Earlier this year, emerging dancer Eliah Furlong was named the winner for BellaMoxi Dance Convention’s Emerging Artists Choreographic Festival in Bowling Green, Kentucky. His award-winning routine, named Dominion, was set to Adult Jazz’s “Idiot Mantra” and was performed by friends he recruited. To get to know Furlong a little more, check out his interview with Dance Informa.
When did you start dancing? What inspired you?
“I began dancing at the age of four at Dance Arts of Bowling Green, a local studio in my hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. I watched the Lawrence Welk Show as a child and a man named Arthur Duncan often tap danced on the show. I would try to imitate what he would do, and my parents picked up on my interest in dance. My parents found out about a dance concert at the university in town and decided to take me. Presented by the Western Kentucky University Dance Company, the concert was entitled ‘An Evening of Dance.’ The concert included many styles of dance and I loved every bit of it. After the show, my mom found one of the dancers and we talked with him about his dance training. He told us all about a local studio he had trained at, and before too much longer, I was registered for my first dance class there.”
In what styles did you train?
“I started out my training with just tap, and eventually I moved into jazz, lyrical, ballet, hip-hop, modern, contemporary and anything else I could find. It has always been the heartbeat of my hometown studio to have versatility as a dancer in order to be the best you can be, and that heartbeat soon became my own. I strive to train in as many styles as possible so I have access to many tools for performing, choreographing and just technique.”
When did you start choreographing?
“I began choreographing about five years ago. The process of choreographing has always been interesting to me, from the initial idea or story and how it’s translated into movement to convey that to an audience. I don’t focus on just contemporary. When I choreograph, I try to use all my knowledge of techniques and styles to best convey the story I want to share. Due to this, the majority of my choreography thus far has been in the huge category of contemporary dance that encompasses so much in the world of dance right now, but I have also dipped my toes into tap choreography.”
Who have you worked with thus far?
“My career thus far has mainly been my training, so I have worked with a lot of teachers at this point in my life. All of the faculty from Dance Arts of Bowling Green have always been there for me, especially the owner of the school, Mrs. Martha, and former Dance Arts Dance Company Director Ms. Deanna, as well as the directors of SOKY Dance Ensemble, Mrs. Ashleigh and Mr. Clifton. The faculty of the dance program at Western Kentucky University and many teachers from different summer intensives, workshops and conventions have also greatly influenced my training. I wouldn’t be the dancer I am today without all of their influence and inspiration. I look up to many different dancers and choreographers. I have not had the opportunity to experience all of their works in person, but YouTube is a very useful tool in the world of dance today. I love to watch the works of the legendary Alvin Ailey and I also enjoy watching classical ballets or more contemporary versions like Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. Then there are choreographers like Akram Khan who just blow my mind when I watch their pieces. I look up to a lot of dancers, choreographers and teachers that all have useful things for me to learn from them to use in my career.”
What are your dance goals?
“I would like to perform, either with a concert company or in musical theatre. I also really enjoy teaching dance to younger kids. It’s always so inspiring to see how a student progresses over time and see their drive to become a better dancer, which also drives me to become the best I can be. Hopefully opportunities to choreograph will be available along with performing. If not, I will be just as happy teaching and choreographing for students.”
How did it feel to be named the 2016 BellaMoxi Emerging Artist Choreographic Festival Winner for Bowling Green?
“Winning the first ever BellaMoxi Emerging Artist Choreographic Festival was a moment for me to step back and say ‘Wow!’ Before this festival, I had only entered one other piece in a choreographic festival in Tennessee. It was a new experience, and I was glad I did it.”
When did you start working on the routine you presented at BellaMoxi?
“Dominion had a cool process. It started about three years ago when I had the opportunity to substitute teach a class at my hometown studio. I had just found the music and I created a short 32-count phrase. Just to see it on some bodies, I taught it as the combination at the end of the class, and that’s when I really knew I wanted to make it into a piece.
I began to ask some of my friends if they would be interested in being a part of this piece I wanted to create. All of them had been in that class and said they enjoyed it and were willing to go on the journey with me. Once we started rehearsing, I would come in with a general idea of what I wanted and I would ask the dancers to try something. It was a lot of trial and error. The things I liked I kept and what I didn’t I changed. After a while, it became a piece. I would ask some other friends of mine and even some of my old teachers what they thought of it, then make slight changes based on feedback until I thought it was what I wanted it to be.”
Looking to the future, how does this recognition with BellaMoxi push you to keep producing work?
“It is truly inspiring to think I could actually win something like this. It also raises the question what else could I create, and how much better could it be? I am constantly posting what I am doing through social media. Hopefully, I will be submitting some choreography in the upcoming year in some festivals, so keep your eye out!”
By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.
Photos courtesy of Eliah Furlong and BellaMoxi.