Austin Sexton (right). Photo by Philip Newston
There's a reason Austin Sexton's father calls her "Miss Charisma" after all of her performances.
For Austin, stage presence comes as easily as honey does to bees.
The child of two dancers, Austin was raised on a diet of jazz hands, plies, tendus and show tunes. Along with a penchant for jazz, soul, hip-hop and funk, Austin developed skills as both a singer and a dancer, breaking it down like a Fly Girl, and eventually, going on to become a front-woman in a funk band for several years.
But lately, Austin, a co-founder of Relay Dance Collective, has been busy with one specific project: RDC's premiere show, Music + Motion, which runs Saturday, August 24 and Sunday, August 25 at Dance Fremont! Shows are at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily.
Here, you'll get to see the collective's resident Sasha Fierce's big personality and dynamic movement style light up the studio theater in person. Additionally, she's excited to be showcasing a new piece, an emotionally-charged duet called Stay.
Tickets are on sale now! Click here to get yours.
Q. How would you describe yourself as a dance artist? What styles are you attracted to?
A. I am always growing as an artist. I am classically-trained in ballet and jazz, this is always where my body feels most comfortable. But as I grow, I am loving new things that challenge me. I am attracted to all styles of dance, because dance draws me in, no matter what.
Q. What dancers and or companies most inspire you?
A. I am most inspired by the four founding members of Spectrum Dance Theater, Dale Merrill, Susanne Duckworth, Carol Borgmann and my mother, Jenny Hillock. They started this company as friends and promoted the joy and passion they had in their hearts for dance and performing. They made dance accessible, encouraging those who thought they would never be able to dance and creating positive, entertaining, passionate work. Without these founding members, I would not be the dancer and performer that I am today.
Q. You have known your fellow RDC colleagues since high school. What are your memories of them from that time?
A. There are so many! I found these girls right after I experienced a great loss in my life, and they kind of put me back together. Going to dance class was my outlet for dealing with grief, and they welcomed me with open arms. We had so much fun! Gabrielle and I became like sisters, and she even lived at my house for stints during high school.
Q. What was it like switching from Spectrum to Dance Fremont! for your dance education?
A. I had only received ballet and jazz training, so coming to Dance Fremont!, I was exposed to so many styles of modern -- Horton, Graham, Limon, Mckayle. That was amazing. I really grew there, not only in my technique, but as a performer and artist, as well. They really push you to the best you can be.
Q. How else are you involved in the performing arts?
A. I have a degree in vocal performance from Shoreline Community College. I spent five years in their funk band called Funkngroove and I absolutely loved it. I also did a couple of their opera workshops, although I’ve decided that classical voice is not for me. I feel at home on stage, in a dive bar, with an awesome group of musicians behind me, singing my heart out. I would love to do more of that.
I also teach at the Spectrum school right now, and I would really love to teach more. There is something so magical about when a child walks into their first dance class. I also did a lot of musical theater in high school. I worked with Seattle Children’s Theater and did all of the shows at my school.
Q. What have some of your biggest obstacles been in dance or in life? How has Relay helped you?
A. Oh man, what a loaded question! Let’s just say I was not in the best relationship this year during the beginning development of RDC and having the girls to help me through it was all I could have asked for. They were there for me to talk, to vent, to cry, and helped me when it was finally time to leave. These girls have become my family.
Q. Why did you want to create RDC?
A. I wanted to create a company where good dancers could come, no matter their background, and feel that they belonged and could explore their artistic visions. I didn’t really dance that much after high school, and so I wanted to create an opportunity for myself and others to really grow and be happy! I want a collective that, like the original Spectrum, promotes positivity, passion and an experience for all.
Q. What words best describe your presence on stage?
A. I channel into my own experiences with each piece I do and try to tell my story through the movement. I am most at home when I am on stage.
Q. What are your goals as an artist?
A. I want to grow more as a choreographer. I have so many ideas of pieces I want to create. I’d love to bring in more choreographers so I can really explore other people’s styles.
Q. You mentioned your mom earlier, an accomplished dancer and teacher. Tell me more about her.
A. My mom is my rock. I got most of my technique that I now teach my students from her. I always feel like I try the hardest when she’s watching; I want her to be proud of me. My mom and I spent the last year taking Susanne Duckworth’s jazz class on Thursday mornings, and that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a dance class.
We challenge each other and feel each other’s energy when we dance. Everyone always said during class that it was fun to watch us together because we are so similar in our execution of movement.
Q. What else do people need to know about Austin?
A. You’ll really get to know me through the pieces I’m performing in in this show, each one really represents a page in my life.
Q. What are your must-haves in your dance bag?
A. I usually just throw on a pair of socks and call it good. But if I’m teaching, I have to have my ballet shoes, my tap shoes, music, and of course, stickers for all the little kids I teach!
Q. What advice do you like to give your dance students, or other dancers in general?
A. Don’t ever hide who you are. I have a silly little saying in class when I’m teaching, “Free to be you and me.” I don’t ever want kids, or even adults for that matter, to feel that they can’t be themselves or express who they are. I spent a long time running from myself and am only just recently accepting who I am and celebrating that.