Today we’re joined by Phoebe. Phoebe is a phenomenal dancer who both dances and choreographs. She has danced regularly throughout school and with companies, but lately has mostly been dancing for herself. Phoebe has also recently taken up cooking and baking. She cooks both for baking and presentation. It’s clear she’s an incredibly passionate artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am a dancer and choreographer, mostly just for myself these days, but in the past I have choreographed and performed with college dance clubs and teams, and companies affiliated with my dance studios before that. I’m not amazing, but I don’t think I’m terrible, either. When I’m not dancing, I love cooking and baking, both in terms of flavorful and presentational aspects.
What inspires you?
Is it cliché to say that music inspires me most of the time? I have what I affectionately call a “bad habit” of dancing to just about anything, especially if it’s something I hear often, including but not limited to TV show and podcast theme songs. If you pull up next to me at a stoplight, there is a 90% chance I’ll be choreographing to the radio. I love getting hooked in by a beat or a lyric and seeing what my body comes up with, or how I can express a feeling evoked by a song.
I am also constantly inspired by other dancers, both my friends and on YouTube, though I avoid watching any one video repeatedly when choreographing in an effort to avoid plagiarism. I am also inspired by figure skaters, especially since I took skating lessons myself for several years.
Alternatively, sometimes it helps me to start with an overarching theme and go from there. To give an example, my senior year of college my dance composition class put on a concert where the theme was The Four Seasons, and I was in charge of Autumn, so I was inspired by images of falling leaves, harvest, the idea of transition and change, folksy-sounding instrumentals, and a general Halloween-y spookiness.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My parents put me in dance classes when I was three, because I would dance all over the house. To the best of my knowledge, I started choreographing when I was around eight, and since then I’ve always loved putting a dance together and seeing it come to life onstage. For a long time I wanted to be a professional dancer, until it became clear for multiple reasons why that wasn’t going to work out.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
If it’s a solo, there’s a 90% chance I will either: a) forget my own choreography and have to make something up on the spot, or b) realize about 2/3 of the way through that I made this too hard on myself and I have reached the limit of my endurance, but must power through anyway.
On a more serious note, I think that I tend towards big, more dramatic movements in my choreography. I also like incorporating visually interesting formations in my choreography whenever possible.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Keep practicing – even if you think you suck! Chances are you don’t suck nearly as much as you think you do, and you can’t improve unless you keep practicing. It also helps you stay in shape, so that when you finish a dance and want to record it, you can look your best doing it.
Also, do it for yourself, even if you’re not doing it for anybody else. Find studios and companies and communities where you feel supported and welcome, and that you genuinely love both the dances you choreograph and the ones you’re just a dancer in. Don’t try to imitate anyone else too closely, but make sure your dancing and your choreography feels true and authentic to you.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as asexual. I haven’t totally figured out my romantic orientation, but demiromantic is feeling like a good place for right now.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I haven’t encountered any because I haven’t been out to many people yet, and even fewer among people I’ve danced with. I have felt personally uncomfortable performing more overtly sexual choreography, so I’ve handled this by being selective about the choreographers I work with, and if an explanation is necessary, I’ll just respectfully say that while I like their style, I just don’t think it’s for me. So far, no one I’ve danced with has been offended.
I do worry that sometimes I use movements that I might see as sensual, but others might see as more sexual. The best advice I can give here is to be comfortable with yourself and your body, do what feels right for you, and remember that whatever behavior you decide to engage in in your personal life doesn’t have to be reflected in what you decide to do onstage.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That just because I’m not sexually attracted to someone, doesn’t mean I can’t love them deeply, or that I hate sex/would treat it as a commodity or something to be “earned” in a relationship. This mostly stems from past relationships.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
I don’t know that I’m the best person to be giving advice on this, but I will say this: you know you best, and you’re the only one who can decide what labels work best for you, or if you want to have labels at all. And anyone who doesn’t respect your orientation and what you are and aren’t comfortable with isn’t worth it.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I have a small YouTube channel where I occasionally post videos of my work. It’s very sporadic because I’m no longer part of a studio or a company, but I upload when I can. This is my favorite solo project I’ve done so far, this is my most popular dance that I’ve ever choreographed, although I don’t dance in it, and this is my personal favorite group dance that I am also dancing in (kind of my baby from that year).
Thank you, Phoebe, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.