My choreography emerges out of the need to find wholeness and establish connection. As I witness order emerge from disorder in a dance I am creating, I begin to understand how to navigate chaos within my own life. My dances are an embodiment of this quest.
It is no coincidence that movement is the medium I most often prefer to create art. Silence serves me well at the beginning of my process. I call upon memories and feelings to inspire me, but I also rely on the dancers that I invite into the process to contribute their thoughts on the matters we are exploring, a practice that reflects my belief that there can be no real peace or harmony if we fail to work for a more just and jointly supportive society.
My creative work traverses realms of popular, vernacular-based forms and classical forms. As a white, female American born in the 20th century, I acknowledge that I rely upon material that stems from both European and African dance traditions. This has brought about a physical language of dynamic action in American vernacular and modern dance that is marked by a historical cycle of cultural appropriation. My work is a reflection of my own influences and experiences within this context. My intention is to, “Integrate with integrity. Appropriate with appreciation,” as expressed by Sylvia Glasser of Moving into Dance Mophatong, South Africa. Studying the technique of the inimitable Katherine Dunham has been enormously valuable to me in order to frame my approach as an artist. My motives are to reveal facets of my own identity and to build bridges between communities.
Much of my work is guided by ideas of music visualization or inspired by human interaction. I employ unity as a grounding element but I enjoy using contrast to bring about an element of surprise. Arranging movements through opposite extremes of shape, rhythm and dynamics inspires limitless responses. This approach helps me depict my own trials in life, marking the highs and lows. It also speaks to the effort of cultivating peace by rooting myself spiritually. I believe some of the hardest work we do as humans is to embrace change and to surrender control of the moment.
The nature of dance is ephemeral; it disappears the moment after performance. When we witness dance, we may remember specific images, but we also take away feelings that can be reawakened through our senses. The stories and situations we see onstage resonate with us on a visceral level. My goal as a choreographer is to leave a strong impression, inviting the audience to inhabit the new world that we create onstage.
Dance Training Narrative
During my career, I have had the privilege of studying with many incredible dance artists. Charthel Arthur and Robert Estner from the Joffrey Ballet provided me a classical foundation at the School of the Grand Rapids Ballet, bringing such notable artists as Paul Sutherland, Edward Villela, Trinette Singleton, Brunhilda Ruiz, George de la Pena, Winthrop Corey, Jefferson Baum, Phillip Jerry, and Jim Snyder.
My modern dance studies began with Linda Graham of Hope College and continued at the University of Michigan Dance Department with Bill DeYoung and Peter Sparling. Later, in New York City, I would seek out teachers who offered challenging new paradigms for contemporary dance, including Ronald K. Brown and Dwight Rhoden.
While on scholarship at Steps on Broadway in the late 90’s, I studied with faculty including Richard Pierlon, Roberta Mathes, and Milton Myers. Jazz teachers through the years have included many members of Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, beginning with Dawn MacIlhargey-Wigert and continuing at the University of Arizona with Susan Quinn, Sam Watson, and Michael Williams. Williams also helped me to develop as a tap dancer, adding to my foundation provided by teachers Don Smith, Roseanne Devries, and Terri Filips.
Moved by a great affinity for dances derived from Africa, I began to seek out classes in New York City with teachers such as Youssouf Koumbassa from Guinea. I also learned foundations of hip hop dance with artists including Jorge “Fabel” Pabon, Anita “Rockafella” Garcia, and Ruben “Fusion” Monet.
At the University of Arizona, I trained with esteemed faculty Melissa Lowe, Amy Ernst, Susan Quinn Williams, and Michael Williams. In the broader Tucson dance community, I began learning aerial dance with O-T-O Dance founder Annie Bunker. I continued to deepen my knowledge and appreciation of African diasporic dances with Dr. Ojeya Cruz Banks, Jade Beall, Roseangela Silvestre, Moustapha Bangoura, Fara Tolno, Rujeko Dumbutshena, and Jean-Guy Saintus.
Gaining the title of Dunham Technique Instructor in 2012, my teachers have included Vanoye Aikens, Kieth Williams, Albirda Rose, Theo Jamison, Penny Godboldo, and Patricia Wilson. Katherine Dunham herself conducted master workshops that I attended in 2000, 2002, and 2004.