For 32, dancer and instructor Liliana Gomez has a lot under her belt. She’s family- and community-oriented, patient, informed, and incredibly sweet.
Gomez’s dance classes are bright and positive, billed as Contemporary Modern with Liliana Gomez on Monday nights at Metropolitan Arts Institute. She claps, she snaps, she laughs. She switches between demonstrating and watching. She encourages and critiques. She hugs.
Her confidence as a choreographer comes from years of experience. She’s been an on-and-off core member of Scorpius Dance Theatre for 15 years, and she was the Dulce Dance Company associate director for six years. She’s worked with the Phoenix Center for the Arts, the Phoenix Opera, Fifth Row Dance Studio on Roosevelt Row, the Heard Museum, and more.
The big take-away here: Dancers are busy people. So it’s important to remember what you need to get through your day/week/season. Liliana Gomez five essentials for dance (instructing, performing, and otherwise) are her planner, black clothes, music sources, passion, and “me time.”
Gomez says as a choreographer, dancer, and woman, there is one vital accompaniment to her life: “A planner, like for real.”
She explains. “Number one, you have your life. Your life as in your 9-to-5, or your work, whatever it is that you do, and then you have all these extra rehearsals, and I feel like I’m never home." She says this is common among this community – dancers are always crossing paths at shows, rehearsals, and class – so trying to align schedules has always been a nightmare.
“This is it: ‘Okay, everyone get your planners out, let’s do this, let’s figure out a night where we can get this one rehearsal in.’” She says most dancers are involved in several undertakings at once, and often stepping in to help with other people's projects, too.
“You already have a schedule for the next year, “ Gomez says, “Like, I already know what March looks like.”
“This one’s a funny one,“ Gomez says. If dancers are at it four to five times every week, Gomez says black clothes are a essential – not only to have, but to have with you.
“We all talk about it all the time like, ‘How many pairs of black shorts do you have? How many pairs of black tights do you have?’ I have this one organized drawer of just tons and tons and tons of black dance clothes.”
Gomez clarifies how choreographers, including herself, ask for black clothes for performances or underneath costumes. She’ll instruct her class to “just bring me all your blacks,” and students will appear next class with bags of black leotards, tights, shorts, tanks, etc.
Not to mention you’re probably rolling around on the ground during rehearsal or class, or have to go to work before or after class, so black is an easy go-to. “You just grab it and say, ‘This will work for today. Gotta go.’”
As long as there’s a good Wi-Fi connection, Gomez is good at setting the mood. She has her go-tos, like composer Phillip Glass, but she takes the time to seek the new and unheard as well.
With Soundcloud, she’ll reach out for permission to use someone’s music for class or a performance. Sometimes they don’t reply, sometimes they gratefully respond with more material. Gomez seems to find it all wonderful, adding with a laugh, “But I don’t even know who they are or where they’re at."
She also utilizes Spotify to find the right music for class, shows, and her personal enjoyment. She’ll contact strangers on Soundcloud, and keeps an eye on that one column we all fear sometimes. “You know on Spotify how you can see what people are listening to?” Gomez asks, “Which is kind of bad but kind of good?” Note that Private Session option, guys.
As Gomez will tell you, dancing is not easy on your body – or your mind.
“That’s the thing about dance, you see it and it disappears, and nobody documented it,” she says. Sure people can take photographs or video, but it’s not the same as experiencing the performance.
For instance, if you missed an art gallery opening, you know you can still go next day to see what’s hanging. With dance, it’s more of a finite deal. “One shot and it's gone, and we worked for three or four months for that one shot,” Gomez says, “So you have to have some serious love and passion for what you want to be doing.”
Gomez says the day after a performance is a hard one. “The next day, it’s really weird and depressing because you have to start over,” she says. But she can’t stay down for too long. “We call it post-concert depression,” Gomez says, and then bursts out laughing. She says PCD may explain occasional low attendance in her Monday night class, “Because they were performing on Saturday, so they’re probably off eating ice cream.”
“I love being alone,” Gomez says. She spends all week with other dancers, coworkers, family, and friends, but it must be noted for performers, “I think your last essential is your ‘me time.’”
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Gomez says she’ll take the time alone to find music, watch documentaries, and do research for her shows (like the recent Frida Kahlo-inspired performance at the Heard Museum). She’s says it’s important to be "spending time researching, getting inspired by other artists, reading, waking up early…”
Plus, she adds, “I’m incredibly inspired by Coco Chanel right now.”
That waking up early part is no joke. Gomez recounts a recent Sunday where she, despite her lifestyle, woke up at 6 a.m. “I wake up so early its ridiculous,” she says. She’ll follow this early rising with an episode of Face the Nation, a walk over to Copperstar, reading the newspaper, straightening up – you know, Sunday stuff.
“Because we’re going and going and going,” Gomez explains, you need “that one day of like, ‘goodbye world.’”