Dancing for her life: Roxi Victorian’s D.C. flair hits Baton Rouge stage

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In the world of dance, style, form, and delivery are as multifaceted and unique as the individual performers.  From salsa to waltz, jazz to classical ballet, and tribal dance to Hip Hop, the art of dance reflects the vibrant culture in which people can express themselves.

Standing at a sultry five-foot-seven, with glowing brown skin, Roxi Victorian fits into this wonderful world of expression, sounds, and movement.
She is a lively, artful dancer. An actress, arts educator, this self-described “Smiley Earth Angel,” she is most passionate about the arts of music and dance, and how they affect lives.  The Washington DC native blends her classically trained ballet skills with natural rhythm, style, and love for Hip Hop to deliver stellar performances on stages and in classrooms across south Louisiana.

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To her, dance and music go together—she can’t think about one without thinking about the other.  When speaking about the genres of music she enjoys, the excitement in her voice is noticeable–there are so many! She enjoys Reggae, Jazz, and Chillex, but “[you] can catch me riding to anything from Coltrane and Charlie Parker to Nightmares on Wax,” Victorian said, “It all depends on the mood.”
Even though, the genres she likes are many, Hip Hop stands out.  The love she has for this music keeps her coming back to it like the old high school flame who you can’t let go of.

Like Victorian, many now thirty-somethings fell in love with Hip Hop from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s—the new style, the lyrics, the meaning, the culture. Artists like Big Daddy Kane, Boogie Down Productions, A Tribe Called Quest and Run-DMC were the soul of Hip Hop.  Victorian said she fell hard for this new musical art form, “It hit me and took over. And it was all the phases of love, from infatuation of listening to the music . . . and it grew into a respect as the music began to grow and I began to appreciate its meaning.”  But like many high school love experiences, the people and artists changed, the style shifted, and she was left with what used to be.  She found herself in a period of frustration with her beloved Hip Hop when the music changed.

“What was mainstream didn’t feel right . . . I guess, as I got older, my values changed,” Victorian said.  Hip Hop grew into a different creature (which she admits the art form is allowed to do), and left her behind. But, the old school, conscious Hip Hop still has her heart.

“J Dilla is my all time favorite producer,” she said, “I use his tracks in my class and actually recommend him to my students to try out.”  While she doesn’t have a particular album to recommend, she says Hip Hop artist Common’s “I used to love H.E.R.” allows the listener to learn where Hip Hop came from, where it has gone and how many people feel about the change.  “There are going to be things you love and things you hate and things you don’t understand,” Victorian, who is 33, said analyzing her own beliefs, “but if you love Hip Hop, you’ll get it.”

Moments of sharing and counsel fuel Victorian’s desire to teach her craft.  She has taught dance at Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge where she founded a chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts—the first in the state.  The honor society celebrates the artistic and academic achievements of exceptional dance students.

While she is delighted to have taught dance and established the chapter, she’s got quite a few other challenging goals she is tackling.  One of them is to pursue a doctorate in ethnochoreology.  She’s interested in Afro-Cuban dance, but there are so many options in styles of dance to study. She also plans to own a local dance studio in Baton Rouge.  The details are fuzzy, and it is sort of hush-hush (so don’t tell anyone), but the hope is that she will be instructing in her own space by 2016.

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“There’s a natural rhythm in all of us .” Victorian said.  This belief debunks the myth that a person has no rhythm or can’t dance. “My rhythm is different from yours and yours is different from mine, but if you can come out of yourself, you can enjoy it,” she said.

It’s easy to think the passion Victorian possesses for dance and music is the result of her being the daughter of composers, actors or dance enthusiasts.  Though this is not true of Victorian, her parents absolutely instilled the drive she has to do what she loves.  Her mother, Rosa Trapp-Dukes, Ph.D., is a retired early childhood education champion and professor at Howard University.  Her late father, Ofield Dukes, was a public relations titan.  He established his own public relations firm–Ofield Dukes & Associates–and landed the infamous Motown Records as his first client.  Before starting the firm, he worked in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.  Her father’s experiences in that administration helped him become a major player in the civil rights movement.  He even helped musician Stevie Wonder organize a march on Washington to allow Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday to become a national holiday. When she discusses his life, her voice deepens and her speech slows, as she recalls memories and personal information about her father.  The accomplishments of her father are grand, and those accomplishments seem to create the gravity under which she exists without his presence.

