BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance

Blog: Q&A with Company Dancer Maria Gardner

March 7, 2017

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

A. I’m from Cortland, Ohio. It’s a small town about an hour outside of Cleveland. I grew up on a lake called Mosquito Lake which is our signature attraction I guess. Despite its name, it’s a pretty fun lake. I grew up jetskiing and boating on it, and have some great memories of that. Other than that, we have a mall..it’s a super small town.

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

A. I started dancing when I was three at a local YMCA and then I got into the competition gig when I was around nine through twelve. After high school I stopped dancing to pursue a marketing degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and I didn’t dance at all that entire year. It [dancing as a career] wasn’t something that was talked about in my hometown, although I did have friends that danced on cruise ships, but professional dancing wasn’t really an option. Then I researched dance classes in Pittsburgh and came across Point Park University. I contacted them in August going into my Sophomore year and their auditions were already done, but they asked me if I wanted to come in to take a summer class. They accepted me into the program and I started classes the next week. It was really quick, I hadn’t danced in a year and I forced myself into a leotard and tights and just made it happen.

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

A. It’s a very interesting, intricate process, something that I’m not really used to. She definitely treats us like artists, not just dancers.  Movement is constructed as a group with Teresa.

Q. How do you approach translating the complex emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s movement? What does that process look like?

A. It’s super challenging. Every rehearsal I have to kind of zen out to get myself in that mode where I can really focus on what Teresa is trying to portray. So she’ll describe a theme to us, and then for me I have to find a way where I can make her inspiration be my inspiration, so I can render genuine movement. Otherwise it’s just not working. So I take the inspiration that I found and produce movement, and then hopefully we can find a throughline between our two ideas and make a successful phrase.

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

A. It’s a very mental process. Every day it’s a new challenge to overcome. It’s not just like, ‘here’s choreography, do it, okay great let’s move on.’ Every single movement that we’re doing is dissected and it has to have purpose.

Q. What’s the most challenging aspect of dancing Agawam?

A. I start off the piece with a solo, and it’s super technical. And although I have a technical background, a bit, that’s not my comfort zone at all. It’s very slow, adagio, lots of balances, and for me that’s a very challenging aspect of dancing the piece.

Q. What’s the most rewarding aspect of dancing Agawam?

A. All of us created this piece. All of us put our own thoughts into it and it’s very personal for each of us, and even though it stemmed off of Teresa’s inspiration and her background, it all resonates with each of us and I think that’s super important.

Q. Agawam explores the post-depression era and working family life, although we may be decades removed from that time, how do you think the piece can resonate today?

A. I mean, we’re in New York, the grind still continues. We’re definitely past the depression era but there’s still a lot happening in the political climate that we’re in right now. There’s a lot to strive for, so I think that we’re all in a good place but there’s still a lot of heaviness and tension in this environment.

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

A. I think art is more important than ever right now. The power of art should not be underestimated at all. As artists we have the responsibility to enlighten people but also to empower them to come together.