by Nicole Harris
Get your tickets to see Colleen and the rest of the artists at Ignite on June 23rd!
Nicole Harris: You began your relationship with movement as a competitive gymnast. How does that experience inform your choreography today? In what ways are the two worlds similar? Different?
Colleen Walsh: In my very young years I actually danced before my career as a competitive gymnast, but as gymnastics became more serious, I stopped dancing and didn’t return to it until college when my time as a gymnast came to an end. Although looking back, as a gymnast I choreographed my own floor and beam routines, so even during that time there were signs that dance would play a part in my future...
My time as a gymnast influenced the person I am in so many ways- and does continue to influence my choreography today. It taught me a lot about dedication during times of trial, overcoming obstacles, respect, and consistency- all of which we know to be required skills of a choreographer. My work also tends to be quite athletic, rooted in my love for pushing boundaries with gravity and being upside down.
Certainly there are some differences between ‘the two worlds’ of gymnastics and dance, but I see them as more similar than they are different. Both are communities of deeply passionate and dedicated individuals who love to move. As I became more involved in the dance community, I used to be embarrassed to admit that I didn’t study dance for hours in the studio during my childhood and teen years. I felt like without that, my place in this community wasn’t validated. But, I did spend hours in the gym during those years. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate that there’s a lot of different ways to do something right- there’s a lot of different ways to get to where you want to go- and no way of getting there makes your journey any less valid.
N: Who are the dancers you’ll be working with as part of ChoreoFest?
CW: I’m actually still finalizing this based on availability and unfortunately a few dancers I work with dealing with injuries. I’m very interested in continuing to develop both solo work and group work- so no matter how things end up, I’m thrilled for this experience...I’m trusting it will work out exactly how it needs to best serving this experience. If I move forward working with dancers, I’ll be sharing who they are and how amazing they are on my social- so keep an eye out!
N: What are you most nervous about for ChoreoFest?
CW: My choreographic process tends to spend a lot of time in the ‘gathering inspiration’ or research phase, and I’m truly trying to not think much about what I’ll create until I walk in the door on June 21st, to really embrace the purpose of this festival, so that has me a bit outside of my element right now.
N: Who are your mentors, past and present?
CW: I feel really lucky to have had such tremendous mentors in so many different areas of my life. I’d love to give a shoutout to Duane Lee Holland, Jeanine McCain, Pam Pietro and T Lang who have each had a profound impact on me as a dancer and choreographer, teaching me along my journey a little bit more about the artist and human I want to be.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about the many beautiful people who have cheered me on, supported me, picked me back up, and loved me along the way.
N: What do you most value in a mentor?
CW: A big open heart and honesty.
N: What other local companies/ choreographers do you recommend people check out?
CW: This Boston dance community is the dang best. I’m lucky to come into contact with a lot of truly beautiful artists and companies and to have the opportunity to talk with them and watch them share their souls. Get out to festivals, classes, workshops, and performances this summer and support local artists!
A few people whose work, teaching, dedication, guts, service to the community, and artistry have been inspiring to me recently:
J Michael Winward
Kristin Wagner’s That’s What She Said
Ali Kenner Brodsky
Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion
...and truly so many more...
...and the people I get to stand alongside during this ChoreoFest...come on! Amazing!!
N: Where else can we find you this Spring/Summer?
CW: You can find me teaching at The Dance Complex’s Summer Sizzle Dance Festival, on a regular basis at Shanti Yoga in Hopkinton, and getting my butt into the studio a lot. A few years ago I lost a lot, and to be honest choreographing and performing has felt a lot like ripping off a bandaid since then...but it’s time to get ripping.