Embracing My Creative Freedom

When you’re a creative like Sonya Dove, and you’re working for one of the biggest manufacturers like Wella, and one of you main roles and responsibility is to create and present hair that represents the brand, it can sometimes be a challenge to turn something that has creatively and spiritually moved you into a live performance that the audience is going to “get” and understand. Sonya shares her creative journey at Intercoiffure Fall Atelier.

This year, Intercoiffure’s Fall Atelier was held in NYC, and Wella was the official sponsor for their Gala dinner. To my joy, Wella presented me with the opportunity to present. And after going over the logistics of the presentation—how long it needed to be all the way down to what the actual date was—I was given the greatest task and opportunity: free reign to create a showcase that truly represents ME and what I find relevant, rewarding, and inspiring today.

I was more than happy to oblige, and honestly, I was quite ecstatic about doing so.

Knowing the show was at the end of a long education-filled day, I knew I wanted to base my presentation on what I would like to see as a spectator. I am heavily influenced by what fascinates me, and I firmly believe a show should always be a spectacle focused more on entertainment than on education. It’s usually through this type of entertainment that you can often leave the biggest impact on the human conscience.

With our world filled with such a tremendous amount of angst this past year, with ISIS, poor France, Brexit and the USA politics, there is this large spiritual movement in the collective community that does not trust, whether we are talking about the banks, the government or even the food we consume (anti-Monsanto!).

My first thought was, “How can I relay this message?”

That was my challenge.

I also thought, “How would and could I explain what Burning Man is to the people attending the Gala?”

For those of you who are unaware and unknowing, Burning Man is, in a sense, a global cultural movement. Undeniably a culture, one with empathetic like-mindedness, it is a non-profit organization built on a foundation of encouraging civic participation, creative self-expression and collaboration.

That awareness was my inspiration.

So I came up with this title “Burning Dreams” for my presentation with a tagline of:

A deep desire to dream into the possibility of a future built on community and love.

Next item on my agenda was to ask Kevan Allen (who is a beautiful event producer and a dear friend of mine) to see if he was available to produce my show. I would be lost without his help as he is the one that manages to put all of my ideas and visions into action. He picks the music to use, choreographs the movements, obtains the models and creates the script. He is my producer in every sense of the word.

Once I secured Kevan, I went to work on creating a solid team I could trust to support my vision. I chose Chris Rosario, who is a talented member of Sebastian’s Design Team and Tanya Lange who is a Wella Brand Educator. You might say I am a little biased because we work alongside each other at our salon The Doves by DNA in Santa Monica.

How could I not choose them?!

I have amazing, talented, explicitly creative beings that I work with and our adventures are truly collaborative, so it was a no-brainer to include them on this adventure.

Embracing Burning Man

As for my personal experience with Burning Man, my track record is that I have attended it for four years now. It was my partner that told me about it as he has been many times before. What made me want to go was my love for music and my passion for dancing. These are my stress relievers, and it warms my heart to dance to music that I love. For anyone who has never attended, you might not know this, but music is ever-present 24/7. To be immersed in that is intoxicating. What I also discovered was that it was held in the desert, in an area known as Black Rock City, which is about 3-4 hours east of Reno.

There is no cell service.
It’s just pure nature, which is very appealing to me as I am an enthusiast.

Burning Man allows its residents to exhibit their art. Some artists have chosen to express theirs in the form of art cars, which can take up to a full year to create. It is purely unimaginable the ideas you are witness to there, especially at night with all the LED lighting drenching the landscape. In anticipation of my first trip, I watched YouTube videos before I went showing the time lapse from day to night, just to get a sense of what was to come.

On a physical level, this experience gives you a chance to decompress from the rat race most of us call life. Whether you’re there for the full experience or just a couple days, it’s a treat to be able to spend time living in the present. You do not even need to go with someone, as self -discovery is part of the process. It is part of the gift you are given when you go to something like this. You can meet and talk to so many people and about anything. It is also absolutely enormous in size; you even need a bike just to explore the terrain.

Each year, a temple is constructed. It is meant to be spiritual, and residents hang up vision boards celebrating their lost ones, cherished friends, animals or even something as compelling as a breakup. Residents have been known to put ashes in the temple, clothing or whatever you desire and the temple has a very strong energy attached to it. It symbolizes letting go, and when it finally burns on that last Sunday night, it is quite a moving experience.

The only downside is the weather, which changes dramatically. It can be hot during the day and cold at night (typical desert temperament) peppered with a few (or a lot) of dust storms. These storms are the reason why you see everyone wearing eye goggles and masks over their mouths.

Embracing The Vision

Now, to map my vision for the show, I created moodboards for my team and all those involved. I concocted one for makeup, one for clothes, and one for hair. Having been influenced by the actual clothing worn at Burning Man, I sought out the designers of garments I spotted on the fairgrounds. Many of the designers were based in New York (due to the music scene), so it worked out perfectly for me to acquire the garments just for the show. With the hair, I wanted a style that was edgy, so Kevan and I worked together on contracting dancers with the right hair. Chris, Tanya and I then worked closely on ideas tailored for each person.

Embracing The Moment

Standing at the back of the stage, it was very exciting to see it all come together finally. The obvious challenge with doing a show of this caliber is that you only have one technical rehearsal on stage, which is honestly not enough time. And to think, this lasts ONLY 40 minutes. You have to factor in putting all of the lights, music, and models together in this short amount of time. It proved rather tough for Kevan and myself. And this technical rehearsal happens a few hours before the actual show, which then cuts into the hair and makeup preparation. Yikes! If I could change one thing, it would have been not to have the seven dancers try on their costumes the day of the show as we lost a lot of hair and makeup time in doing so.

A vulnerable moment I experienced was when I first walked on stage and felt this foreign feeling come over me. This is unusual as I find myself normally calm when I brace the stage. This was all due to the stress of the workload that day.

I felt I had not rehearsed my parts enough to the point where I had the script set to memory. I even felt a bit flustered in my talking, but lesson learned. I needed to set aside a bit of quiet time for myself before I walked out, but I was running against the clock all day even though I started early.

Even so, there is no feeling that I can even put into words to explain the experience I have when I am on the stage and I look around and see people who are in awe of the presentation.

And for me to see it all unfold, is simply a dream.

~ Sonya

Photo Credits:

Burning Man Images: Nicolas Troncin

Backstage Intercoiffure: Steve Kim via Hairbrained.