Introducing DX’s newest Resident Artist: Amanda Newman!

Photo by Alyssa Tolman

For many of us, Amanda’s name is not a new one at Dance Exchange. She’s been involved in and amongst many of our programs: as a participant, a work/study, a fellow…and now we are so delighted to say that she is our newest Resident Artist! Almost immediately upon meeting, it was clear that Amanda is an artist invested in this work, and who brings a tremendous amount of grace, rigor, vision, and humor to the table. If you know her, you have also probably picked up on the fact that Amanda is an equally delightful person and we could not be happier that she is sticking around!

Even amongst all that has been going on these past few weeks, Amanda sat down to answer some of my questions about what she is bringing with her this year, and what she is looking forward to at DX and in DC:

Tell me a little bit about life before DC: where did you grow up? What kind of kid were you?

I grew up in Utah, so I am a child of the Rockies and the red rock. Much of my childhood was spent on the ski slopes, on my bike, or in our national parks. But, much to the confusion of my mom (a former barrel-racer, now teacher) and my dad (an architect and mountain biker), I wanted to spend just as much time in the ballet studio. In my leotard and tights, the part of me that wanted a ‘right’ answer and a particularly coded way of being in the world thrived. It wasn’t until middle school and high school that I really delved into modern and contemporary dance and fell in love with experiences which were just as virtuosic but could also be, for lack of a better word, a little muddier…

Photo by Nathan Sweet Photography

How did you discover Dance Exchange?

I got lucky. I became familiar with Liz and Dance Exchange through pure, dumb luck. In a tiny airport in the middle of Michigan. She and I spent the better part of an hour chatting in the terminal after an arts conference we’d both been at. I was halfway through sharing my experiences at the University of Utah, which, at the time, felt in many ways quite fractured. She stopped me mid-sentence and said, “You know, Amanda? The world is fragmented. You are not.”

…Mind blown, right? This idea really became a guiding force through the rest of my college experience, and Dance Exchange became the place where I could live and work inside of these words. My first official intersection with the company was as a participant in the 2013 Summer Institute. I came back as a Work/Study in the 2014 Winter Institute and a third time as a Fellow this summer. I’m thrilled to be sticking around this time!

What were you doing before your move east?

The short story is that I was getting my BFA in Modern Dance at the University of Utah. The long story is that I was performing, choreographing, producing student concerts, dancing with non-traditional movers and in non-traditional spaces, directing social campaigns, working as a summer camp counselor, and more. I also ventured into the public health field by co-founding and directing an organization called Connect2Health which utilizes student volunteers to bridge the gap between community health resources and patients in need. The program garnered attention and support from the University of Utah medical school and hospital, so I’m happy to say the program continues to thrive and grow back home in Salt Lake City.

What’s been the most interesting discovery since moving?

Amanda and the red rocks.

Can I say the way it rains in DC? IT doesn’t rain in Utah like it does here. And brunch. This city has a love for brunch that is matched by no other city.

In all seriousness, I’ve discovered (and continue to discover) the rigor- physically, creatively, and somewhat politically or socially- of this work. It was one thing to speak theoretically about community-engaged arts practices in school. It’s another thing to be in the thick of it everyday. But in that thickness, I also discover wonder, joy, and a deep, deep appreciation for the work Dance Exchange is doing in the world.

 

As a Resident Artist, what kinds of things might you be doing this year?

Like the other Resident Artists, my role will be multi-faceted and constantly evolving. Right now, I’m acting as project coordinator for our new project, New Hampshire Avenue: This Is a Place To…. A true community effort, this project brings Dance Exchange into collaboration with those who live, work, gather, and play along New Hampshire Avenue to explore and celebrate what the avenue is, was, and could be. As project coordinator, I’m managing our relationships with some of our partners, keeping track of logistics of our engagements out in the community (like our kick off event on September 13), and providing support for other DX team members who are driving the many moving pieces of this project. I’m excited to be continuing this work with a really strong group of company and adjunct artists, performing in and coordinating a series of events and workshops that will build towards a much larger celebration in 2015.

I’ll also be stepping into the exciting world that is Teen Exchange. We’ve got an incredible group of young artists and leaders stepping into the room this year, and as the Youth Programs Facilitator, I can hardly wait to see the work they create both in and out of the studio. Finally, when I’m not moving and making with Teen Exchange or with community members along New Hampshire Avenue, I’ll be taking over some of the communications work of the company. It will certainly be an exciting year of discovery and growth!

What are you most looking forward to in DC?

Fall is a season that Utah usually just sort of skips over, so I’m definitely looking forward to colorful leaves and cooler weather! I’m also looking forward to getting to know the DC dance community a little better. There’s so much happening in this city!

When you’re not at DX, what kinds of things might someone find you doing?

I’m still getting to know this city, so I spend a lot of time exploring- food, yoga, museums, festivals, trivia nights. And I do a lot of getting lost. I try to do my getting lost in the daytime, however, because navigating after the sun goes down continues to be a struggle!

About Matthew Cumbie

Matthew Cumbie (Resident Artist/Education Coordinator) is a dance artist and collaborator who currently lives in Washington, DC.