Teaching/Artist

Artist Statement

  My work combines classical training in both dance and music with quirky imagery to explore story, humor, and the humanity in codified forms, to bring ironic twists to tropes and expectations. An ex-engineer and life-long lover of spreadsheets, I often use tables, graphs, and diagrams to create and teach. I love finding similarities between my training as a design engineer and my choreographic experiences. I believe in the power of “what if?”, regardless of discipline.

Photo from Syracuse.com

    I investigate removing ballroom dance from the competition circuit and onto the stage and screen in both narrative and non-narrative contexts. As a rigidly codified and regulated form, I believe the only room for growth of ballroom as an art form is to take it out of the syllabus and competition arena. My works combines ballroom and classical vocabulary to create new narratives for long-form work that both entertains and encourages reflection on gender. I want my work to do no harm. I strive to dismantle and complicate the historical and cultural narratives perpetuated by the franchised studio system. I believe in the power of the social dance to grow dance appreciation, to teach healthy relationship dynamics, and to strengthen community bonds.

MIT Open with former International Standard partner Jeff Ting

    My work also explores dance as a method of communication for technical ideas. I draw upon my background in bioengineering to work with scientists and engineers to increase general scientific literacy and to expand the notion of how science can be taught. For years I have taught Viennese Waltz to dancers of all levels using principles of orbital dynamics to illustrate partner connection, floor pathways, and rotary motion. Now I investigate choreographic constructions and broader movement vocabularies as conduits for understanding scientific principles, as well as to spread scientific understanding and appreciation through the world. This investigation allows me to maintain my connection to the two fields I love as well as to draw upon and defuse the tension of a technical mind housed in a creative body. I am seeking a way not to be split between two worlds, but to be one and whole—and I aim to achieve that wholeness through a life of making and sharing art.

Teaching Statement

    As an ex-engineer with expertise in ballet and ballroom, I employ and reframe technical concepts to bring science to the dancers, and dance to the scientists and beyond. I strive to teach with humor, patience, and a respectful insistence on quality. By modeling good communication, concern and compassion for my students, and a real enthusiasm for my subject matter, I teach the value of my field.

Photo by Stephanie Rivas

   I emphasize gender-neutral language, as well as safe and inclusive partner work. I seek to frame my coaching of partner interactions such that students can draw parallels between their conduct as a dance partner and their conduct as a partner in non-dance platonic and romantic relationships. In group settings, I have students switch partners often to encourage social interaction as well as adaptation to different bodies. I have a passion for bringing movement and body-awareness to untrained dancers and actors. Having taught beginning ballroom and swing extensively, I understand the trajectory and timeline from initial panic to self-sufficiency. I also draw on my academic training in neuroscience to build classes that take students from unconscious incompetence to mastery.    

Photo by Erich Martin

I always include the history of movement vocabularies in studio learning to give context and to encourage critical thinking about gender, race, and cultural shifts throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. I want my students to understand how contemporary ballroom and social dance forms are the result of these shifts. To move social progress and ‘decrease world suck’, we must reflect on past choices and make our own, informed choices on how we engage with material.  I am committed to providing a learning environment that is both exciting and rigorous, one that empowers both student and teacher to pursue learning.