BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance

Blog: Q&A with Company Dancer Jessica Stroh

February 14, 2017

Q. Where are you from and what are some unique characteristics of your hometown?

A. Ocala, Florida, it’s title is the “horse capital of the world”, it has lots of open pastures for horses and cows and there are tons of elderly people, maybe that’s why I adore old people.

Q. When did you begin dancing? What’s your dance journey?

A. Well, I was a very hyper child, so my parents thought it would be a good idea to put my energy to use. So, at the age of 3 they enrolled me in ballet and tap. After that I did gymnastics for a few years, but eventually had to make the tough decision to either do dance or do gymnastics. I chose dance. Around the age of 12 I started to realize that this hobby was more of a passion, something that I had to do, something that I wanted to learn more and more about. So I went to the University of South Florida where I attained a BFA in Dance Performance and a minor in Psychology. After that I studied and received scholarships with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, BODYTRAFFIC, and Repertory Dance Theater. I also received a scholarship to study abroad in Paris, France where I performed and choreographed my own work. In Paris, I met Colleen Thomas and she invited me to come to New York to collaborate and perform with her in a new work, “Her(e) Repetitive Blueprint” my senior year of college.

Q. How are you enjoying dancing for BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance?

A. I’m enjoying the freedoms and openness of Teresa’s process. I really feel like I can contribute my own opinion and own artistry into her work, and as someone who not only loves to dance, but to choreograph as well, it’s a real treat as an artist.

Q. What is it like to dance in a company that is mostly comprised of women?

A. It’s empowering! To see all of these different women with different personalities and styles of movement strengthens my own feministic qualities and creativity. There’s so much beauty in each of the women I am blessed and honored to dance with. I am thankful to stand beside such women as these.

Q. How do you, as a dancer, approach translating the complex emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s work into movement?

A. Hmm, for me, different works have different processes. I’d say for Agawam it’s a bit of understanding the strong images Teresa expresses, then taking those images and relating them to my own life–like, when have I experienced something similar? How would that make me feel?– then taking those emotions and embodying them through a physical and spatial landscape. Perhaps creating an internal dialogue or narration while my physical external language is what’s “speaking” for me.

Q. What has the process of creating Agawam been like?

A. Play, give and take, improvisation into structure, silliness, trial and error, success.

Q. Agawam examines the post-depression era working family and family life.Although we may be decades removed from that time, how do you feel the piece resonates today?

A. We can all relate to struggle, hard work, and trying to hustle and bustle, especially here in NYC. They weren’t alone, and neither are we.

Q. In the research phase of Agawam Teresa looked into examples of cultural appropriation, or “cultural borrowing” in the post-depression era. In dance, movements are often appropriated from other dance forms or techniques, do you feel like this can be considered appropriation? Or is it just inspiration?

A. I think it depends on how it is done. In my opinion, appropriation occurs when there is lack of research on the dance form; and when one tries to emulate the form without knowing the reasoning or history behind the movements. Some try to copy the style and say they are doing  it, but it is performed sloppily and usually come across to those who know the technique well as mocking the dance form. For example, Kendall Jenner on pointe. Yikes. Inspiration of different cultural dance forms or techniques is a balance of knowing the history and reasoning behind the techniques along with drawing out and experimenting with the technique with respect to the original form.

Q. In our current political climate with so much uncertainty, what do you think the role of dance and art will be?

A. What a beautiful question. I believe in the power of art. Because of our current political climate, there are a lot of people who are hurting, questioning, angry, shocked, in fear, etc. Art, however, has the power to heal, to empower, to wake up people who don’t want to listen audibly, but can be impacted visually through movement. During the depression, people would come see dance to escape the realities of their world. Their suffering and pain and isolation would disappear as art transfixed them. I believe dance and art will be the catalyst of change, of a place where people can feel safe to express, empathize, and empower their own thoughts and the thoughts of those around them. Art is so important right now.