Do the words “Atlantis Rebirth” mean anything to you? They should – since they make up the name of the brainchild of this week’s guest. Dancer, choreographer, artiste and creative, Jonathan van Arneman has been making waves with his new film all over the island and abroad. This week, he took some time to sit with us and have a chat in the Hot Seat.
1. Tell us about yourself and what you do.
My name is Jonathan van Arneman and I’m a professional dancer and choreographer.
2. What fills the days of a professional creative?
Professional artistes are also entrepreneurs, so you can think of it as running a small business. You have to do marketing, outreach, product research (i.e., taking classes), innovation (i.e., creating new work), branding – and not to mention all the administrative work. Unfortunately, a lot of this work goes unpaid, so I also work as a teacher at two high schools on the island.
3. How do you use social media to reach people?
As someone who has lived in multiple places, I’ve developed a fan base in multiple geographic locations. This is awesome, but it also means traditional media coverage (newspaper, radio, etc.) won’t cover my whole base. So social media is where I keep all my followers updated on my new work and how they can get involved. I honestly prefer Instagram – and if something is really important, I tend to sponsor ads there to increase my reach. But having a presence on Facebook is equally important, especially for my older fans/clients.
The culture differs depending on the platform, but you just have to know that just because folks aren’t responding to your post directly doesn’t mean they’re not reading. I’m always surprised when folks know exactly what I’m up to, even though they don’t interact with my posts. So just keep posting! It’s working, believe me.
4. How has COVID changed how you operate?
COVID has somewhat forced me to work with film a lot more than I did before. I’m very big on the exchange of energy between performers and audience members, but due to COVID, I’ve also come to appreciate what film can offer to dance creatives. It’s set me on a whole new path of discovery.
5. Do you have a vision of where you see the future of dance?
Yes; and I work towards that future every day. Dancers are storytellers. And we have so many stories to tell – about us, our past, our future, our likes and dislikes, our fears, our desires. Not only are we store-ers of information, we’re conjurors of information too. And we can manipulate the stories held within our bodies in whatever way we like – which makes dance one of the most powerful tools out there. It’s high time we start recognizing it for what it is.
6. What are some of the things you’re most proud of achieving?
I’m really proud of my two most recent productions – Atlantis13 (2019) and Atlantis Rebirth (2021) – because both of those works are so much bigger than I. They speak to community; they speak to ancestry; they speak to future. I really just feel like a vessel that’s been chosen to do this work and it’s honestly so fulfilling.
7. Outside of being so active, how do you ground yourself?
I’m really a big proponent of spending as much time in nature as possible. I go to the beach on Sundays; I go on hikes; I pull over to watch the sunset; I go to the coast during the full moon. St. Martin is honestly so magical, and reminding myself that I am surrounded by this magic and that I am a part of this magic is essential to not getting lost in my day to day activities.
8. If you could make a video with any three people, living or dead, who would they be and what content would you create?
I’d make a video with dancer and choreographer Mike Tyus, an amazing dancer friend of mine named Alexander Díaz, and world-renowned vocalist Moses Sumney. And it would honestly just be one big improvisational session where we just let magic happen.