Damien Patterson was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He took his first dance class at age 8, when his uncle, who was a dancer, signed him up. He started taking formal ballet classes at 14 and by 18 he was a professional dancer.
He moved to Tennessee where he danced Dawn Fay and Garrett Ammon, BNC's artistic directors, for Ballet Memphis. Damien came to BNC in 2009, excited to try something fresh and different. Now in his third season with BNC, Damien says it is hard to pick out a favorite show.
“I don’t think I have a favorite yet,” he says. “I’m not done with my career. Once I’m done I will be able to make a decision. Just being able to get up and dance every day is my favorite thing.”
He says that one of the biggest challenges he has faced so far is making each character he portrays his own. The role he will dance in Rock Ballets was originally choreographed for someone much smaller. Damien is 6’ 1 ¾” and says learning to execute the moves is like using a cello instead of a violin to perform a concerto.
“The ballets have already been set and we’re trying to breathe new life into them,” he says. “I’m playing someone else’s character and I’m trying to make it my own. It’s like putting on someone else’s suit in each ballet.”
In spite of the challenge of adaptation, Damien is looking forward to performing a pas de deux to “Mediate” by INXS. He performed the piece during Moving Together two summers ago, and is looking forward to finding a new raw emotion to put into it.
Damien loves dance because he can express himself without even using words. Dance is a universal language that anyone can understand. But more importantly, he loves dance because race fades to the background.
“It’s a joy to me to do this because, especially here at BNC, I’m not put on this planet to represent diversity. I’m here to be a dancer,” he says. “I’ve danced in an all black company. I’ve been the only black person in the company. And it doesn’t do anything for anyone. I’ve realized that the better dancer I become, the less you think about my skin color. It’s visible, you see it, but at the same time I’m here to show you the dancer. I’m here to move forward and represent the human race and not one group of people.
When he’s not dancing, Damien likes to spend time at home watching movies, writing poetry and talking to friends. As a seasoned choreographer, he also spends his time thinking about where he can take dance when his career as a professional dancer comes to an end.
He says he is still developing his own sense of style and movement and learning to understand the other dancers around him. As a choreographer Damien works to help the dancer to understand his vision, and he is still learning to bring out what he wants to see in another person through movement. He hopes to use choreography to continue dance into his future.
“There is no other job for me, to be honest. This is it. This is what I was put here to do,” he says. “I quit dance once and it was the most awful thing I’ve ever done to myself in my life. If I wasn’t a dancer I wouldn’t be here.”
You can see Damien perform in Rock Ballets on April 13-15 at the Performing Arts Center at Pinnacle Charter School.