An invitation to rhythm and joy

Julia Daye: poet, dancer, DJ, social activist

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Julia Daye’s life is one of exploration and discovery.

Her love of music has led her to poetry, dance, creating her own radio show, being a DJ and becoming a social activist. “I’m a musician who wants to use music, voice and body to serve peace, justice, joy and empowerment,” says Daye.

Moving to Taos

“I was specifically called to Taos for reasons that I didn’t understand at the time. Something way beyond myself pulled me here,” says Daye. Having never been to Taos before, she moved here in August 2014.

Daye lived in New York City for four years. She says, “The grind of living in the city had worn me down. I was existing in a small space and was starting to feel suffocated. I wanted a place with more space — to be closer to the earth and to be part of a community.” 

Noticing that life in New York City often seemed like a highly contrived performance, she grew weary of it. Coming to Taos she noticed that there was a high value placed on truth and authenticity.

The dreams that were seeded in New York began to grow and expand here: music, broadcasting and community action. She knew she was in the right place.

Here she has learned, “It is important to remind myself to stay in motion. We don’t need to nail our feet to the ground. We can leave and come back and remain committed to being part of the community. I’m learning to be more playful and to remember that there is no such thing as a big deal.”

Advocacy

One way that Daye contributes to the community is through her social action. She says, “The focus of my advocacy is anything that honors the human body and works to preserve this planet through acts of creativity and community empowerment.”

She first participated in the movement known as One Billion Rising in New York City, where she was part of a moving flash mob. Every year on Valentine’s Day, the One Billion Rising event calls people across the globe to come together in public spaces to dance, march and demonstrate for an end to sexual and domestic violence. Since Daye arrived in Taos, she has helped coordinate the event here — teaching the choreography for the dance performed to the song, “Break the Chain” written by Tena Clark, and leading demonstrators in a powerful march and dance.

“The body has been a war zone for so many people. We’ve learned that the body and public places are not safe for us as women. It is empowering to show up in a joyful, unified way to demonstrate to victims that they are not isolated or alone. We are modeling empowerment for each other and for girls and rising for women who can’t be here with us,” observes Daye.

A growing movement

The movement to end sexual violence is growing larger and spreading beyond the demonstration of One Billion Rising. “We are fighting violence every day of the year,” says Daye.

She points to the #MeToo movement started by Tarana Burke in 2007. “We need to remember that the seed of this movement is that we foster communal empathy through sharing our stories and experiences.” Recently, the #MeToo movement has been taken up by public figures in the entertainment world. That leadership, while welcomed by some has also incited dissent, as some people feel that the more recent advocates are not representative of the global community.

Nonetheless, Daye feels that anything that helps the issue come into the light is positive. “The most toxic part of abuse is the feeling of isolation. Anything that fights that isolation is worthwhile,” she says.

Radio

Daye’s radio show on KNCE, “What Are These Things,” was one of the first regular programs for the station. Her on-air exploration has been heard for more than three years.

Last year, she also added a new show on Monday afternoons. She loves investigating people and the world acoustically and speaking about local change and world issues through commentary and music.

For a radio series on the Standing Rock resistance movement in 2016, she was delighted at the opportunity to showcase and highlight Native musical artists and enlivening protest songs on air, alongside radio documentaries and interviews featuring activists from Standing Rock.

Daye says, “Curating music is just like curating art at a gallery. I do that with music; it is one of my favorite things to do.” She likes to follow the music of one artist as it leads to his or her influences and opens the door for more new music.

Recently getting to know a French hip-hop artist led her to explore the genre from Northern African and Europe. It is one way she travels through music.

Artist residency in Paris

Recently, she traveled in body as well. She spent January in Paris as part of an artist residency.

Going to Paris has been a longtime dream for Daye. “I did lots of research and made a network of contacts before I got there," she says. "I DJ’d in Paris and got to perform several times at poetry readings.” She also attended the best writers’ workshop that she had ever experienced and recorded with a local artist, her poetry set to music. 

Although no one in Paris could say why, all agreed that there is a tradition for Anglophone writers to come to Paris to express themselves starting even before Hemingway was there in the 1920s. She says, “I learned so much and feel blessed to have had this experience.” She hopes to establish footholds all over the world that allow her to return and deepen her own artistic experience. 

Disc jockey 

Daye has always been a musician and a dancer and sees her work as a disc jockey as a natural extension of that experience. She started to DJ when she was part of the Movement is Free Project in Brooklyn. Part of her responsibilities included scheduling a DJ to provide music. “It began organically. When there was no DJ available, I would fill in, and people began to tell me that they liked my sets better than some of the other DJs. I didn’t call myself a DJ until several other people did.”

Now she finds music from all different parts of the world and shares her sets across Taos at places, such as the High Frequency Loft once a month for ecstatic dance, at yoga studios, the BassMint, Taos Mesa Brewery and Tap Room and for special events, such as the Patricia Michael’s fashion show last fall to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.

During her recent travels, in addition to DJing in Paris, she appeared at Dance Lab in New York City. Asked for her advice to girls who want to be DJs she says, “Don’t wait until you are ready. There is no such thing as really feeling ready. Girls are raised to have doubts. Just keeping moving forward. The space is yours — step into it.”

Poetry and learning

“Poetry has always been part of life for me. I’ve written music and poetry; it is two sides of the same thing — using rhythm and voice,” she says. “Poetry is just another gesture of rhythm; an experience of truth through creativity and sound.”

When asked what she is learning in her explorations, Daye says, “Practice joy and courage and explore duality until you find balance. Don’t wait for permission. The fact that we are alive right now is the invitation to live and create fully.”

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