Accomplished dancer, vocalist, and yogi Vie Boheme is embracing the world’s yin energy right now

The multi-disciplinary artist Vie Boheme likes to say she was born in Motown, developed in Pittsburgh, and refined in Minneapolis, where she still resides today. She is a dancer, choreographer, singer, writer, yoga instructor, and speaker who has toured internationally as a dance theater artist, recording artist, and yogi.

Vie began cultivating her many creative practices as a child. She grew up singing in church five days a week in Detroit, not really thinking much of it—it was just part of her life growing up. Everyone was a singer. “Performance has always been a part of my world,” she says.

Her mom put her in dance class as a child because she had a lot of energy to burn, and also to ensure that the braces she had to wear to straighten out her legs weren’t wasted—as a nurse, Vie’s mother knew that dance would help form and strengthen the muscles she needed for the work the braces were doing to last.

“She did it to support me medically; she didn’t expect it to stick,” Vie laughs. “Nobody thought that I would become a dancer back when I was little.”

Photo by Graham Gardner.

But it did stick. Vie loved to dance, and continued to do it all through childhood and into high school—not expecting anything to come of it professionally, but just because she enjoyed it.

“I didn’t really know it would become such a huge part of my life,” she says. “It just felt good. It was something I did to express myself.”

It wasn’t until some alumni from her high school came back to visit while she was a senior that she really started to think that dance was something she could do as a career. One of them encouraged her to apply to Oakland University, a public university located in the suburbs of Detroit known for its performing arts programs, in order to study and pursue dance professionally.

“I didn’t know you could be a dancer for a living,” she says. “I had seen musicals and knew that professional dancers existed, but it still hadn’t become clear to me that it was something I could do. I didn’t know anyone who was a performer for a living. It was still a peripheral thing in my understanding. My sister sang, and I came from a family of singers, but that was in church. It wasn’t part of my mind frame that I could be an artist for a living.”

CENTERPLAY by Vie Boheme. Photo by Bill Cameron.

She did end up applying to the university and received a scholarship to attend. Then, in her first semester, she did some Google searching to see what all was out there for her as a future professional dancer. She discovered the Alvin Ailey American Dancer Theatre, and it changed her world.

“I searched for ‘African American dancers’ and the Ailey dancers popped up and I just lost my shit!” she laughs. “‘What? There’s a whole dance company that has a lot of Black people in it??’ It just exploded my whole brain on what was possible. When I saw these pictures of their dancers in these jumps and leaps I said, ‘WHOA, what is this??'”

The next day she went to class, looked around, saw that none of the dancers looked like her and none of them looked like the dancers in those pictures. She figured, “Well, I guess if it’s not here, it’s not here.” But that started her on a whole new journey.

Towards the end of her first semester at Oakland, she remembers asking her dad to drop her off at the Megabus terminal over Thanksgiving so she could go to Chicago and look for a new school. “But you just got there!” he responded. “I know, but I know what kind of dancer I need to be now, and I can’t be that here.”

“That was the beginning of this roiling fire in my heart to gain information and wisdom, and eating up as much of it as I could,” Vie says. “Much of my career has been a journey of me being as present as I can be and eating up as much information as I can, so college was about gaining as much as I could.”

Photo by Bill Cameron.

She transferred to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, which has one of the top dance programs in the country, where she says she creatively blossomed. After that, she moved to Minneapolis to join the TU Dance theatre company, and says the Twin Cities is where she has refined all of the information she has soaked into her spirit.

While with TU Dance she decided to transition out of company dancing to focus on freelance and solo work. During her last season with them, she started doing Vinyasa yoga training. She also started performing (as a singer) with her own band and producing some experimental and improvisational dance events in the Twin Cities. One of these events encouraged other dancers to step outside of their comfort zones and try something new—maybe a ballet dancer wanted to experiment with tap dancing, but needed a loose-ended space to try it. Vie created that space. For another event she created small pieces of precise dance choreography for musicians to learn and perform—folks who do not typically perform dance choreography, including a rapper and a pianist.

“I was pushing them outside of their comfort zone to use more aspects of their creativity and brains while performing,” she says. “These events were about learning the edges of performance boundaries to push myself and my community at the same time.”

