Elizabeth Dishman: I was born in Denver and took for granted my romance with the front range mountains until I moved to Atlanta for college. Then to Ohio for grad school, back to Atlanta for a handful of years and on to Brooklyn in 2005, where west began to mean crazy tall buildings instead of purple mountain majesties.
bk: How long have you been choreographing dance/performance?
ED: Let’s see. Not counting the dances I made up on my back patio as a 5 year old, I was drawn to choreography in college, ahem, 18 years ago (???!!). I started choreographing professionally soon after and have never looked back.
bk: Was there a point as a dancer that you shifted from being a performer of other people’s ideas and gained more confidence in your own/How did you gain this identity for yourself?
ED: I think this transition occurred across disciplines for me. I was a voice major in college and always struggled to realize somebody else’s vision in my singing. As I dipped my toes into the world of making dance, I discovered so much freedom and creative energy that showed me how stifled I had felt as a singer. Who knew? I’m so grateful to have been ushered into this new creative realm…it was totally unexpected for me.
bk: What is your earliest memory of experiencing Dance – either by doing yourself or watching?
ED: My mom tells me I cut a ferocious rug–er, linoleum–in the kitchen from a young age, but my earliest dancing memory is learning to point my toes in my first ballet class at age 4…it was in a huge high school gym and we practiced making bridges with our feet so the ants could crawl under them. Charming. But actually, it was.
bk: Is there another artist (visual or performative) that you could cite as a major inspiration?
ED: Nicole Livieratos [pictured below] of Gardenhouse Dance really influenced me in my early choreographing years with her inspired and articulate use of simple visual and movement ideas woven together in profound, wordless meaning. An early work of hers, Light, utterly fascinated me and gave me a taste for this thoughtful, imagistic approach to the body and movement theater. She also challenged me early on to pursue higher and more authentic levels of exploration. Ouch, but “faithful are the wounds of a friend”. Currently Susan Marshall kills me with a similarly transcendent knack for unearthing deeply resonant images that speak simply but profoundly about things that feel universal and desperately important. I was thrilled to be one of six choreographers chosen to participate in her first summer intensive workshop. It totally changed me.
bk: Where else in life do you get inspired?
ED: Oh goodness…
The city. God’s creation and constant moving care. Certain 2 and 5 year old boys. [Elizabeth is the mother of two] Sculpture. Bridge builders. Birds. So many brilliant performers, writers, videographers, composers…housewives, park caretakers, kindergarten teachers, 101 year-old grandmas, cancer survivors, social networking aficionados, etc. Basically people and things which are striving to stay true to the present moment, in pursuit of goodness and clarity within their unique spheres.
bk: With a family at home, how do you balance the inevitable multiple identities of being an artist, and a mother, and a wife?
ED: I told a friend recently that it’s less balancing and more picking myself back up, brushing off, gathering any dislocated teeth and trying again. I’m serious. Practically speaking, I apologize a lot… I agree with another mommy choreographer friend who told me that having kids really helps focus the ideas and the longing to do the work, which is a strength. Not one I was too eager to grow in initially, but a strength. I’ve had to learn to work more efficiently, spend less time staring at walls and just do the work. It’s definitely a loss on some levels…I use to be able to really sink into the ideas, almost bathe in them during the process. Now it’s more about staying sane, generating generating generating, just getting it out there and giving it away. For sure the only way I’m able to work amid my current family callings is thanks to a fabulous husband, babysitter and many unpaid cheerleaders who wipe the blood off my face and push me a couple steps further. Thanks, guys!!! No really, thanks.
bk: What can we look forward to from you in the future?
ED: I’m currently working on a blow-out huge enormous (for me) evening-length quartet called Requiem for This, to be performed in Brooklyn May 17-19 of this year. (See coriolisdance.org for more info and a production blog…) I’m thrilled to be collaborating with a glorious team of performers, composers and videographers, who are shaping and coloring this vision so vividly. Definitely my most personal and comprehensive work to date, it does feel impossible at this moment.
It’s tricky to be a self-producer, but I recently realized that for now that’s where my skills lie and I should just keep going for it and try not to complain about the less inspiring hats I have to wear as fundraiser, studio space finder, program folder, prop collector, and loose ends tyer.
I guess that’s the price to pay for aiming to realize my vision my way. Yes, I’ll continue to pay it…if I could only find my wallet?
Thank you Elizabeth for letting us peer into your practice!
Elizabeth was involved in my 5 Performances project last summer, and I hope to be featuring her on the site again soon. I will let you readers know when her new project is fully realized!