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A creative release that comes from his absence begins to present itself in her work and goals.  Their relationship has inspired her to begin writing a multi-media piece “discussing the presence of Black fathers and male role models in the African-American community.”  The piece is titled “Black Eyed Peas,” which was her father’s favorite dish that she grew to cook well and perfect over the years.

In story lines about the Black community, problems point to household structure and how it can be improved by men taking a more active role, but in “Black Eyed Peas,” Victorian will “give a story where things go right; highlight, big-up my Black men, whether they are biological fathers or a father figure.  They need some positive publicity.” In 2004, she produced “A Woman’s Liberation,” a series of interviews, dances, and poetry sessions addressing the plights and accomplishments of women.  She strives to have a similar energy to her “Black Eyed Peas” work, so she is taking her time in production to ensure it has the love it needs to be the success she wants it to be.

In 2001, she and other friends started producing Hip Hop shows, through their company Mothers Milk, on U Street in Washington D.C. One show, called Vitamin D, was her tribute to Kings, and included Raheem DeVaughn who is now a three-time Grammy nominated R&B soul singer.

The Howard University alumna brought the vibe and flare of these D.C. Hip Hop performances to Louisiana. In 2012, she connected with a great team of friends and cranked out BR Hops, a Hip Hop festival that started with a mega block party followed with dance workshops, graffiti contests, music classes, and poetry battles. In its inaugural year, hundreds flooded downtown Baton Rouge for three days. The turnout was amazing, and it was a great experience for the organizers and attendees. The second fest, in 2013, didn’t have quite the draw.  As a result, the festival has become a biannual, one day event,  returning to Baton Rouge in 2016. Getting everything organized is demanding, and this new time frame will allow Victorian and her crew to get all events and activities together to ensure a successful festival.

Standing right by her side through the culmination of her many achievements, teachings, as well as the departure of her father stands Victorian’s husband, Michael Victorian, their son Michael, a well as Michael’s “wonderfully supportive family” who lives in the Baton Rouge area.

When talking about her husband and her son, it is clear that her love for them runs deep and helps spur her passion.  Her son, who is six, reminds her very much of her late father—and she describes it as a mysteriously remarkable, yet beautiful, experience. She said her mentor, the late Sherrill Berryman Johnson, Judith Jamison, Virginia Johnson, Bill T Jones, Ron Brown, Renee Chatelain, Fr. Skully Knight, Jacqueline Blaney, and her very talented God-daughter Candis Jones are a few of the important people who support her, inspire her to be creative, and push her innate desire to succeed.

A consummate performer, Victorian recently played the lead female role and dancer in The Faded Line: A Commemoration of the 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, volunteered at the Blues Fest, and joined eight artists for BR Blender,  a 24-hour collaboration performance at The Manship Theatre at The Shaw Center for the Arts.

“I am an artist. I love it!” she wrote on Facebook. “Love this life.”

Yes, Roxi Victorian has a lot going on, but she takes time to deliberately give each project the commitment and passion it deserves—this isn’t a single sport race, it is an artistic triathlon of all of the things she loves.

Starting her own studio, creating “Black Eyed Peas,” planning BR Hops, returning to graduate studies as a professional dancer, and being a wife and mother keeps her on her toes.  But, fittingly, when music, dance, and the men she loves are involved, on her toes is exactly where she wants to be.

By Hailey B. Zamora
Contributing Writer

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hailey B. Zamora is a creative, freelance writer with a bachelor of arts degree in English, writing and culture from Louisiana State University. She enjoys learning programming languages and reading nonfiction. A writer of diverse topics for the Jozef Syndicate in Louisiana, Zamora has a passion for words, language and food. Follow her work @jozefsyndicate on Twitter and Facebook.

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Comments
One Response to “Dancing for her life: Roxi Victorian’s D.C. flair hits Baton Rouge stage”
  1. Barbara V Guillory says:

    So Proud to say you are my Neice,Roxie !!! Continue to Pursue & follow your Dreams, Remember you were born to Dance!! Go Be Great!!!!

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