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



Portraits by Scott Horton

I make performances that are about personal stories that oftentimes remain unseen or unheard. These stories are lived experiences, oral histories, how we navigate this world and more.



When Houseguests Become Songbirds
in Collective Matters on Dance and Other Body Modifications
published in In Dance, 2022. https://bit.ly/songbirdssing


Writings on Dance: Artistic Reframing for Celestial Black Bodies
in Critical Black Futures Speculative Theories and Explorations
published in Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, pg 93-111


Spatial Politics
Dancing Around Race Zine, Edition 1
published in Hope Mohr Dance, 2019. https://bit.ly/spatialpo

Photo by Matt Haber

Movement is inherently bold, it puts us in dialogue with our sense of self and our relationship to others, it lays bare our questions of the unknown.

I choreograph liberatory power and I believe in bringing Art to the People.

Raissa Simpson

Raissa Simpson (she/her) is a scholar and an post-disciplinary artist whose award-winning choreography is at the intersection of racial and cultural identities and centers around discourse on the complex experiences of racialized bodies. She holds mixed heritage by way of African-descended sharecroppers from Mississippi and as a daughter of an immigrant from the Philippines. She founded PUSH to examine the body as a site for racial discourse and since then has toured and performed in over 50 venues.

As an educator Raissa is currently a Core Lecturer at Stanford University.  She has also served on such faculties as San Jose State and UC Davis; and as guest with ACT, Santa Clara University, Sacramento State, SF State, Alonzo King Lines Dance Center, Georgia Tech, San Jose Dance Theatre, Marin School, and many others. In 2008, she founded the school which is now known as PUSH Conservatory. 

Her dances have been presented at Aspen Fringe Festival, Joyce SoHo, Dance St. Louis, Ferst Center, Evolve Dance Festival, Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival, Links Hall, Black Choreographers Festival and many others. She has held residencies at Dance Initiative Carbondale, Bayview Opera House, Sacramento State Univ. Margaret Jenkins Chime, CounterPulse and has collaborated with such distinguished artists as Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids.

Throughout her career, Simpson’s pieces do not reside merely on stage — but are also site-specific installations in public spaces — like museums and city centers. Her work is sweeping, vibrant, multi-layered, and socially relevant, often involving aspects of creative technology. Village Voice dance critic Deborah Jowitt notes, “Simpson dances big.”

Her awards include the IZZIES, a Magrit Mondavi Award, Choreoproject Award, San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, Grants for the Arts, Shape Up SF and the Dream Keeper Initiative.

Raissa has had the privilege to mentor and train the next generation of artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an active participant of Dancing Around Race, “a cohort of artists that presents a spectrum of aesthetic perspectives, creating conditions for BIPOC artists and communities to thrive, while confronting systemic racism.”

She regularly participates in advocacy such as with AATAIN, a consortium of San Francisco-based African American arts organizations that create work deeply rooted in diverse Black experiences. Her collaborations include working with such artists as GG Torres, UNWOMAN, Philip Butler, John Eric Henry, jamil nasik and Miles Lassi, among others.

Raissa began her training at Glenna Bell Moening’s Dance Art Studio and later continued on to San Jose Dance Theatre. She received a Regional Dance America award to study at Iowa University and later went on to attend the schools of Cleveland Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Paul Taylor School.  She received her BFA from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance.

Prior to her tenure at PUSH, Simpson had an extensive performance career in San Francisco with Robert Moses Kin and Joanna Haigood’s Zaccho Dance Theatre.