your college minor was business foundations. How has the study of that field affected your art?
KE: Minoring in business foundations helps me to understand the business side of what I do as an artist. No one teaches a dancer directly how to market yourself, tell clients what you need at certain venues or about being up front about fees. When you are business savvy as an artist, there is a certain level of respect that is acquired. I had a company for three years, Freedom Dance Ensemble, and this also allowed me to directly experience some application of principles that I learned in my business classes.
Photos by Brian Guilliaux.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.