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 Joslynn Mathis Reed

PUSH Dance Company is proud to present choreography by Andi Salazar on September 20-22, 2019 for PUSHfest Program B at ODC Theater in San Francisco. 


Tell us a little bit about your dance background.
I started street dancing as a youth In Detroit, Michigan which led to attending a performing arts high school. This allowed me to discover ballet, modern, jazz, and West African techniques, and I continue to explore all different kinds of dance movements and techniques. I continued my studies in dance training and education at Oakland University in Michigan, but knew I wanted to leave Michigan, so I spent some time traveling and eventually moved to the Bay Area. I finished my B.A in Dance/Theater Arts from California State University, East Bay and an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Soon after graduation, I founded Mathis Reed Dance Company in 2014.

What can audiences look forward to seeing in your work at PUSHfest?
Black Womb examines black womanhood in the present; the pain and triumph, the everyday struggles, the existential reality of being a black woman. How do black women continue to push forward in a world that repeatedly tries to spiritually crush their light?

“The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”  – Malcolm X

What are the major sources of inspiration for your choreography?
My inspiration for this piece is the idea of the body shaping the space: this helped me and the dancers learn to trust each other and move freely. I want my audience to explore this journey through the lens of fusing older techniques, such as modern and ballet, with newer styles of movement. This approach opens a window into the process through which dance is constantly being regenerated.

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you have been doing in your life?
To be truly honest I’m not sure, because as a child I knew that I wanted to have dance in my life. I was not sure how, but I knew it would be a big part of who I was going to become. I would have to say I knew that I had to follow what was going to make me happy at the end of the day, and so there wasn’t another option for me in my life but to dance.

What advice would you pass on to an aspiring choreographer?
Do what you think is right and focus on your process, everything will fall into place naturally.