In the seven years that Vie has lived in Minneapolis, she has delved into and embraced a variety of creative outlets and collaborative partnerships. As a soul, funk, and jazz vocalist, she has toured the country and has also opened for international acts like Little Dragon, Bilal, and J*Davey. She toured with Stokley Williams, frontman of the band Mint Condition gone solo, and was also his choreographer and co-creative director. He’s still a private yogi client. (“He’s a legend. Working with him was crazy amazing.”) She toured the country dancing with Camille A. Brown & Dancers, led by the Tony-nominated Broadway and television choreographer Camille A. Brown. She was a founding member of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, with which she traveled with the U.S. Embassy to teach and perform in Suriname in South America. She has also collaborated with local Twin Cities organizations like the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Guthrie Theater, the Moving Company, and the Children’s Theater Company on choreography and performance.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride, to say the least!” she laughs. “I’ve been creating and doing things in every single lane that I have a skill in and I continue to do that because all of the institutions that were inviting me to do work were reputable and they were compensating me. I’m working at the top of my field in each one of these areas and I don’t have a reason to not work in all of them. It’s been a busy seven years in freelancing and working in all these avenues that bring me a lot of joy.”

CENTERPLAY by Vie Boheme. Photo by Bill Cameron.

She spent the last year traveling all over Europe and North Africa singing, and even taught yoga in Morocco. She loves the frequent travel, saying that it nurtures her. The Twin Cities is a place where she can refine her skills, but traveling the world allows her to be her whole self. “The more that I can travel, the better I am,” she says.

Of course, right now she’s not doing any traveling. At the moment, the world is at a standstill, and no one knows when it will start moving again (or when it will be safe to do so). CENTERPLAY, Vie’s immersive, multimodal, 360-degree dance and theatre performance, examines the complex and interwoven emotional experiences of Black women. The one-woman show, which includes singing, spoken word poetry, and storytelling monologues, was set to premiere at the Guthrie Theatre on March 20. All performances at the Guthrie were cancelled on March 15.

Still, she says, “I’m thankful. I couldn’t be more full of gratitude in this moment. I’m in a place that I feel comfortable. It could be worse.”

Now she is focused on doing the work that she can do, which includes offering her yoga instruction online. She started doing Bikram yoga as a college freshman because she had always been a person that could be stuck in her own head a lot, “in a way that is not really helpful or conducive to anything or anyone.” She found yoga grounding. Once she moved to the Twin Cities and started to transition away from company dance to freelance work, she was drawn to core power yoga both as a way to de-stress and to burn out all that excess energy—that same excess energy she had as a child—that she was no longer utilizing by dancing five days a week for five or more hours per day.

Photo by Drew Bryant.

“It was also refreshing finding people who weren’t dancers but were taking so much pleasure in seeking that same release,” she explains. “This community”—the local Twin Cities community of yoga practitioners, specifically—”is really intense about seeking that energy. People here need something that really keeps them at their peak performance, and I clicked with that community.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vie was developing a yoga program with Springboard for the Arts to introduce in their new office, a space envisioned as a physical hub for artists. Springboard was going to pilot some new health and wellness offerings in this space, but these were never able to launch before the crisis shut everything down. Now, Vie is offering calming hour-long yin yoga classes over Facebook Live every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 6 p.m. CST.

“My intention is to give people an access point to connect to their bodies,” she says. “Yin energy is a quiet, receptive energy. For me personally, I feel that the Earth is forcing us there to embrace that particular energy.”

When your body gets injured and is bleeding, it creates a scab to stop that flow, she explains. When you get sick, your body has to stop you and puts all of its energy towards healing you. “The Earth is sick and tired and we are the cells in the body causing strife, so we’ve been put on hold so the Earth can do its thing,” she says. And it’s been working, at least in the short term.

“I think providing yin at this point is a chance to sit in this energy. You want to support that energy when it’s coming at you this heavy-handed. It’s okay to lean into that and feel that energy. It’s okay to fall in line with the world. We won’t always have this opportunity in this way, but I really hope this goes on long enough for us to build habits and anchors to retain these new values we’re being forced to create. I feel like we have to choose to anchor it. It would be really sad if everything goes back to exactly the way it was before. This is an opportunity to create new and better habits, and I want to provide another avenue to create anchors for that.”

Lead image by Bill Cameron.

(1) How do you like to collaborate?
I start by asking my collaborators what brings them joy.

(2) How do you start a project?
It’s been in the same avenue for a few years now—I start a project from what bothers me about the world and what I feel is missing.

(3) How do you talk about your value?
[Editor’s note: The artist wanted more time to mull over this one. Check back later for an update.]

(4) How do you define success?
Completing a task is one thing, but being successful…that depends on what it is. Accomplishing a goal is one thing, but thriving is something different. Success in my life is doing things that bring me joy, things that I’m actually skillful enough to do and able to do. But just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean [it gives me a sense of purpose or joy, or a feeling of success]. Eventually I got to a point where I needed to refine my life to do things that bring me joy more directly rather than just doing things I’m good at.

(5) How do you fund your work?
In terms of making my own art, in the past, most of it was out of my own pocket, and then I’ve also received some grant funding. This year I’ve been accepted into an incubator program and that has allowed me to raise more money to fund my own work.