Amy ChavasseProfessor of Dance
- 1244 Dance
Amy Chavasse, (she/her/they) choreographer, performer, educator, improviser, and Artistic Di-rector of ChavasseDance&Performance is currently a Professor at the University of Michigan, located on the land of Odawa, Ojibwe, Boodewadomi and Wyandot peoples. Current collabora-tions include a co-curated project, with colleague, Charli Brissey, “What Democracy Means To Me”—an interactive online installation that questions and reveals the multiplicitous glitched narra-tives of American democracy through curated performance, word, video, and sound (of multiple contributors, artists, citizens at-large, users, malcontents and gamers). Contributing artist are Ca-mille Casemier, J’Sun Howard, Sacramento Knoxx, jess pretty, Ambika Raina and Fabiola Torral-ba.
What began as a multi-year, in-person project in 2020, was reimagined as a virtual collaboration called, How to Stay in a Dream, (or) Ratas de dos Platas, with Luciana Acuña and Luis Biasotto of Grupo Krapp (Buenos Aires), Austin Selden, Nola Smith (Brooklyn) and Paty Solorzano (Puebla, Mexico). It was re-conceived as an online collaboration in fall 2020. The six artists had been meeting twice weekly since January 2021, sharing ideas, perspectives and building a wildly diverse array of materials through Zoom. With the untimely passing of Luis Biasotto from complications due to COVID-19 in May, 2021, the project is being reimagined and reframed yet again. The influ-ence of Biasotto’s vision lives on in this forthcoming project, due in November 2021.
She will be co-presenting and leading a virtual improvisation workshop with Paty Solorzano for the Texas Improvisation Dance Festival at Sam Houston State University in October 2021.
Other recent, (pre-pandemic) projects include the creation of a new duet, Plunder Thunder with Nicole Reehorst and Emily Soong, for the Detroit Dance City Festival. The work was chosen to participate in The New Dance Festival in Daejon, South Korea in the summer of 2020- cancelled due to the pandemic. She was invited to participate as a guest artist at 201Urban Spaces Shanghai Festival from October 3-9, 2019, presenting Plunder Thunder at The Shanghai Tower, teaching at The Shanghai International Dance Center, and The Children’s Palace in Shanghai.
In Fall 2019, she directed and co-choreographed a new trio, Manicula is a Revolver, with NYC based dance artists, Beth Graczyk, Sarah Konner and Austin Selden. Plans for live performances of Manicula is a Revolver are in the works. Touring throughout the US in 2015-16 with Sola, Dances by and for Women, she performed a solo Conspiracy Going, Amy Needs A Lot of Empathy, prompting Melanie Wiesen of the Tampa Art Breaker to write: “The most polarizing of the six pieces, Amy Chavasse’s (University of Michigan) “Conspiracy Going,” seemed to be a rejection of the easy, digestible portrayal of contemporary dance on television. A mix of spoken word and dance, Chavasse, with no musical accompaniment, performed the intensely personal piece with incredible athleticism and passion. Her verbal commentary on sadism and authority, matched by her powerful and aggressive physicality, was the most provocative piece of art I have seen in the past year.” She presented improvisation workshops at the International Society of Improvised Music in Chateaux D’Oex, Switzerland in June 2015, and an alternative movement presentation at The University of Valetta, Malta as part of the Dance Studies Association conference in 2018. She has taught at and collaborated with members of Tanz Tangente in Berlin, was a guest teacher at pOnderosa Dance in Stolzenhagen, Germany, performed with ResExtensa Danza Teatro Danza in Bari, Italy. She has been a frequent teacher at The American Dance Festival’s as part of their WFFS guest artist series. She assisted in a new study abroad program for the U-M Department of Dance in Seville, Spain, in conjunction with Marcat Dance (Spain), and taught at the Dance Program of the National University of Costa Rica in San José, and with the resident professional companies, CCDUNA and DanzaU in July 2019.
