Photographed by Marie Tomanova
Dress Code is a new photo-interview series exploring identity and personal narrative through fashion, style, and self-expression. This installment features 20-year-old Easton Payne, a dancer and choreographer based in NYC.
When did you start dancing? What was your training like?
I'm certain I began dancing at the instance of my inception, but I started training in a place other than my bedroom at age twelve. It started quickly for me—soon after my first class it was clear I needed to be in every class. At thirteen I auditioned for a ballet school in Atlanta, three hours from my home in North Carolina. I started to leave school early every day to travel by train there. By fourteen I began homeschooling, my mom and I rented a place in Atlanta, and I was training eight hours a day, traveling out on weekends to conventions and competitions. I relocated to Miami at age sixteen on my own to expand further.
Have you studied multiple genres of dance?
I have studied Ballet, Latin Ballroom, Contemporary, Lyrical, Tap, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Musical Theatre, and Modern. Everything affects everything! I am so gracious for the opportunity to immerse myself in all of the above.
You have great style! What role does fashion play in your movement?
Thank you, I try my best! Fashion works for me as an extension of self expression. Style is vital for me in terms of movement, especially in terms of characterization. Bones are to skin as skin is to clothes. My clothes are just as involved as my heart is!
Do you do other kinds of art?
Growing up, my mom owned an art store which gave me quite the playground as a young, certainly annoying, nut job. I have dabbled in most mediums; however I relate to dance the most.
How do you explore and express your identity through movement?
Luckily, movement has no gender, no sexuality, and no rules. If anything I use the ideas of "masculine" and "feminine" as momentum to create dynamic. Why can't we have both? Or why can't we have none at all? Dance is a threshold of heteronormativity. When will men get to play classical female roles? When will women get to play classical male roles? Where is any trans representation? I am hoping to dismantle these constructs respectfully.
Do you have any performances coming up?
Performances come up quite sporadically, I am mostly teaching and creating in the studio at the moment. However, I will be presenting a piece in an innovative choreographers showcase curated by Lindsley Allen on October 18th in LA alongside some other California based artists.
What advice would you give to young dancers?
It's always time for a revolution.
In the making of DRØME we hope to showcase a community of doers and nourish an attitude of empathy in a world that teaches us to pass judgment rather than practice kindness. The stories, images, and people shared in this magazine are an amalgamation of perspectives often overlooked or explicitly excluded from art and media worlds. The dearth of diverse identities and viewpoints within the arts is harrowing, especially for a young generation that is fighting its hardest to overcome conservative notions of order ultimately practiced as acts of discrimination against the very people and things we find most inspiring. In DRØME, the featured creators and creations encourage us to never shy away from who we are and what we want. Each artist, in sharing their story, embodies their own definition of agency. Against a mainstream ideology that indoctrinates patriarchal, capitalist, and hateful theories turned into policy, the artists in our first issue represent the ways in which art can take power back from society's denigrating control.