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Advice to my 22 year old self: Alexa Wilson

Alexa Wilson. Photo: Jane Ussher
Alexa Wilson in Berlin. Photo: Bea Rodrigues
Alexa Wilson. Photo: Lydia Bittner
Performance by Alexa Wilson
Choreographer Alexa Wilson presents her manifesto for the radical artists in Aotearoa.


As a radical dance artist in New Zealand, I have taken huge risks both at home and internationally. I have had to learn that failure and success are two-sides of the same coin and that paradox indicates the greatest truth. Here is my Advice to my 22 year old self, my 12 point  manifesto on how I found my creative voice:

1. Be yourself no matter what.

Everyone will judge you no matter what you do or are – so be yourself and do what you want to do in your art. If everything falls away, you can feel that you lived truthfully.

2. Academic theory and funding objectives do not dictate your art!

If you're lucky, you will find theory and or funding that supports your voice and helps you to develop it. It should not shred your art and soul to pieces.

3. Don't give the power about your work away to anyone: not to your family, or even your friends.

Be careful about whose feedback you listen to, protect yourself.

4. Listen wholeheartedly to what drives your inspiration, ideas, inquiries, questions, passion.

Your intuition, your deepest questions, your driving motivations.

5. Teach what you know

You will have to teach as a result of your hard won knowledge, to help others - it's called evolution.

6. Prepare yourself for ego annihilation

The bigger the annihilation of you or your art, the stronger you will become. This will likely happen at some point if you're actually making art. If that happens, allow it to be as they say in spiritual speak a “death of the ego” and rebirth / rebuild, stronger.  And talking of ego...Keep your ego in check: Respect yourself, because honestly, the world doesn't need anymore highly strung, highly difficult artists, it really serves no one.

7. Be humble and observant

Learn about what resonates with people and what doesn't. We don't live in a vacuum. Be aware of the world - the more aware you are, the better your art is.

8. Treat your supporters well

If you find friends, family, institutions which support your growth, treat them like gold. It is likely that as you continue, you will grow a very solid group of absolute supporters who have your best interests at heart, see you and believe in you. It is likely to be balanced and based on exchange.

9. Be generous

Honestly, the arts are so saturated with Neo-liberal individualism and competition that any generosity is like water to a dying plant!

10. Establish healthy boundaries

Don't allow bad eggs to spoil the carton. You are better than that. But get support if and when it happens.  

11. Put yourself out there!

The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to fail. But also the more likely you are to succeed - at the very least you will succeed at being authentic. Everything generative lies between failure and success. Strength and vulnerability are infused and empower one another, especially as an artist.

12. Be brave

It doesn't matter your demographic, being brave is being brave. It's different for everyone, and for every demographic. I was having a conversation recently with my friend Nisha Madhan about how being radical is very different for different demographics. There is no one way to be radical.

If it wasn't for the hoards of people supporting me through thick and thin in so many difficult moments throughout the years, I wouldn’t have made the most of the opportunities: I’ve made work internationally, choreographed for companies around the world, danced for choreographers I love, learnt from collaborators that inspire me, I’ve been invited to teach in institutions and curated projects internationally. I have had many support systems which have pushed and pulled me through the art world. Be appreciative of your support, and be genuinely humble enough to recognise all that you have and have learned.

Having been Berlin-based for the last decade or so, Alexa is back in Aotearoa to launch the first ever Experimental Dance Week Aotearoa: at Auckland Old Folks Association 2-3rd February, and at Basement Theatre, Auckland, 4-9 February 2019. Dance along!

Want to know even more about experimental dance? Alexa is publishing a book on the matter, Te Ao Live, available from 4 February

Photo Credits (in order)
- Jane Ussher
- Bea Rodrigues
- Lydia Bittner-Baird

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

29 Jan 2019

The Big Idea Editor