“What I love most about dancing is that this is us, it is our bodies and minds connecting to the rest of the world.”
Felicia Ballos is a movement based artist living and making in Beacon, NY. Her work focuses on body connecting to environment (social, physical, and spiritual); while often investigating governance, surprises, and perception through collaborating with other artists. Ballos has been presented in traditional dance theaters in New York City, as well as in art spaces, on the beach, on train tracks, up in a tree, in people’s homes, nationally, and internationally. Ballos was raised a ballerina, but departed to study release based movement, as well as Butoh and Kung Fu. While living on Min Tananka’s Body Weather Farm in Hokkaido, Japan, Ballos’ synapses began to fire much differently and understanding her entire day as possibly one long dance came to light. Now her children are very much a part of these days as well as her relationship to movement.
How did you originally get into dance?
When I was 3 years old, my super glamorous mother placed me in a ballet class so that I would learn to walk with grace. I fell in love immediately and have always known myself from then on as a dancer. My last name (Ballos) is Greek and literally translates to “to dance, to jump”. I grew up classically trained and transformed from a bunhead to a modern dancer in college. I love to study different ways of moving. It is hard to say what kind of dance I specialize in, I suppose it’s a combination of all that I have studied that resonates with me in my body and intellectually. Classical ballet, modern dance (specifically the movement and ideas of the post modern movement), butoh, the Alexander Technique, and social dancing have all found ways to live together in my body.
Felicia’s part starts at 4:09.
How did you get started as a professional dancer?
During college I was shocked to be approached by my favorite choreographer in the city of Chicago. I ended up working and performing with him for 5 years, until I moved to New York City. For the past 15 years or so I have made my own work that includes collaborating with many different choreographers, artists, and musicians. Currently I make work with two other moms who are visual artists, we are called Collective Settlement. I am lucky to be invited into most of my performance experiences, but I am also not shy about knocking on doors that I would like to pass through. I keep my eye out for interesting opportunities, and if I am not asked to be part of them, I usually propose to them that I participate.
What is a day in your life like?
With two small children, my days revolve mostly around their needs and rituals. We dance together A LOT at home. We talk about movement and the body often. My daily routine for dancing is to constantly try to be aware of my body, of my weight, and how I am moving to do what I need to do to take care of us all. Before kids I used to walk around New York City paying attention to how I walked for hours, asking myself what initiated movement.. a bend of the knee or a fall into gravity, etc. Now I try to extend that awareness to washing dishes and making lunches.
What do you love most about dancing?
What I love most about dancing is that this is us, it is our bodies and minds connecting to the rest of the world. Our anatomies are amazing and to be able to be in dialogue with a system like this, without having to go anywhere but into ourselves, is wonderful to me.
What’s your least favorite part?
I do not have a least favorite part of dancing. Dancing is dancing, there are some awful things connected to dancing… like body judgement, or lack of pay for hard work, or bad teachers that force young bodies into postures that are not healthy… but these are issues created by people and not by dancing.
Who inspires you? Do you have a favorite dancer or choreographer?
People having sincere moments inspire me. My kids and their little developing bodies inspire me. Beyonce, Min Tanaka, Richard Serra, the forest, old people, our cats, yogis, Steve Paxton, Deborah Hay, Simone Forti, pregnant women, Master Alan Lee, Olaf Breuning, and the tired parents at school drop off all come to mind immediately as inspirations. There are many many more. A dear friend, Danny Johnston, is my current favorite dancer. He is traveling with the guru Amma and sends me videos of himself dancing in different cities all over the world out in public, usually by himself. They are brilliant videos. My soon to be 2 year old daughter is my other favorite dancer. It is wild to witness her responses to music or to see her figure out a new move. Luciana Achugar and Sarah White are favorite choreographers of mine (both moms).
How do you think being a dancer makes you see the world differently from other people?
I cannot assume how others see the world. Being a dancer helps me to appreciate the weight of a plop of snow and how that makes the tree move, even if it is imperceptible. I try to feel things like that in my own body. Being a dancer also helps me to connect to the rest of the universe with the transference of energy. I don’t know if other people think about these things, but dancing has enabled me to see the world this way.
How has becoming a mom changed the way you work?
I was churning out dances and performing constantly before I had children. I didn’t know how to shift a strong momentum that I was swept up in and started to crave a new way to relate to my career. Now I “rehearse” way less frequently. Now I do not spend hours in a studio everyday with other dancers to stretch and drink coffee. I have brought my movement investigations more into my daily routines. I do not go to see dance as often as I did before kids. When I do rehearse, my children are not banned from the studio. I like them to witness the process and later see traces of it in how they move.
Do you have dance related activities you like to do with your children?
Because I find dance all around us, dance is a lens through which together we relate to our worlds. We pay attention to how different animals move, we stretch together, we vary our tempos while we walk. We dance everyday in our living room… I like to flip through music to see what gets them moving in different ways. We also take yoga classes together.
Is there a question you wished I’d asked?
I wish you asked how old is too old to be a dancer. People always seem concerned with that. My answer would be NEVER!
Fill in the blanks:
If I go dancing for fun with friends, I like to go where the lights are low and the music is good and loud.
The last book I read was The Signature of All Things.
If I were a superhero, my superpower would be extreme sensitivity to subtleties.
The first thing I do when I wake up is mentally say hello to every body part, ending with wiggling my toes.
If I weren’t a dancer, I’d be pure light.