Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company Builds Vibrant Contemporary Dances To Gain A Deeper Understanding Of The Challenges Attributed To Mixed Heritage.


In Conversation with Jennifer Perfilio

PUSH Dance Company is proud to present choreography by Jennifer Perfilio on September 20-22, 2019 for PUSHfest Program D at ODC Theater in San Francisco. Photo by Kena Frank.


Tell us a little bit about your dance background.
I studied various forms of dance all through my youth, and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a BA in dance.  In NYC, I studied (with Wally Cardona, Sean Curran, Lynn Simonson among others) and performed in the downtown modern dance scene, working as a company member of HT Chen and Dancers, and with site-specific choreographer, Stephen Koplowitz.  It was Stephen and my performance of Fenestrations, alongside a cast of 71 other NYC-based dancers, that inspired me to further seek choreographers making dance for public spaces.  Upon moving to San Francisco I performed in theaters with many local choreographers including Mary Carbonara, Charles Moulton, and Amy Foley; but also maintained a dedication to site-specific work, performing outdoors in sites around the city with Jess Curtis, Katie Faulkner, and for 10 years with Kim Epifano.  As a choreographer, I am not making site-specific work (yet!), but my work as a site-specific dancer has undoubtedly informed the way I look at movement and shape, both in my dance making, and as I move through the world.

What can audiences look forward to seeing in your work at PUSHfest
With an attention to form, nuance, and process, my work seeks to both expose and affirm the meaningful state of our fragile, subtle bodies.  I hope audiences will find enjoyment in the subtle moments of my work, in discovering how much the moving body can give on its own, without an overdetermination of narrative or relationship.  They may see tenderness, they may see strength, they may find humor in its simplicity. I hope they feel compassion for the human form. I hope they find space in it to see what they want.

Photo by Kena Frank

What are the major sources of inspiration for your choreography?
My major inspiration comes from a desire to learn about the moving body more deeply. To question its limits, its patterns, its culture, its vulnerabilities, its resiliency.   

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you have been doing in your life?
I like this question.  I like to imagine other possibilities.  I may have chosen social work.  Or in another life I might be a research scientist who climbs and studies giant redwood trees.  On breaks, if I could lie on their branches, way above the world down below, I would. I’ve also imagined that I would like to be a midwife, catching babies and letting them know that the world can at times be a gentle place, where people are held by others.  

What advice would you pass on to an aspiring choreographer?
Make time to be quiet with yourself, to listen to your voice, to what is driving you and why.  Where does the drive come from… and where does it come from before that? Write it down, or collage it, or draw it, whatever your method of recording is, and then go to the studio and move.  Find collaborators that push your limits. Remember that you have chosen a generous and courageous path. Be generous and courageous.

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