Faculty & Staff Profiles

Amy Chavasse

Professor of Dance
Amy Chavasse dancing

Amy Chavasse, choreographer, performer, educator, improviser, and Artistic Director of ChavasseDance&Performance is currently a Professor at the University of Michigan. Her work has been presented throughout the U.S. including premieres of new work at Triskelion Presents in Brooklyn in June 2015 and 2017, earning the comment- “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- OffOffOff). 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, Buenos Aires, 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. 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. She was the only American performing artist invited to participate and present new work at the 2019Urban Spaces Festival, Shanghai in October. She spearheaded the Shanghai trip, inviting NYC based artists, Beth Graczyk and John Gutierrez to join her and dancers, Nicole Reehorst and Emily Soong for the 8-day festival. At UrbanSpaces, Chavasse presented a new duet, Plunder Thunder, that had premiered earlier in Detroit, taught at The Shanghai International Dance Center, The Children’s Palace and improvisation for actors at The Shanghai Tower. Plunder Thunder will be performed at The New Dance Festival in Daejon, South Korea in June 2020. (now postponed to January 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

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, with performances scheduled for 2020. 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, and Grupo Krapp in Buenos Aires and teaches regularly 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.

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 improvisation 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 stasis, that re-imagines notions of popular culture, and re-examines assumptions through an anti-racist, queer, feminist lens. An ambitious new project, “Dancing Across Hemispheres— Creation and Performance Residency”, will bring members of Grupo Krapp, a multidisciplinary performance company from Buenos Aires to U-M and Michigan in late summer/ early fall 2020. Members of Grupo Krapp will join with members of my collective, ChavasseDance, to collaborate on and create a new performance project for performances in Detroit. Touring the project to Buenos Aires and beyond will follow. (Postponed to 2021 pending funding and pandemic circumstances).

I’m not particularly interested in creating works that owe their shape and vocabulary to familiar, recognizable, colonized or popular movement vernaculars. I vehemently want to address systems that trivialize or sanitize the potency of live performance to incite necessary conversations and actions.. I struggle to make art in incendiary times. I make dances to wrestle with raging questions, and to search for ways to combat Anti-Black racist structures, bias and violence. I seek collaborative projects that demand that I re-frame and update my pedagogical beliefs and practices that derive from historically privileged White forms. In reminding myself that art-making can be driven by more than tactics of survival, while trying to hang onto 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

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