Choreographer's Philosophy

My drive to choreograph arises from a desire to celebrate life and the human experience in all its humor and grit, dust and glory. At the heart of my work is a love of community, a desire to share ideas and emotions with others, an awe of our bodies' vast capabilities, and a deep faith in humanity. I believe bodies in movement hold our ultimate communicative power.

Thus, my choreography explores the human condition through movement storytelling, inspired by many different cultures and ways of knowing. I bring an anthropologist’s eye to the world around me – looking for connections between diverse realms and intersections of meaning – and attempt to reflect, refract and refresh these observations in my work for others to see. Anthropology is at the very heart of how I see the world and how I approach a choreographic problem. As a field, anthropology tries to reveal the connections between aspects of life or culture that may at first seem unconnected – it is a truly cross-disciplinary intellectual experience, which is worldview that I love. Many of my dances have started with anthropological questions such as “What happens when two cultures meet?” “How has fashion shaped women and the environment?” “What is our relationship to water, rain and drought?” There is a wonderful overlap between dance and anthropology because they both deal often in metaphors, experience and feeling. And at its heart, anthropology is all about people: what they think and dream and how they make meaning out of the world. That is exactly what I try to explore and convey in my dances as well.

Although Anthropology is the field with which I most frequently connect dance, I am perpetually curious and inspired by combining dance with other fields, investigating how dance can contribute to diverse conversations, what can be discovered in relationship with ideas beyond dance’s boundaries, and how the form and myself can grow therein. To that end, I continually undertake interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary projects, having also combined dance with history, visual arts, peacebuilding and scientific research. It seems to me that within these conversations lies an opportunity to show the world why dance matters.

As a performer, I do not approach a new dance or character by trying to “pretend” or to imagine what he or she would feel or do. Rather, I dig within myself to find what part of me – however small – has experienced something similar. I perform from that pocket of personal experience and magnify it to fit the dance.

The theater is a magical place for me, where ideas can be introduced, shattered and fit back together – in a stronger matrix than before; where worlds can collide without violence; where diversity is celebrated as each audience member ascribes his or her own meaning to the artwork. Ideally, I hope that audiences leave my performances having seen the world from a different perspective: to open minds to the possibility of infinite possibilities – if only for a moment – when it comes to culture, people and life.

-- Mariah Steele, Updated 2020

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Last Modified: 11 Oct 2020
Designed By: Will Pickeral
Photos By: Jim Coleman & Eli Akerstein