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 Liz Shea

PUSH Dance Company is proud to present choreography by Elizabeth Shea Dance on Wednesday November 11, 2020 LIVE at 6 PM. Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Shea Dance. 

This Fall, join us for PUSHfest Global, our virtual dance festival featuring 18 choreographers from the Bay Area and beyond. From October 7 through November 18, each Wednesday evening at 6 PM meet a new group of PUSHfest Artists for dynamic conversations about dance and activism. | Tickets & More Here

Tell us a little bit about your dance background.
I feel like I’ve been dancing my whole life – the need to move is strong! I began formal dance training in ballet, but eventually discovered and fell in love with modern dance. While pursuing a dance major in college, I also became interested in behavioral science, particularly motor learning, which I studied in graduate school. My somatic investigations and curiosity about the interplay between dancers led me to movement research in choreography and a career as an independent dance artist. I eventually found my way to university life, and have enjoyed mentoring young artists immensely.

What can audiences look forward to seeing in your work at PUSHfest?
In my own work, I am very much a storyteller; a narrator, a chorus. An abstractionist, I constantly seek novel approaches to telling human stories. Sculpting space through kinetic energy and creating highly visual images that can disappear and reform in a moment are indicative of the transient nature of our world and the power our bodies hold. I embrace physicality and the flow of movement informed by the biomechanics of our human mind/bodies.

What are the major sources of inspiration for your choreography? What are you curious about?
I am continually drawn to the psychology and sociology of human behavior, my choreographies investigating and commenting on relationships and communities. My work is highly informed by the dancers themselves, the physical energy they create and their interactions with each other. The effect of one body upon another, the interactions resulting in multitudes of possibilities holds great intrigue and is ripe for investigation. Texture and quality, momentum and release, help create a specialized movement vocabulary that more often than not are guided by bodies’ natural rhythms but can fit into the phrasing of compositions and sound scores.

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you have been doing in your life?
Most likely an archeologist! I’m fascinated by the repeated patterns of human behavior over time, and the physical act of investigating. Of course in these challenging times, I can’t help but think what a career in health might have looked like.

What does your work respond to or activate within this world or yourself?
I am deeply committed to coaching performers, and this is where the choreographer becomes the director/conductor, acting as interpreter of her own vision with the bodies in a given time and place. Each new cast brings new information to a choreography and the work itself is forever altered by a dancer’s very humanity and their own unique body. This makes the craft of choreography deeply personal as a performer shares their embodied understanding of the world with the audience.

What advice would you pass on to an aspiring choreographer?
Stick with it. Not everyone will like you and/or your work. That’s ok. It’s most important to be true to yourself. Yes, know what’s happening in the world around you, and respond to movement in the field. But there’s only one you, your unique way of seeing the world.

Learn more:
instagram/twitter: @lizshea29

Reviewed as “stunning…mesmerizing…powerful,” Elizabeth Shea’s choreography has been produced by numerous festivals across the USA, as well as in Israel, China, and Australia. Her work in dance film have been official selections at festivals internationally and have won several awards, including Best Choreography for the Lens and Best Dance Film.