Beth Lane: Interview With A Multifaceted Performer & Artist
Beth Lane is an Actor, Performance Director, Teaching Artist, and Writer. She is strongly aimed at honest acting work using the Method and Linklater acting techniques and Laban techniques for onstage, television and film projects.
Beth strives to consciously live towards a healthy lifestyle, with a seeking Buddhist spirit, and enjoys volunteering with youth arts programs that include working with special needs youth and dogs. Beth is an active supporter of various non-profit projects, hosting ladies tea workshops to learn new things, journal, and empower each other, especially women of colour in the cultural arts.
Additionally, Beth has a rich career history as a professional ballerina and dancer, and she also creates and sketches out new graphic design projects to remain visually arts-inspired and software savvy.
Hi Beth, thanks for talking with us at TheatreArtLife! How are you doing and how are you coping with the current pandemic?
I’ve been holed up busy with activities that are challenging my creative skills yet relaxing my mind, body and spirit with the fortune of having work safely at home. I meditate and chant daily to centre myself for the day. I have travelled back east twice, to be with my family for the passing of my dad last April, due to a nursing home wide spread of Covid-19.
I grew up in Chapel Hill North Carolina and my mom (63 years married) still resides there. Going home usually posed a dynamic of new growing pains, and now grief healing, whilst safely supporting my family.
When did you first realise that you had a passion for dance and that you wanted to work in the arts and entertainment industry? How did you get your start?
As a happy child always dancing around, I was drawn to pursue ballet at age 7, and as a baby ballerina I joined a ballet company at age 14 with North Carolina’s Raleigh Civic Ballet. At 16 years old, I won a partial state ballet scholarship to UNC School of the Arts, to their private high school within the University.
Once graduated, I won a full ballet scholarship to New York’s Dance Theatre of Harlem, later changing genres to modern dance, as a US Ambassador of Dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, becoming an “Aileyan” as we call ourselves and travelling 22 countries to date, from those international tours and two Broadway international tours: Sophisticated Ladies, and West Side Story.
You spent 6 years with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as a US Ambassador of Dance with the company, touring nationally and internationally. What was that like, and how were you inspired by this period in your career?
Those 6 years total, involved my performing in all 3 of the Ailey companies. The experience offered me a robust language of contemporary and modern dance techniques packed with strong emotional and political dialogue through movement. It was my growth from corps de ballet girl, to becoming a worldly young woman who was drinking in life’s characters in the spotlight on sate as 1 of 15 women co-starring in a 30 member company!
Performing on Broadway and Radio City (as a hired singer), and 21-regional theatre shows followed as a dancer-singer-actor. Interestingly, I remember clipping and storyboarding while touring with Ailey for the magazine I’m currently aspiring to publish online in a pictorial magazine format. It will centre on the elegance, beauty and inspirations, of untold stories of Black people in the performing arts; especially those who sparked before the twentieth century so we may posthumously honour these legendary artists today with those still alive.
If you could pick some of your favourite moments, what have been your career highlights?
Teaching dance and acting – especially with my Asperger’s and at-risk institutionalised teens.
I thoroughly enjoyed working in Europe in ArtBasel Switzerland and Monaco for some of the best performing summers of my life!
Lastly, earning an AA in graphic design; exploring my visual creative self, versus the physical body.
And conversely, have there been any obstacles you faced and challenges you had to overcome with your work?
I had the fortunate awakening of being inspired to study ballet at age 7. After arduous training for many years, I won a scholarship to work-study in New York at a black ballet school. As time would shortly demonstrate, I was invited to perform with the junior company. I believe I was not supported successfully with my talents and skills that I came forth with working with ballet companies prior to arriving in New York.
That was very daunting and depressing for me, known as a “grinder” when it came to polishing my abilities to my personal best. Feeling less valued for a main company contract, I left.
At this time the white ballet companies were not so popular during the 80-90’s in hiring more than 2 Black female dancers in a major American company. Later taking on a political role as a union representative in a major dance company, came the decision to not renew my contract, which devastated me again.
This haunting feeling of what I believe was a wrongful termination had once again diverted support for my talents and prevented my career from flourishing as a classically trained concert dancer.
I felt victimised and sugared a hardship, but knew I wouldn’t let it kill my drive to dance; it only propelled me into learning new skills. While slowly slipping away from concert theatre auditions, I learned tap and studied voice lessons to fit into the commercial dance world of the “gypsies.” I knew the New York competition was tough, but was less difficult if you possessed more than one talent on your resume.
I understand you have a passion for inspiring and volunteering for the advocacy of others. Could you tell us a bit about this?
In 2019, I completed The Actors Fund-Sony Teaching Artist program, becoming VAPA (visual and performing arts) certified. I had spent a few years prior teaching dance and acting in after school programs with court appointed youth programs, with institutionalised (mentally challenged) teens and Asperger teens in a private high school. I was coaching and judging NAACP ACT-SO national dance competitions. I chose to volunteer and accept paid work also, but it was most definitely rewarding and passionate work!
While I know things aren’t back to normal yet, are you working on anything that we can look forward to next?
I am currently writing and being inspired to re-visit an old passion: creating an e-publication, highlighting African Americans in the cultural arts, similar to TheatreArtLife.
We see in the media thousands of pop-culture artists but the elegant living, passions, hobbies and stories of those unknown past and present is what really excites me.
Eventually, I’d like to portray a few legendary characters in documentary films. I enjoyed performing Pearl Bailey’s life in an original one-woman show.
That sounds like a great project! On the topic of supporting African Americans in the cultural arts and the wider world, what are your final thoughts for our readers to take away?
It’s very heart-warming to see how the action of dialogue progressing towards “healing and the matter of Black lives” is now more important to ending racism in America and in other countries as well. Through equity action plans forming, bias training in the workplace, more equitable hiring practices, and overall more diversity being seen in the advertising media, I believe change is eminent.
The fight to end systemic racism in the entertainment industry will encourage more green-lighting of screenplays portraying the different faces in roles for who we are, represent, and what is truly an all-American, multicoloured quilt of many cultures!
I feel fortunate to belong to the theatre-art-family, which has always been the place of rainbow tribes coming together an expression of “out of the box thinking”.
I believe a final question stands to ask: “What can we do individually to continue the healing process for all persons to feel respected and included?”
We can begin by showing empathy and compassion, to listen and educate oneself about others’ differences. We can converse without fear and courageously speak up to discrimination, especially if you witness the evil of racism rearing its ugly face. Practice mindfulness daily.
Beth Lane on LinkedIn
Written articles by Beth Lane: