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As a 10-year-old growing up in Salina, Kansas, William J. Ferguson II wanted to be a cattle farmer.
Then it was an economist. Wait – an animal behaviorist studying gorillas in Kenya.
He settled on professional dancer.
I love people who pivot in their lives, and William changed direction many times. He spent three years in the Air Force as a crew chief in Hawaii. He started with Garth Fagan Dance in 1989 as a dancer. Now he is the executive artistic liaison and personal assistant to Garth Fagan, in addition to being the artistic director and choreographer of the Garth Fagan Dance School Ensemble, made up of 5- to 18-year olds.
“The thing that gives me an endorphin rush is watching the young folks,” he said during our conversation on the No-Nonsense Roundtable. Children can start as young as 3 years old.
“One of the things I hear from the parents is they want to get them into Garth Fagan
Dance because they want to get them into a place where the atmosphere is diverse, socially and economically, so that the children are culturally acclimated as they move forward.”
William took us behind “The Lion King” to learn what’s it like to dance with Garth Fagan Dance.
“The way we move has moved 100 million souls globally through ‘The Lion King’ to understand how we move at Garth Fagan Dance. It’s a beautiful expression of dance that’s different from what you normally see.”
Here’s some of the inside look:
There are no mirrors in the studio: “It is unusual. The dancer has to feel what the line … rather than go out of themselves to see what the line is and reflect it back onto themselves … You become more vulnerable … and that’s one of the things that creates great artists — it’s the ability to be vulnerable because with that level of sensitivity, that’s where create true creativity comes.”
Garth’s creative process: “I really don’t want to speak for Garth, but sometimes the movement came to him before he heard music, and so he’d have the whole dance created in his head and then he would find some music to help enhance the experience. … Sometimes Garth will be sitting down listening to like Miles Davis and he’ll see a dance or he’ll feel a dance and the dance will come out of that music.”
The art of movement: “One of the most beautiful things about Garth Fagan Dance is you see the dancer out there and they look like they’re just making it up in the moment. That’s hours and hours and hours of trying to be at that same place on the stage at the same time in the music.”
How to watch a Garth Fagan Dance: “I’ve run across talking to people, ‘I don’t know modern dance … what I’m I don’t understand how I’m feeling or what I’m feeling?’ That’s a good place. That means that you now have to go out and educate yourself and when you go out and educate yourself you’re going to grow as a human being.”
For more of our conversation, click here.l