Recently I had the great pleasure of meeting many of the amazing athlete/artists of the acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This year the company is celebrating it's 60th anniversary. We had a brief chat with Leading Dancer, Akua Noni Parker about her gifts on and off stage! ~ a.d.
Acclaimed Dancer Akua Noni Parker
Did you always believe your gifts would lead you to where you are now?
A: I can’t say that I honestly thought about it in that way. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a ballerina! I can’t say that I knew exactly where that would take me. I don’t remember my goals being “set up” that way. I think if I would’ve decided on a specific company with which to dance, I may have overlooked or missed an opportunity to just be a part of the companies that I have. And the whole goal has always been to be employed and dance. Get the job first, then show up and do the work. Then, when it’s time to move on, for whatever reason, the universe will create a space for that, when the time is right.
"Everyone has a different timeline. It’s ok to find a different tunnel with a different light at the end of it too" ~ Akua Noni Parker
How did you gain strength to overcome the challenges that came along the way?
A: Strength comes from within you! (Well, and I’ve always had a super supportive family!) I am a true believer that if you claim something and strive towards that goal, it will come to fruition. My eye has always been on the goal, but I have always allowed myself to be ok with making mistakes. Learning helps me continue to press through something that may be a bit more challenging. I try not to form too many negative opinions about things that I have not tried, or gone through myself.
Akua Noni Parker
photo: Melika Dez
What word can you give to encourage someone who may be in a tough period now and finds it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
A: For this, I may have some generic answers but I believe simplicity is key and some of the oldest answers are tried and true.
•Always forgive yourself!
•Allow yourself time to learn and grow!
Everyone has a different timeline. It’s ok to find a different tunnel with a different light at the end of it too. Everyone’s story is not the same towards the same goal, although the end goal may appear the similar. Nowadays, the internet hardly ever shows the hard work and the process that many successful people go though. Even people with the most fortune have had to work on something.
How fulfilling has it been to explore new gifts, your cooking for example...was it something you stumbled upon and said "Hey I dig this!" and just dove into it?
A: Since I was a child I remember wanting to help my mother in the kitchen. I always had an affinity towards cooking. Since I have edited my diet I have found it is easier to control what goes into my body if I cook it, and that is more rewarding than worlds can express. I also find the prep-work, before the actually cooking ( chopping, etc) to be mildly meditative. I immediately go into a zone when I’ve figured out what I want to cook, and how I’m going to get to the final product.
Akua shows off her culinary joy in "Cooking with Ku!"
On the fulfilling end, it’s a toss up between- how good the food tastes, how good it makes me feel, and my need to want to share with others how healthy food can taste really good. There is also something truly rewarding in biting into something and thinking “ That tastes REALLY good, and I MADE IT!” I love that, and I love cooking for others.
Do you find gifts in one area are helpful for success in another?
A: Well, I know for sure that my gift of cooking has helped me maintain my body. It’s an actualization of the quote “you get out what you put in”. This, in turn, helps with the success of my career in dance. I can eat the foods I like, the way I like.
There are so many gifts that one can have that can transfer over into many positive aspects of contributing to another. The gift of giving the gift of listening, or compassion. I see all of those gifts reflected around me in people that I surround myself with. And I see how those gifts further them in their dreams and aspirations. That’s an asset!
Akua the Dancer
photo: Melika Dez
Can you share one person to whom you are thankful for encouraging you along the way?
A: Does the answer ‘my parents’ count as one person? I’ve gone around and around in my head trying to decide whether to actually pick one parent or the other, and the answer is, no, I shouldn’t. If I give my father the credit for seeing that I was going to be a dancer, my mother is on the other end of the credit for making sure I made it to ALL of my dance classes, AND did my homework.... AND she made home cooked meals for breakfast and dinner. She also taught me how to cook, and is a huge contributor to a lot of the etiquette I learned as a child.
Young Akua with her parents, Harry and Cheryl Parker
But, I’m a daddy’s girl. So if I didn’t understand one way my mother did something my father was right there showing me another way to help me get to the same end result. My parents have always been equally supportive of me. I’m very fortunate to have BOTH!!!
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