Who or what are you?! I am a woman who wears many hats. I am an aspiring choreographer/dance artist, an amateur photographer, blog writer, graphic designer, and one-hell-of-a-bartender. On top of all of that, I am also a wife, and a proud stepmom to the sassiest (in the best possible way) 9-year-old you could ever meet.
Top three loves outside of dance. Go! 1. My cats (Toots and Waffles) 2. My incredibly supportive husband, stepdaughter and family 3. Anything where I can feel creative (cooking, painting, writing, etc.)
Write one sentence about who you are as a choreographer. When it comes to choreography, I tend to work collaboratively with my dancers to create work that combines my interests in the gestural simplicity of post-modernism and the trusting nature of improvisational partner work.
Tell me about the dancers in your piece. My dancers in this piece are some of my very best friends in Seattle. I have worked with all of them on previous projects and they consistently bring creativity, authenticity, and a willingness to try just about anything to rehearsal and performance, plus we have a lot of fun too! I am so ecstatic to being working with such a hardworking group of talented dancers.
What are your favorite things about making art in the Seattle dance scene? My favorite thing about making art in Seattle is how welcoming everyone in the community has been. As a transplant, I was pleasantly surprised to see how people make a genuine effort to support one another and the creation of new works, as well as the fact that there's a broad range of opportunities to do so.
Briefly describe your process for making this dance. My process for this piece has been all trial and error. I tend to get these crazy ideas in my head that defy the laws of physics. I had to find a way to create the same effect without asking my dancers to perform feats beyond human capability. I spent many hours reflecting on what it means to support yourself as an artist and the sacrifices that need to be made from both artistic and financial fronts. This work is an expression of how easy it is to get stuck in the monotony of everyday life and forget what matters most to you, whatever that may be.
What lessons did you learn from the last dance you made that you've taken with you into this current process? The biggest lesson I learned in making my last work is to take risks and to not be afraid to bring crazy ideas to the table. It's amazing what kind of material can be generated by one or two crazy ideas. Whether it's daredevil partnering or the simplest hand gesture, it can add so much depth to a piece and challenge you to create outside of the box.
What's your coffee order? Peppermint Mocha! It's like Christmas in a cup.
What artists/troupes are inspiring you right now? The Three Yells is my biggest inspiration currently. I really love the composition of this group's works; the way Veronica Lee-Baik balances athletic and abstract gestural movement.
Also, I am forever inspired by my friends and mentors at Relay Dance Collective. I have learned so much about the dance community and life in general from these amazing women, and I am so grateful for all the opportunities they have given me, including creating my first work to be presented in Seattle!
What's the biggest challenge you face as a dancer/choreographer? The biggest challenge I face as an artist is keeping my material unique and abstract while still being able to appeal to a broader audience. I think it's really important to create work that can be palatable to audience members of all walks of life in order to bring more people into the dance community. With that said, it is also important to me to challenge the idea that dance has to be a narrative in order for that to be achieved. I often struggle with finding the balance between these in my works, meaning.
What are your goals for yourself? My biggest artistic goal is to create and produce my first evening-length work which I plan to rework into a film project .
What else have you been working on lately? In addition to choreographing for Relay Dance Collective's Season 6 Kickoff, I will also be performing works by Paula J. Peters and an excerpt of Hailey Burt's new work with Inlay Dance, which will also be performed at Inlay Dance Presents: Foundation. I have also been working on creating a blog about my experiences as an artist and the stresses of managing work, life, and art.
What's next for you? What's next for me is to continue on the path I'm on; keep creating and expanding my artistic voice in both choreography and performance.
Relay Dance Collective Season 6 Kickoff Featuring choreography by Paula J Peters, Ella Mahler, Gabrielle Gainor/Austin Sexton, Amber Jackson, and Hailey Burt.
Yaw Theater 6520 5th Ave S Seattle, WA 98108 Cost: Online $15; Door $20
By Gabrielle Gainor In honor of our Season 6 Kickoff, Relay Dance Collective has commissioned a new work by one of our favorite people: Paula J Peters! In addition to being one of our dance teachers growing up, Paula has taught at the university level all across the Pacific Northwest, and now lives in New York State where she works as an Associate Professor of Dance at SUNY Fredonia.Her choreography has been presented by Men In Dance, Cornish Dance Theater, Fremont DanceWorks, Cornish Preparatory Dance Company, and Relay Dance Collective (in our first season!).
In addition to being a former professional dancer and a former member of Spectrum Dance Theater, Paula is also a dance scholar immersed in the research and history of jazz dance. She and long-time collaborator Rhonda Cinotto previously created Contemporary Jazz Dance Project (of which, several Relay dancers had the honor of participating in as students and performers in 2013).
Working with Paula during her brief trip back to Seattle from New York was such a treat for the dancers in Relay. As a viewer of the piece, this new work Overload ranks among my favorite Paula works I've seen. It's clearly created with her strong voice as an athletic jazz dancer, but infused with the individual strengths of the dancers. It feels fresh; like modern dance but with a jazz sensibility. I know that when you come to our show in September, you will love it!
You just created a new work for Relay titled Overload. Tell me more! Overload is a highly athletic, intense work full of sharp, direct movements peppered with moments of exhausted rest. My inspiration for the work was watching the body language of the students at my university reveal the stresses of being over-committed.
Where do you get your inspiration as a choreographer in general? Watching people and seeing the fullness of the human experience is where I find most of my choreographic inspiration. I love people and how diverse their stories are, and I want to bring that to the stage through my choreography.
What was it like working with Relay Dance Collective? Working with the Relay dancers was a fun, energizing experience. They were focused, eager to bring their voices to the process, and pushed themselves outside of their comfort zones to achieve the intention of the work.
Has your time teaching in New York influenced your creative process in any way? Leaving the Seattle dance community to teach at State University of New York at Fredonia has changed my relationship to what I believe is jazz-dance movement. I’m now more interested in how to teach and choreograph the aesthetic and performance qualities of jazz dance rather limit myself to the confines of jazz dance “steps.” It’s been a freeing experience to look at the art form of jazz dance from a new perspective.
What makes your work as a choreographer unique as far as Seattle dance goes? I feel my work is unique in the Seattle dance scene because of its roots in jazz dance sensibilities. The movement qualities of jazz dance that I am interested in are sharp, direct, and angular with a sense of sizzle in the center. My work tends to stay away from circular movements and shape-flow, which is something that I feel sets it apart in this region.
"It was such a fun process to see how things unfolded so quickly from one phrase. Paula was so open to ideas and making the movement work for your body and personality. I'm so excited to see it costumed and on stage in September!" - RDC dancer Ian Howe