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How to Build a Queendom

by Hannah Cushing
Photography by Vivian Le

If you want to build a Queendom, you’ll have to start at the bottom.

On Saturday, October 13th, professional choreographer Michelle Fletcher gave a speech at the Englert Theatre for Witching Hour on the power of dance and how using tarot has helped her dancers become stronger not just in dancing, but in all aspects of their lives. In addition to being a choreographer, Michelle Fletcher is a director and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY.

Through dancing and the use of tarot, Fletcher says she experiences and embodies “different ways of being that I know are inside of me but I have trouble accessing.”

At the peak of Fletcher’s career, she was running a production at a San Francisco dance company with funding at her disposal and a whole team of people working under her management. While she thought she was doing well, the dancers she was working with found her overbearing, eventually causing a falling out with a close friend.

The production received high praise from reviewers, but despite the accolades, her strained relationships began to affect her.

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Fletcher strayed from dance after this, accepting a traditional office job. As she watched all her dancer friends pursue the art, she realized how much she missed it and found a need to get back to it.

“It was a struggle to deny my birthright,” she said.

She was at one of her lowest points until, miraculously, she was offered a job as a manager for a dance company. From there, she began building her Queendom. She wanted to bring a healing energy to her work, to spur examination and growth.

But what is a Queen?

According to Fletcher, a Queen can be anybody. A Queen is somebody who knows their worth and, despite hardships, carries on. Queens embody many different characteristics but they all recognize one thing – they are powerful in their own right.

“There is a Queen in all of us,” Fletcher expressed.

Fletcher started out by asking everyone what they thought of when they heard the word Queen. People said things like “England,” “powerful,” “crown,”  and “strength.” She pointed out that while most people think of a queen in a monarchy, her dance company explores Queenhood in a different light. Fletcher showed the audience photos of people like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Prince, and Serena Williams – all embodiments of Queenhood in their own right. She explained that being a Queen is owning the innate parts of individual personhood.

Fletcher expanded upon this, discussing how she explores the trials and tribulations of being a confident women by drawing inspiration and empowerment from the Queens of Tarot. Each Queen in Tarot stands for something different. For instance, the Queen of Wands is self-possessed, comfortable owning a room. Fletcher divulged that this is the Queen she has trouble accessing. However, through her dance, she strives to access that Queen – to feel its power so that she may learn to incorporate it in her everyday life.

Fletcher channels these individual attitudes through her dance company. Each of her dancers embraces a certain Tarot Queen they naturally identify with the least and try to incorporate that Queen into their dance. Fletcher’s thought process is simple – her dancers learn to embrace every aspect of themselves while showcasing their identities to the world. At her dance company in New York, Fletcher has built a Queendom. And as it continues to grow, she hopes everybody can learn to do the same.

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