Interview: Tiffany Rea-Fisher on STEPS Creative Tools

Can you tell us about your own personal history as a dancer and teacher?

I am a SUNY Purchase graduate who was introduced to modern dance my freshman year of college. Before that I was a competition kid in California. Everything changed after that first year; now modern dance is my life.

I worked very hard to achieve the career I have but I was also very lucky. I had the chance to work with extraordinary choreographers as a company member [in Compania de Dance, Abraham.in.Motion, The Kevin Wynn Collection, Dance Anonymous, The Brett Howard Dance Company, and Elisa Monte Dance], having original works created on me. I found my creative home with EMD, where I went from company member to Associate Artistic Director, and have been fortunate enough to have a wonderful mentor in Elisa Monte, who has allowed me to create 6 works for her company. As a dancer with EMD, I traveled the world with my then-partner and now-husband, Matthew Fisher, a former EMD dancer, and in 2007, I was honored to be featured and interviewed by Dance Magazine, which described me as “a lit fuse.”  A choreographic highlight was when my work was performed for the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg in 2010, and I have been continuing to create new pieces each year.

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I have been able to fulfill the “corporate” side of me by holding the positions of Director of Education, Director of Administration, and Director of Operations at Elisa Monte Dance. I have also explored the role of dance curator and producer, most recently co-founding an art service organization Inception to Exhibition with my husband, through which we had the pleasure of co-curating and co-producing the Dance in Bryant Park series this past June.

You have had roles in all aspects of dance, including dancer, choreographer, curator, director, and teacher. What do you love most about teaching?

Dance is most similar to an oral tradition in the way that it is passed down. As a teacher I love playing a crucial part in that oral history. People say modern dance is a dying art form, but I see otherwise. There are moments when my students light up because something they have been working on all semester finally connects in their body, or times when students in the Steps Creative Tools program find choreography tools that really speaks to them, allowing them to more fully express themselves. I feel confident that this art form is here to stay.

Teaching has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the art form and has made me re-assess what I think I know and learn what I don’t. The pride I feel when my students are able to apply the techniques we have worked on together is an amazing feeling and one I personally enjoy as much as performing.

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What is the most important part of the Creative Tools Workshop? What do you hope most that the dancers/students will take away from their experience here?

The most important part of the Creative Tools program is each individual student’s commitment to stick to the program. It is a lot to ask of someone to dance all day and then come upstairs with me and work to create something. However, if they push themselves and work hard, they will accomplish something tangible that they can be proud of at the end of the day.

I hope that when students leave the program they have a new-found respect for the choreography process, are more confident in their own choreographic processes, and are less judgmental about the work they create.

How has the program changed over the past six years? Do you find yourself approaching things differently?

The Creative Tools program has changed drastically in the last six years. For the first three years, it was a two-week-long intensive solely  dedicated to the process of creating work. In the last three years I feel like I have hit my stride in finding the right choreographers to help guide the students into different ways of thinking about creating work. On an anonymous survey given to a group of students after the program someone said,” Tiffany has done a great job on guiding us through the process of discovering new choreographic material and using it to create our pieces. She was very helpful without being judgmental.” That is my goal and with each year I feel like I get closer and closer.

Do you have any advice would you give to an aspiring dancer/student?

Put in the Work! Dance is an extraordinarily difficult field although it can also be extremely rewarding. Nothing is given to you and you have to commit mind, body and soul. There is no such thing as a lazy professional dancer. So make sure you are ready to take the leap and once you do reach out to others there is a whole community ready to help you navigate this lifestyle we have all chosen.