As an artform based in the body, dance is uniquely situated to be a catalyst for human connection and empathy. Through the interrelatedness of our own corporeality, and the carriage of our common humanity and experience, it is my belief that the body itself can be a site of research, creation, and connection. The impetus of my work as an artist is to cultivate and promote such empathy and connection.
Looking to the body as a site of embodied memory and experience, my creative work and research investigates the role of personal narrative, specificity, and vulnerability, as well as storytelling, in creating empathetic connection in both process and performance. Drawing on personal experience and narrative, as well as cross-disciplinary inspiration, my creative process invites dancers into a co-creative choreographic process, engaging Authentic Movement (an improvisational movement practice) as a methodology of embodied reflection, response, and movement generation. Drawing inspiration from the individual detail and specificity of autobiographical performance in the theatre landscape, I am curious about how we locate and engage such detail in kinesthetic performance. This interest also frequently draws me towards the incorporation of spoken word, developed in a body-first approach to text, walking dancers through a process of determining what information is valuable to share with an audience as context, and when speaking with the body alone is the strongest choice. I am also drawn to the incorporation of poetry, both as a source of inspiration in the creative process, and as an element of performance itself.
Additionally, I find interest in the incorporation of both gesture and tactile props in performance – kinesthetically specific elements – as invitations toward experiences of kinesthetic empathy within an audience. I frequently pursue creative opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration – most notably the ongoing creative partnership I have with a composer, with whom I’ve built several pieces. I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with multiple theatre directors, prop masters, costume designers, lighting designers, and poets (through The University of Iowa’s International Writer’s Program). It is my hope that in the weaving together of all these elements – both within my personal creative process and through outside collaborations - I can create work that centers the realities and vulnerabilities of human experience, both the beautiful and the difficult, connecting people across boundaries and difference.
One of the major areas of focus in my research is investigating experiences of trauma, recovery, and resilience. Given the current cultural climate of civil unrest and political polarity, alongside economic, health, and natural disasters that continuously arise, asking questions like “how do we cope?”, “how do we recover?” and “how do we connect?” feels critical. In my ongoing Recovery Project series, currently comprised of four different pieces created with students at three Universities, I have sought to investigate these questions and more. I’m curious about the choreography of resilience, and about how these processes of recovery live in the body, from the simplest of falls, to the rebuilding of life after loss or disaster. With each new group I have had the opportunity to journey with through the Recovery Project process, my focus is always on the autobiographical experiences of the individuals in the room. This cultivates opportunities to empower them to give voice to their experiences in a way that is both cathartic and safe, whether that be in the body, in text, or both (which looks different for different people). In sharing these works, my hope is that both the individuals on stage and those in the audience can be drawn into empathetic experiences of resonance and connection.
Outside of my Recovery Project works, I still find myself drawn to different aspects of autobiography, humanity and relationship. By grounding my research on empathy in autobiographical experience, my goal is to counteract cultural impulses towards the dehumanization of those who think or live differently than we do, and to cultivate humanity, compassion, connection and hope. Through both the creative work I present to the world and the processes I engage to develop it, my aim is to create work that makes a social impact by drawing people in to the experiences of others, with vulnerability, honesty, and compassion.