Rayla Meshawn from SOTA; Story-Telling Through Movement

Rayla Meshawn from SOTA; Story-Telling Through Movement

You first met Che in Rochester works for actor Che Holloway, an impromptu interview and amble through the Neighborhood of the Arts.

An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!

Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 60 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.

For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews

Che is a proud graduate of the School of the Art and has featured many SOTA alums, including Britton Bradford, Kayoz Fortune, Ajani Jeffries, Marguerite Frarey, Willie “El Mongoose” Monroe Jr., Willis Ajamu Brooks , James Kegler, Taye Diggs, Evalyn Gleason, Adrian DiMatteo, Biz LaChance and Saadiq Muhammad, Manny Greene and Kaisean Roseboro.

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Photos courtesy of Rayla Meshawn.

Che also highlighted four members of the SOTA theater department: Lorie Dewey, Michelle Accorso Sapere, Ed Myers and Luke Fellows, as well as Arts Center Director Adele Fico.

In this highlight, Che turns our attention to SOTA alum, Rayla Meshawn passionate dancer and dance instructor leaving a positive impact on everyone she encounters.

Rayla Meshawn; Story-Telling Through Movement

Tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc.

I’m from the Clinton Avenue area of Rochester, NY. I grew up on the west side. I went to School the Arts and attended Howard University studying Sociology.

What inspired you to be an artist/entertainer? Early experiences worth sharing?

It was easy because both of my parents are creatives. My mom is a dancer, singer, who has a knack for installation art, and anything that involves her hands. My dad is a self-taught instrumentalist, singer, arranger/producer. I was very much exposed to their creative processes on the daily, so art is very much ingrained in how I move through the world.sienna 4

Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.

To be a black woman, a womanist, who is acutely aware of her social standing in this word is a challenge within itself. I think back on being younger, with such ideas not having a place to channel my ideas and feelings was quite difficult. I knew I just didn’t fit into the structure, and so reserving my energy and funneling it into art has always been the way.

What do you believe sets you apart from other artists/entertainers?

I feel that I am not entertainer. I feel that what sets me apart from other movers is that I consider myself a creative in the field of dance. So, while I love to dance, I require more creative agency within the pieces I dance. A great amount of my work is grounded in sociology and spirituality. If it doesn’t touch my soul, I can’t do it.

Do you have other interests or hobbies?sienna 5

My interests are singing, jamming with friends, crafts/DIY projects, curating space, learning, and collecting vintage.

Any projects you have out or currently working on?

I am currently working on Tha Body, a performative ritual, that explores the ways in which the black female body has been viewed historically and the place of ancestral worship in resienna 7clamation of our physical bodies. This work will be performed this summer for the Raw Artists Showcase and the Black Woman is God exhibition both in San Francisco.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to see myself presenting more work abroad, being international and establishing my artistic studio.

What advice can you give to aspiring artists/entertainers?

I say to study! Study the people that have come before you, study your society, to travel, and find like minds to share ideas with.sienna

How can we follow along in your journey? Social media?

“Sienna Black” is my working alias and my performative work is under the branding of Rayla Meshawn

My work is accessible on vimeo/YouTube under Rayla Meshawn.


The blog “Sienna Black” at raylathecreator.tumblr.com


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About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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