BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance

Blog: Q&A WITH COMPANY DANCER KELSEY RONDEAU

May 5, 2017

Q. Where are you from?

A. Both of my parents are in the Air Force, and as such, we moved around quite a bit. At various points in my life, I’ve lived in Boston, MA, Logan, UT, Auburn, WA, Redding, CA, Austin, TX, and Berlin, Germany, before settling in Brooklyn a year ago.

Q. What are some unique characteristics of your hometown?

A. All of my hometowns are unique in some way! For simplicity’s sake, I’ll go with Redding. Redding is situated in the far north of California- it’s closer to Oregon than to Sacramento, the state capital, and where I spent most of my childhood. It’s the largest city in the area, and there’s a great performance culture. All of the High Schools compete to put on the biggest, most spectacular shows, and it was in this environment that I started performing.

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

A. I started dancing at age 13 when I joined a summer performing arts camp, Kids Unlimited. I didn’t know a box step from a bourrée! I loved performing and I kept going back every year for five years, finally getting to dance with the highest group and choreographing some of the routines. During the school year, I took Dance instead of PE and I was dancing or acting in every show that my school put on. My dance teacher also had his own company, The Dance Project, which put on two shows per year: a giant, Rockette-inspired revue called The Cascade Christmas, and a spring revue. After years of auditioning, I finally became a company member my senior year of High School. This was in addition to performing in the school musical, so I remember running off from one rehearsal to another on top of school work and college applications. I so love dancing and performing that I decided to major in Dance at the University of Texas at Austin. While there, I joined the student company, Dance Repertory Theater, and performed in works by Ohad Naharin, Robert Battle, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, and premiered in works by faculty and students. After getting my BFA in 2014, I moved to Berlin, Germany, to study in the ten-month dance intensive at Tanzfabrik. There, I studied with teachers from across Europe and learned to move and create dance in new ways. I moved back to the States in 2015, where after being a center intern with Gibney Dance Center, I joined BodyStories as a company apprentice in the fall of 2016.

Q. How have you enjoyed your experience as an apprentice with Bodystories? How do you think that experience will change when you transition into working with Bodystories in a project based role?

A. I have enjoyed my time as an apprentice with BodyStories; the experience has opened my eyes to new ways of making and performing dance, and that it is possible to have fun while working. Simultaneously, it’s a challenge to learn everyone’s part, especially since our movement is often self-devised and everyone has a very idiosyncratic way of moving. However, I enjoy the challenge to push myself outside of my usual patterns while trying to interpret movement in my own way.

Q. How do you, as a dancer, approach translating the complex emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s work into movement? (Take us through that process).

A. What Teresa is really interested in- and what interests me most about her work- is the way that the dancers relate with each other and the way that those relationships are explored. Agawam is the story of family, and all of the complexities thereof. Sometimes the dancers support each other, sometimes they fight, sometimes they move in a pack, sometimes individually. The way the dancers move and contribute to the overall structure of the work is always compelling.

Q. What was the process of creating Agawam like? What was it like understudying various roles?

As I stated before, learning and understudying various roles can be a challenge, as everyone moves in a very idiosyncratic way. Learning to move like someone who comes from a breakdancing background, for instance, has been a challenge. There’s more to it than simply learning the steps- interpreting the role, and making it my own, especially when I am not the same size- or gender- of the other dancers, has made the process fraught with difficulties, but I think that they paid off and I’m glad for the experience.

Q. How was your experience in the rehearsal and movement-making process?

A. My experience with the rehearsal process was different from others that I have previously had. So much of the first months were improvisation and material making, and then by the end we had enough material to shape and edit. I spent a great deal of time studying how the other dancers moved, and when called on, I was able to step in and act as a proxy if someone were out for the day. I had to become a bit of a chameleon.

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

A. I recently heard someone likening the arts in an authoritarian world to a canary in a coal-mine. The arts, and dance in particular, fulfill a very important role in society. Like the canary’s song, dance is beautiful, but the second that it’s snuffed out, we should be very, very scared. Dance has the potential to subvert norms, and make allow for different voices to be heard, and connect us with the primal urge to move. In a world where more and more of our time is spent in front of a screen, I think that’s one of the most important things we can do for ourselves.