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Nicole Harris: This is your first time participating in NACHMO Boston. What are you most excited about? What makes you the most nervous?
Dani Robbins: I'm most excited about participating in NACHMO because of the timeline--I think a huge part of a creative practice is sometimes making yourself available to create small projects quickly and with less self-judgment than projects with more luxurious timelines. There's an important set of skills buried there--following your intuition, making choices quickly, removing the second-guess impulse, celebrating your taste. I'm thrilled to be participating in NACHMO because I think so many of those deeper creative skills come to the surface in a collapsed timeline like one month. Now following my own advice on that is what I'm most nervous about...
N: You run a dance program at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. From what I understand it’s a fairly unique program. Can you tell us about it?
DR: I'm really lucky to be teaching as an adjunct at College of the Atlantic right now. COA is a tiny liberal arts school where every student receives the same credential: a degree in Human Ecology. This makes for really well-rounded students that take everything from contemporary dance technique, to marine biology, to conflict resolution or poetry. I'm working to make the dance curriculum as interdisciplinary as the model of the college. Dancers and choreographers write, draw, and heal. They are political, they are scientists, they are active citizens. I try to replace the term "dance practice" with "embodied scholarship practice" as much as possible.
DR: To be honest, my rural location in Bar Harbor has been the singular largest challenge to my work as an artist for the past four years. It's difficult to make a 6 hour round trip to take class, see a show, or connect in-person with a larger dance community. However, I feel that I'd choose being a rurally-based artist again and again, because it has pushed me to develop a creative community for myself. That often means reaching beyond circles of "dance people" and engaging community members who might not have a long history with contemporary dance. That's where some serious magic happens, and it's allowed me to foster relationships with families, schools, students, seniors etc. I'm excited about the opportunity NACHMO provides to connect with the larger New England dance community, as that's something I really crave. I'm finding that being a rural artist just means casting your net for community a little further.
N: You were artist in residence at Acadia National Park. Tell us about your experience!
DR: I was really lucky to participate in the Acadia National Park Artist Residency program back in 2019 alongside a close collaborator of mine. We spent lots of time doing sensory-based work in the National Park (lots of tourists wondered who the folks laying on the rocks were...) I think the residency really challenged us to consider our relationship between our bodies, colonization, and the concept of "property." I feel grateful to have had that space as an emerging artist.
N: There are so many incredible local choreographers here. Who are some of your favorites and why?
DR: One of my favorite Boston-based choreographers is Betsi Graves. I feel really lucky to have studied with Betsi as a young dancer through Urbanity Dance. I really think of her as a whimsical genius--she builds a captivating world for each dance to live in with its own delightfully bizarre logic. I also love to share space with Scott McPheeters, who is based in Biddeford, Maine. Just a radiant human. His movement really captures the expansive joy of dancing.
N: We recognize how important mentors are to artists at all stages of their careers. Who are your mentors and how have they impacted your trajectory?
DR: One of my closest mentors is actually a Boston-based dancer, teacher, choreographer, Jaclyn Thompson Waguespack. Jaclyn and I met when I was really young, and in a very tender place in terms of my relationship to dance. She offered me a pathway through dance that was healthier and served my growth as a whole person. It's been a huge gift to grow together as artists.