Remy Fernandez-O’Brien is a dancer, DJ, and educator.
He’s a proud Boriqua, hailing from Holyoke, MA—the highest-concentrated area of Puerto Ricans on the mainland. Though, like me, he’s moonlighting as a teacher’s aide, he’s studying to teach hip hop dance.
We met a few months ago, when our school district asked us to attend a deescalation and restraint training. I wasn’t sure of the young, lanky guy at the end of the table, tuft of grey hair, and an uncritical 8:00am smile. (Frankly, I wasn’t sure of anyone at that hour, at that training, least of all myself.) But later, for his role-play in a breakout group, he imagined showing a kindergartener how to pop and lock. Then I noticed his easy laugh and Las Cafeteras t-shirt; that his smile seemed to come from his whole body.
We talked music and we became quick friends. He invited me to join an indoor soccer team. (We’re currently 1-1-1.) I’ve seen him battle, where he was unjustly cut too early, and I look forward to seeing him in a non-competitive space next month.
The way Remy dances reminds me of how I make art.
It’s not technical, or even aesthetic, I just sense he feels his way through. He’s also technical, but he’s tapped into something I feel, too. The way he invites music through his body is how I imagine I’d dance, if I danced. We don’t talk about this with dancers often, as we do with poets, this idea of someone finding the words for you. Stumbling on someone who speaks for you, with language you’ve at best only half-formed, is profound. Stumbling on someone who speaks your language with their body is just as powerful.
I feel the same way about Pilobolus. Their art is equal parts complex and accessible, seemingly always making sure you have a point of entry, no matter how strange.
But Remy is someone I know now.
Imagine becoming friends with one of your favorite bands as they’re starting out. You can see the clarity of their talent, work ethic, and heart right in front of you. It’s an honor to meet one of those people, whenever. It’s especially cool for me now, as I reboot my social net in this old, new city.
So I was excited when Remy accepted my offer to make some portraits together. He came to my apartment and we shot a session. With his hard work and my increasing sense of what I want, we got some great images. One he’s been proudly using for a Facebook profile photo, and I’ve been using on my front-page portfolio. I hope to follow up our session with his brother, Durán, in a few weeks, at his place.
If you’re in the Boston area and interested in making portraits (or headshots), get in touch!