Life as a Modern Dancer Blog interviews Tiffany Rea-Fisher

Photo: Ayodele Casel

Photo: Ayodele Casel

Recently, Life as a Modern Dancer Blog sat down with 6 questions for EMD's newly appointed Artistic Director, Tiffany Rea-Fisher.  The answers are inspiring, refreshing, and powerful.  We hope you can take the time to read and share!

Can you talk about your growth as an artist and administrator over the past decade with the company? 

I’ve been very fortunate to have what I like to call a 12-year apprenticeship with Elisa Monte. I have been able to observe and work in every facet of the company’s functions from administration, grant writing, budgeting, casting, and choreography, to name a few. To have this type of practical training in all aspects of a business is a real gift. Additionally, to be able to gain advice, guidance and knowledge from the person who founded the company is immeasurable. I have felt supported and nurtured, although not babied, in both the artistic and administrative sides of the company. 

I think what makes my path different from many of my colleagues is that I was on display very early on in my choreography career.  My first piece premiered at the Joyce, and my 2nd was performed for the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Although I am extremely grateful for those opportunities, as they are literally dreams come true, I did not have the option of making early career mistakes in private. Looking back, however, I would not change a thing. Having my person and my work out there so publicly in the early stages toughened my skin and prepared me very well for what was to come.

What has Elisa modeled, taught, and inspired you with?

A former EMD dancer and I were having lunch the other day, and we were discussing how being a woman in Elisa’s company really taught you how to be a woman with a capital W. She taught you how to be strong, forceful, subtle, coy, assertive, sensual, and vulnerable among other things. My Mom likes to describe me as unapologetically myself, and Elisa Monte Dance was a place where I could celebrate and explore all aspects of that self.  In observing Elisa I also learned how to dress appropriately for galas, board meetings and other important events. I was taught decorum and protocol as well as how to fundraise one-on-one and to never take no as an answer. I learned about Elisa Monte in Dance History at SUNY Purchase; I am as star-struck now as I was then. Her belief in my abilities as a dancer, administrator, leader and choreographer has meant everything to me.

What are your goals, objectives, and hopes for 2016 and directing the company?

I have many, many goals, objectives and hopes for 2016! If I have to narrow it down, I would say that my biggest goal is to have a smooth transition into my new position while having an artistically and financially successful 35th anniversary season. I would also like to gain more exposure for my choreography and the company as a whole. The goal that is most near and dear to my heart is to be able to have a direct and positive impact on my dancers. I hope in a decade or so, when they are interviewed about their lives as dancers, that they look back on our time together as a meaningful phase in their careers.

What do you love about choreographing?

Oh wow… what’s not to love. As mentioned before I adore my dancers, so being in the room with them is literally the best part of my day outside of going home to my husband (who is also an EMD alumni). Being able to have people in the room who trust you and who are willing to take risks with you and go on a journey with you is an exhilarating experience. I enjoy the process of choreography, because while I’m creating I feel very little pressure. I’m just playing with ideas, so if I like something I stick with it; if I don’t I toss it, and it makes no difference. Distinctive parts of my personality show themselves, which is always nice, and I feel most like myself while creating. Until the work becomes something, it can be anything, and I find freedom in that process.

What do you love and enjoy about arts administration?

I love the arts, and being able to provide a stable base for the arts is the beginning, middle and end for me. Without strong administration your art is never able to reach its maximum potential publicly. Being able to sign an important contract, have a budget close out in the black, or learn a new formula in Excel is very exciting to me. You need a place to rehearse, you need to pay your dancers and collaborators, and you hope for reviews and commissions. Those items are extremely difficult to come by without strong administrative support.

What questions are guiding your work right now? What’s on your mind?

The broad question that occupies me currently is: What does it mean to be successful in the dance field?

I find the varying levels of success, and how we gauge them, fascinating. I look at someone like Elisa, and she has had a career that any dancer would die to have --- she has lead a successful dance company for 35 years, has her work in many leading dance companies both at home and abroad, and she has a beautiful and successful daughter and loving husband. I look at her life and think,  "Yup, she definitely has it all." But on the other hand, the company still has many of the struggles of other mid-sized companies in NYC. So if you asked Elisa was she successful, I don’t know what her answer would be. As dancers we always strive for the impossible, and I think that mentality has slipped over into the industry as a whole. At what point can we look back at our life’s work, pat ourselves on the back, and finally congratulate ourselves?

To read more about Elisa Monte Dance's 35th Anniversary Season, click here