In mid-December of last year, Alexis Viator stood in an empty James D. Moncus Theater and took it all in.
alexis_viator
Photo by Dominick Cross


Then she smiled.

“When we come on the stage, you’re going to be a part of our world,” says Viator. “Especially in this space. This space is amazing because you are part of the stage. It’s a very intimate space for our kind of performance, which we love. Our energy can project so much more. It’s going to be amazing.”

Viator, a Lafayette native, is also dancer with the internationally known Koresh Dance Co., out of Philadelphia, since 2007. She was in town visiting over the holidays and dropped by the Acadiana Center for the Arts to check out the theater where Koresh will dance Feb. 14-15.

“It’s intense,” Viator says of the upcoming Koresh performance. “It’s a very physically demanding show. It takes dance to a level that a lot of people have never experienced before as an audience.”

“It’s going to take you on a journey,” she says. “For sure.”

The journey Viator took to Koresh began nearly 30 years ago as a toddler-in-tow to her mother’s studio in Broussard, the Morgan Street Dance Co.

“I was three – it wasn’t conscious – my mom threw me in it,” says Viator. “And from then on, it was just like that’s all she wrote. It probably took me until the age of seven to realize this is what I’m going to do.

“I lived it. I breathed it,” she says. “As soon as I knew how much fun it was, how much I enjoyed it at an age where I could comprehend it, you know? I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m done. This is it for the rest of my life.’”

But that’s not to say the 30-year-old did not entertain other activities growing up.

“I always wanted to try other things and I did and I enjoyed them,” says Viator. “But dance was always No. 1, for sure.”

In the process, there was a stint as a seventh-grade cheerleader, and later, volleyball and track.

“I ended up quitting because (they) interfered with dance,” Viator says of the activities. “I always ended up just doing it a little bit because dance just took over.”

Viator’s chosen path, even back then, put her nearly on a 7-day schedule – all related to dance – and she did not mind.

koresh_gfx“I had rehearsals on the weekends,” she says. “I practically lived at that studio. If I could’ve had a bed there and slept there, I would have.”

As a youngster, she had a few brushes with burnout, but it wasn’t enough for Viator to change course.

“I think it’s pacing yourself at your own pace. I knew at a young age this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life, so it became very serious for me,” she says. “I enjoyed it, of course, like I always had fun with it.”

To be taken as a serious dancer, like any athletic endeavor, it takes practice, practice and more practice to get to where she is now.

“It was more of a training. I had to be in the studio, I had to be in class,” says Viator. “I knew this is what I had to do to get where I wanted to be.

“I had teachers that pushed me and guided me along the way and helped me realize you have to be in summer programs, you have to dance year-round. You can’t just chill. It’s not just a hobby anymore,” she says. “We’re athletes. We’re trained athletes. It’s like any Olympic athlete or any football player, you don’t stop training, ever.”

And for good reason.

“It’s extremely physical – you’ll see how demanding it is on our bodies,” says Viator. “And because we’re a modern dance company, not like a ballet company, ballet companies, they don’t necessarily do floor work, and they’re not as rough as we are,” she says, calling to mind what Koresh’s artistic director/founder Roni Koresh once said: “‘Ballerinas are like swans, we’re wolves.’”

Viator explains: “We’re on the floor. We’re back up again. It’s just very physical movement and it demands a lot on your body over time,” she says. “And you have to be able to prevent injury as well to prolong your career as long as you can. “

And staying in top shape includes a regimen of Pilates, yoga, the gym, running and some weightlifting.

“It depends on your body and what you need. It’s also knowing when to rest, as well,” she says. “Your body can only take so much.”

A dancer’s life means working on their profession daily, a schedule that includes ballet and rehearsal for the upcoming show.

“So it’s six hours of physical activity every day which is amazing as an adult you don’t get to do that. Most people get to sit in an office at a computer all day,” she says. “It’s amazing that I chose a career that not only I get exercise to stay in shape, but I get to express myself in a way that not everyone gets to do. I get to share my love for dance and how it’s a huge part of me and who I am and it kind of defines me with everyone else.”

A dance program can last as long as a soccer game (90 minutes).

“It’s extremely physical,” says Viator, adding that with an 11-member troupe, the dancers do each and every show. “We don’t have swings. It’s just you. It’s not like the first cast goes on tonight and the second the next night.
While in town during Mardi Gras Week, Koresh Dance will do Outreach classes with the arts academies at L.J. Alleman and Lafayette High.

A master class is also scheduled for intermediate/advanced dancers, Wed., Feb. 13, 6-7:30 p.m. To register, contact Paige Whelan, (337) 233-7060 Ext. 232, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Fee is $5.


“It’s like every night. You’re dancing hour-and-a-half shows. It’s intense,” she says. “You have to be in shape. You have to be in top physical condition to make it through a show.”

The performance expectancy of a dancer is basically determined by common sense.

“I’d say as long as you take care of your body, eat right, prevent injury and do the necessary precautions – your body is your instrument – so as long as you avoid injury and keep going,” Viator says, a dancer can stay on top of her/his career.

Mental conditioning is also an aspect of dance. If you come from a large family, the dancer’s life may not seem at all that different. Then again, the key word here is family.

“Dancers are dramatic people, for sure, and drama always tends to follow,” Viator says. “Being on tour, you’re like a family. You’re always around each other, so definitely, finding those moments of personal time and space to unwind.

“It can be overwhelming sometimes,” she continues. “It’s definitely knowing when to separate yourself and have time to yourself to not get so overwhelmed from being around everyone.”

Viator has a reliable go-to source where she finds the welcome solace and needed downtime from the world of dance.

