How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?
I have always been dancing. It is one of the few things in my life that I have gravitated toward without question. I started dancing for my own pleasure, as a way of wrestling with the unnameable and processing big emotions. I was a small kid who didn’t like to speak in public, but when moving I felt powerful and ready to take up space. I studied dance and performed in recitals, but what I loved the most was improvising in my room and choreographing with neighborhood kids outside. My father is an actor and my mother loves to absorb poetry and music, so I was exposed to a lot of art early on. In college, my understanding of dance widened significantly, and I started working closely with sculptors, actors, and writers in pursuit of interdisciplinary exchange. For a while I was balancing this artistic pursuit with studies toward a medical career. What eventually drove me to embrace art-making wholeheartedly was the realization that I simply couldn’t feel whole without it.
What was the first work of art that really mattered to you? Did it influence your approach to your work?
As a kid I was an undiscerning dance enthusiast drawn to everything with moving bodies: musicals, slap-stick comedy, Solid Gold, MTV. But the first time I saw a live modern dance performance was here in Philadelphia at the Painted Bride Art Center. It was the Ellen Foreman dance company and I was probably 12 years old. The performers’ bodies varied in age and size, and the movements were grounded, powerful, subtle, and strange. In these bodies I was transported to something magical while simultaneously reminded of the dancers’ humanity (and therefore my own). This experience coupled with meeting the dancers afterward gave me a window into the life I wanted to pursue. I was also obsessed with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Laurie Anderson’s Big Science and made endless dances to them throughout childhood. At Hampshire College, I discovered contact improvisation, which was a life changing experience. Around the same time, I was performing in the passionate, precise, and playful work of BeBe Miller who was a guest choreographer at the school. All of these experiences strongly influenced my trajectory.