A multi-disciplinary artist by way of dance, DJ’ing, comedy and painting, Fly Lady Di has always been a party-rocker. She has danced for artists and creatives such as Kiesza, Pharrell Williams and Director X while spinning for brands like Dior, Fenty and Reebok. We are so honoured that she shared her uplifting energy and talent with us by creating a playlist of summer tunes, FØRS x FLY LADY DI. She is currently working on wrapping up her solo show Third World.
- What creative pilgrimages have you gone on?
I moved to New York City to become an industry dancer — that was my focus and trajectory — to do stage shows and tour, but this time unveiled so much more for me. I fell in love with House dance and learnt a lot about the roots of Street dance. I remember unknowingly going to one of my first underground jams with my friends Melissa "Melly Mel" Flerangile and her collaborator Crazy Smooth and it was chock full of dance legends like MOPTOP/ Elite Force and Dance Fusion. It was unreal to see these talents up close since they worked with artists such as Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey. I was so intimidated being this young girl from Canada, but after dancing in class and clubs religiously my commitment showed and people like Voodoo Ray (RIP), Ejoe Wilson and Marjory Smarth (RIP) took notice. We drifted towards each other naturally and became inseparable. It was such a surreal experience for me to be embraced by people I admired and grew up watching in music videos.
These were some of my favourite moments, dancing with my friends who are super talented, incredibly passionate and all around great people while getting paid to do what we love.
- What did it mean to learn from pioneers in the industry?
This was huge. It was the lesson in dance and in life that I never knew I needed. I was a dancer for the glitz and glam of it. What makes an industry dancer who they are is a relentless practice regimen which can be gritty and grimy. The motto is "practice 'til you puke" which is real, it's the only way to get good.
Dance is not something you set aside to do later, it's a lifestyle engrained in everything. Spending time with legendary dancers and getting to know them personally was very valuable, it allowed me to see how similar our thought processes were. Sometimes you spend hours alone thinking and obsessing about your passion and second guessing yourself; only to realize that the greats have gone through the same thing. You have the same love for the craft and for music and with that you just know you're on the right path. Being close friends with these people outside of dance gave me a home — a place to be the best version of myself at all times and have the most fun.
- You have an infectious energy when you DJ, what are some of your favourite events?
My girl’s spot Sous Bas. I get to play my favourite music (90's Hip Hop and R&B) and the crowd is so receptive and fun. I’ve also become the go-to resident to play an event called Aaliyahpalooza. It’s the perfect mix of my strengths as a DJ and invokes such magical moments!
I love playing New Year’s Eve at Soho House or the Royal Ontario Museum. It challenges me to get everyone on the same frequency since the groups and musical tastes are so different.
The playlist I made for førs is a collection of eclectic songs I like — mostly R&B feels that go from underground to a bit mainstream. Some old, some new. Good for summer vibes on a patio!
- How would you describe your practice at this very moment? What is urgent to you right now?
With COVID, being an artist has been challenging, not only because we were stripped of our livelihoods, but because it has been hard to stay motivated knowing our jobs are so expendable to the world. It made a lot of us question our futures, for good measure.
Right now, I have an urgency to finish my solo dance project "THIRD WORLD" which I’ve been working on for four years. It’s a difficult slow burn trying to build a cohesive show that makes sense to you and that you want to make sense to others. I’d eventually love to tour the show once COVID is over (hopefully soon in this lifetime).
- From incorporating traditional clothing to seeking inspiration from Filipino folk dance, how do you explore your personal identity through art?
Filipino culture, folk dance and language is something I’m continuing to learn everyday. I feel enriched by this process because it allows me to connect to something bigger than me.
I didn't always feel accepted as Filipino. I don't appear Filipino to some and a lot of people think I'm mixed with Black. As a result of colonization, Filipinos have an affinity for fairness which still manifests itself today. With this, it has always been apparent to me that I have identified myself with Black culture and Black people for far longer than I have with Filipino culture.
Outside of dance I’ve been trying to read Filipino literature as much as I can from authors such as Jose Rizal and Carlos Bulosan. These texts have given me a lot of perspective on being Filipino. My discoveries have strengthened my identity and make me feel powerful knowing that Filipinos have endured so much just to survive. It’s important for me to explore and unearth this history in order for myself and future generations of Fil-Cans to take pride in who we are — knowledge is power. This learning is a way of contributing to the art landscape at large by bringing visibility and recognition to that which would have otherwise gone unseen. If I can create art that gets any kind of attention I’ll have done my ancestors justice by representing who I am because of who they were.
Filipino culture, folk dance and language is something I’m continuing to learn everyday.
- What are you curious about?
- I’m curious about a lot of things, specifically about privilege and how relative that word can be. How does one earn it? Can it even be earned? How does one obtain it naturally? What has to die in order for more people to have it? Must it exist in order to survive?
- What do you want to challenge yourself and explore more of?
- I want to challenge myself as a dancer. I’m not twenty years old anymore, so my body isn’t as energetic or stamina-fuelled as it used to be! I still feel as though I have some years left as a dancer — hopefully I’m wrong about that, hopefully I dance until I’m very old or until I’m dead. I want to keep exploring Filipino folk dances, they’re beauty and richness exude nobility, grace and class. Filipinos are known for being cleaners, nannies, nurses, caregivers… if I can help it, I want to remind people that before we were colonized, we were royalty.
- What experiences are you longing for?
- I would love to be a mother someday. I’m getting older and unfortunately a women’s window to conceive narrows with age. If it happens, I’ll be happy. If it doesn’t, I’ll know it wasn’t meant to be. But I’d love to have a family and experience taking care of everyone.
- What is a constant ritual / routine / space that you carve for yourself?
I try to meditate every day. I also like working out and try to do this daily as well.
I have a love for the written word and as an avid reader and writer, I’ve never had problems with getting words onto a page. It is a form of therapy, release and expression that I can do without pressure.
- Who gives you hope?
- People who don’t have any social media and thrive offline really inspire me because they’re exemplar of the fact that no one fundamentally needs it. I hate that we rely on it or feel dependent on it nowadays.
- If you were to sit at a table with the most inspiring encounters, who would you be sitting with?
- John Leguizamo, Questlove, Rosie Perez and Dave Chapelle.
- What is your idea of expansiveness?
- Something that includes everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I’ve always loved things that unify all walks of life. I think it’s a magical thing to make work that everyone is drawn to, no matter who they are, kind of like participating in Halloween or one of Yayoi Kusama’s art exhibits.
- What are you sure about today and how are you living it?
- The only thing I know for sure is that I will one day perish. We all will. That is the only thing anyone can say with certainty. How am I living it? By eating ice cream and drinking Diet Coke! All jokes aside, I love as much as I can. I’m trying my best to think and do for others. In my opinion, that’s the only real way to live — to share the love.