Rachel Oneika Phillips: Dance belongs to me
“My father says faithfully that I danced before I could walk,” Rachel Oneika Phillips says. “I believe it! I’ve come to believe this dream and drive of performing was woven into my bones as I grew in my mother. Dance was in me before I was ever interested in it.”
It was her father’s insistence and her tenaciousness that got her into the National School of Dance in Guyana at four years old, when the starting age at the time was five. Even that small, Rachel appreciated the rigour and structure of the school, classes were arranged by age group and younger ones could observe the older students in class. This was immeasurable, she says, picking your favourite and striving to be like him or her. She recalls that there were Cubans among the instructors. One woman in particular was statuesque and lithe and she kept her nails long with fire truck red nail polish. “She would brush those nails along my tummy and insist in her thick Cuban accent, ‘Up! Up! Up!’ Can you imagine such a thing being so pivotal in laying a foundation for excellence and drive? Indeed it was.”
Dance for her is visceral. “My dreams are always expanding and evolving. I don’t just want to be a star, I want to achieve greatness and influence generations through my artistry. If God and my own mind let me, I want to be iconic, great at whatever I put my mind to. That’s big. But if I become afraid to express it how will I ever believe it? So I say it!” Rachel hopes to go as far as her tenacity will take her; not only in dance but theatre, choreography, production, direction, management. For her it is entrepreneurship, ownership, and leadership.
“The wonderful thing about setting goals is the journey toward achieving them. It is the journey that clarifies if I’m headed in the right direction or if I need to do some modifying. I can’t be stubborn about it. Part of my meditation and life intention is to be pliable and malleable without being duped by others or self. This takes practice. Trust me,” she says.