Victoria Awkward ’18
By Tamia Williams
Dance as liberation
When Victoria Awkward ’18 heard that WBUR, a public radio station in Boston, named her on their “Makers” list as one of the artists of color making a difference in Boston, she was honored. The greatest element, she says, “was just meeting the other artists they selected, being reminded that I’m not alone in the work I’m in. It’s important for other Boston residents to see that we’re here, especially that BIPOC artists are here.”
Sustaining a healthy community has always been Awkward’s mission. When she founded her dance company—VLA Dance—in 2019, it was to promote inclusion for all. Those merits are championed in her company, with specific references to collaborating with racially diverse artists, respecting body image and gender fluidity, and utilizing ethical practices. Encouraging inclusion highlights how dance is not only a skill but a rejuvenation. “I really think dance is a form of liberation, especially for queer and BIPOC bodies,” Awkward says. “It’s a really good way to embody the emotions that you’re feeling and to claim your space. What I’m doing in dance now is really a tool to inspire people to find their own liberation.”
Her journey with dance began when Awkward was 13 and participated in musical theater. She later pursued an honors interdisciplinary degree in dance, visual arts, and secondary education at Goucher. Her mentors trained her thoroughly, with the fluidity of contemporary dance challenging and inspiring her the most. “In college, I had many moments thinking maybe this isn’t the right choice. But I have to point to my mentors and all the teachers within the program who really informed my technique. [They] showed me other paths to being a dancer, like being a choreographer, which is mainly what I do now,” states Awkward. Taking a dance certificate program while studying abroad in Italy reaffirmed her love for the freedom of improvisation in contemporary dance.
Now, she’s happy to instruct young and adult dancers to embrace their bodies, their diverging passions, and the community around them. If a young artist ever has doubt, Awkward tells them to give themselves grace: “Just know that your path is not really going to look like the people’s next to you, and, to the best of your ability, don’t judge what that is,” she says. “Also know that being a professional dancer is what you make it.” In following her own winding path, Awkward now participates in the teaching organization Midday Movement Series and runs VLA Dance. She’s also an advocate for equitable payment for artists and ensures financial sustainability and transparency for dancers in her community.