“It’s my husband balancing me out because he’s not in the dance world,” she says. “So for me, that’s my meditation and my Zen because I can just go to him. “

Another man in her life, Koresh, the company’s founder, is a no-nonsense artistic director, says Viator who knows how to pull what he needs from his dancers.

“His strengths are my weaknesses,” says Viator. “He’s made me such a stronger dancer since I’ve been there.

“He’s intense. He’s a very intense man,” she says. “When it comes to the shows and what he says and his work, it’s serious stuff. It’s everything to him.”

At the same time, Koresh has an open mind where choreographing the programs is concerned. Viator says he will give the dancers an idea of what he’s looking for, wants the dancers interpretation of it and then will leave the room.

“And then he’ll come in and kind of guide us and say, ‘Well, this isn’t really what I want … you should do this with it, or …’ so it is a collaborative effort in that way,” says Viator. “A majority of the choreography is his – I’d say it’s like 70 percent and then we make up the other 30.

“And it’s great because he utilizes us and we all love to choreograph,” she says. “So it’s really cool to have a director who allows you to be able to do that and it’s not just all his voice, it’s ours as well.”

As a member of Koresh, Viator has been to Spain, Israel, South Korea, Turkey, Guatemala and Mexico.

“I always hoped I’d dance for a company that internationally toured,” says Viator. “So when I got in with a company like Koresh it was like all of my dreams are coming true. It’s my dream job.”

After her dance career, Viator wants to own her own studio and possibly even have her own company “because I love to be on the creative side and I love teaching and I love the flip-side of it of being on the other side and being able to direct and guide young dancers.”

And she wouldn’t mind her post-performance days to play out in her hometown, or just somewhere down South.

“I’ve been gone for so long. I haven’t been home in 12 years,” says Viator, who earned a BFA in Dance at the University of Arizona before eventually joining the Koresh Co. “I miss being in the South. As I get older, I miss being around my family – I’m really tight-knit with my family.”

Viator’s Southern roots actually have never been uprooted, no matter where she’s dancing.

“I relate to the culture better,” she says. “I like the warm weather. I hate winters up there (Philadelphia): Brutal. Brutal. Just walking to work in that is like …(she chatters her teeth) and when you have to warm-up for dance, you can’t feel your fingers or your toes. It’s rough in the wintertime.”

But no matter where she’s rehearsing or performing, Viator says the significance of the arts cannot be overstated.

“I think people are losing that feeling of the living arts; how you can be transformed into a different world,” she says. “It’s so magical – and we’re forgetting how it can change your world and motivate you and inspire you as a human being.

“The arts are so important, not just dance, but with music, playing an instrument, it challenges your brain. In school, it teaches kids discipline,” says Viator. “Dance taught me so much, not just how to move my body. It taught me responsibility and discipline and training and how to take care of myself.

“And gracefulness,” she says, then with a laugh, adds, “to an extent.”

Seriously, though, Viator says: “I feel like so much in America is put towards sports and everything else besides art. There should be more money in the arts.”

In her experience, European audiences, she says, have a different understanding of the arts.

“I mean, when the curtain closes, they’re still screaming and yelling, ‘Bravo!’ and they’ll open it back up,” says Viator. “We’ll have a 15 minute curtain call because these people are so appreciative of what we just did and it’s amazing. You walk away and you’re like, ‘This is why do what I do because they’re just so floored by the gift that we’ve given them, and it’s cool to know that you’ve inspired someone that way.”

Back on this side of the pond, generally speaking, it’s a little different.

“But I feel like here, it’s not quite the same. I mean the audiences are great, but it’s a totally different level of appreciation for the arts,” she says. “They just appreciate the arts there.”

So would it help to have a Koresh dancer on, say, So You Think You Can Dance?

“How many times have I been asked, ‘Have you been on So You Think You Can Dance?’’’ Viator says, answering the question: “No. It’s a TV show. I have a job.”

Viator appreciates that there is a dance on television, but there’s more to it than meets the eye of the viewers.

“It has gotten bigger, but I think it has been promoted, too, in the wrong way as well,” says Viator. “What I do is very different from the commercial world, which is fine. But it’s shown in a way that’s poppy and very commercial and I think if they’re going to promote dance they need to promote all aspects of dance, not just one form.”

In Viator’s experience, each community is different in the way dance is promoted, the way young dancers are educated and the way the arts, overall, are appreciated.

“There are some communities we go into and during the show you can just feel the energy,” she says. “The crowds are amazing – we’re like celebrities to them because they support and love the arts so much.”

Viator says the dancers can tell because the show will be sold out and after the show audience members will “want to talk to us, treat us to dinner. They’re so complimentary,” she says. “And you can tell they’re educated, too.”

In other locales where dance is a new deal, there’s an element of appreciation found in the first-time audience comments to the dancers after the show.

“They’re like, ‘I had no idea that it looked like this, or be like this…,’” she says. “They’re like sold, they’re moved.”

Experienced or not, Viator says there is a common denominator between the two audiences. “At the end of the day people want to get lost,” she says. “You don’t go to a movie to be stressed out, you go see a movie to forget about the world around you and be lost in that two hours and just have that moment to be in a different world.”

And the same goes for dance, symphony, or live theater.

“You want to go and experience this world that they’re creating on stage,” says Viator. “You want to be a part of it. You want to lose where you are for a second.”

Viator has been a part of that world pretty much all of her life.

“I can’t imagine my world without dance,” she says. “I go hand-in-hand with dance.  Alexis Viator: Dancer. It’s all I know.”

Dominick Cross is marketing director at the AcA and a former IND staff writer.

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