Her work has also been presented at Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, Links Hall, Chicago, The Dance Complex- Boston and other venues. Internationally, she has taught and her work has been presented in Uppsala, Sweden, Cuba, Lithuania, Vienna, Colombia, Vancouver BC, the American Dance Festival/ Henan (China) and The Beijing Dance Festival. She premiered Low Winter Light, a duet for Donnell Oakley and Jessica Jolly at The Beijing Dance Festival in 2013. She has taught at Duncan 3.0 in Rome, and at ResExtensa’s Instituto Vittoria in Giovinazzo, Italy, and was a guest teacher at The American Dance Festival’s WFFS series from 2014-2018. She is in an ongoing collaboration for a project called Calling the Goddess with Shanghai based vocalist/ choreographer/ performer, Jay Peng Zhang that premiered in Uppsala, Sweden, followed by performances in Brooklyn NY, and Ann Arbor. Working with Sarah Konner and Austin Selden, she contributed to the creation of an evening length work, Emi, Amy and Mimi, the Celebrated Love Partners and Their Bicycle Emi Nomo. She collaborated with Sarah Konner, Austin Selden and Beth Graczyk in the creation of a companion work to “Emi Nomo” called Manicula is a Revolver. She presented improvisation workshops at the International Society of Improvised Music in Chateaux D’Oex, Switzerland in June 2015, and an alternative movement presentation at The University of Valetta, Malta as part of the Dance Studies Association conference in 2018. She has taught at and collabo-rated with members of Tanz Tangente in Berlin in 2015 and 2016, worked with members of ResExtensa Danza Teatro Danza in Bari, Italy from 2009-2014. Past and present collaborators include, Luciana Acuña, Paty Solorzano, Sarah Konner, Xan Burley, Alex Springer, Austin Selden, Peter Schmitz, Lisa Gonzalez, Beth Graczyk, Donnell Oakley, Jessica Jolly, Aidan Feldman, Malcolm Tulip and others.
Touring throughout the US in 2015-16 with Sola, Dances by and for Women, she performed a solo Conspiracy Going, Amy Needs A Lot of Empathy, prompted Melanie Wiesen of the Tampa Art Breaker to write: “The most polarizing of the six pieces, Amy Chavasse’s (University of Michi-gan) “Conspiracy Going,” seemed to be a rejection of the easy, digestible portrayal of contemporary dance on television. A mix of spoken word and dance, Chavasse, with no musical accompaniment, performed the intensely personal piece with incredible athleticism and passion. Her verbal commentary on sadism and authority, matched by her powerful and aggressive physicality, was the most provocative piece of art I have seen in the past year.”
Amy lives and performs her politics. Her work questions a broad range of incendiary topics, wrestles with assumptions about performance and representation, seeks to examine barriers and boundaries— both real and imaginary, and traverses pathways and processes that are vivid, brazen and sensuous. “Amy Chavasse is a continual surprise, solo or ensemble. Her dances are simultaneously absurd, smart and disturbing, and she chooses her collaborators well.” (Quinn Batson- OffOf-fOff).
In both her academic and professional lives, she continues to study, teach and practice improvisation, finding opportunities for her students to experience compositional or performance improvisa-tion in venues in the Detroit / Ann Arbor area. For Chavasse, creative research is a potent place that functions within a rejection of norms, that confronts outdated hierarchies and white supremacy, that re-imagines notions of popular culture, and re-examines assumptions through an anti-racist, queer, feminist lens.
She danced in the companies of Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians (NYC) and in many inde-pendent projects in NYC, Washington DC, San Diego, Seattle and beyond. BFA- University of NC School of the Arts; MFA- University of Washington.
The circumstances of each project, including the histories and physical fluency of the participants, shapes the fictive possibilities, asking that I find ways to push beyond recognizable or sanctioned limits. My experiences broaden as I age, as does my willingness to expose the urgency of my intentions. Consequently, my encounters with imagined ways of being in the world expand and sur-prise, heightening the tension between illusion, desire and subterfuge. Age gives the gift of loosen-ing attachments to inhibitions and vanity.
I seek a personal and distinct language for each event, and count on my experience working with diverse groups of artists, from across the U.S, and more recently with international artists, to reflect the tenor and temperature of the space. I’m not particularly interested in creating works that owe their shape and vocabulary to familiar or recognizable or popular movement vernaculars. I vehemently want to address systems that trivialize or sanitize the potency of live performance in promote audience members to think expansively and inclusively. I struggle to make art in incendiary times. I make dances to wrestle with raging questions, to deal with the discursive clutter and noise that fill my thoughts. I seek collaborative projects that demand that I re-frame and update my pedagogical beliefs and practices. In reminding myself that art-making can be driven by more than tactics of survival, I’m reclaiming my embrace of the unique ways that movement expresses desire, pleasure and can expose or imagine an alternative reality.
BFA, University of North Carolina School of the Arts
MFA, University of Washington