100 Creatives 2014: Teresa Chapman, Choreographer and Dancer

Categories: 100 Creatives

TeresaRehearsal.jpg
Photo Courtesy of Teresa Chapman
Teresa rehearsing Shifting Spaces with her dancers.

If you were lucky to see Teresa Chapman's choreography in Shifting Spaces or the work she showcased in 2012's Triple Focus program at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, you know that her dancers dance big. Her bold and beautiful aesthetic was nurtured by Christopher Pilafian during her BFA work at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "He taught me to love big, voluptuous movement," she says. "He taught me the beauty in transitions. He taught me the importance of fine-tuning your instrument - your body - to be able to express even the slightest variation in movement qualities."

Teresa's movement also comes from a lifetime of performance experience. She's performed with modern dance companies in New York City and Washington D.C., and she's done major commercial work in films like Man on the Moon and Viva Rock Vegas, not to mention dancing in the musical Cats in Hamburg, Germany. Her dances are evocative and visceral, drawing from the elements that are her inspiration, which include music, words, and images.

As the artistic director of her own company, Chapman Dance, Teresa creates work that speaks to a wide audience. "I want them to be entertained to a certain degree," she says. "I'd like for them to be moved in some way. They don't have to explain it, but I'd like for them to have some sort of positive, visceral experience."

Mission accomplished.

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Photo by Lynn Lane
Dancers in Shifting Spaces.

What she does: In addition to being artistic director of Chapman Dance, Teresa is an Associate Professor of Dance at the University of Houston where she teaches advanced modern technique, aesthetics, pedagogy, and dance kinesiology.

Why she likes it: Teaching at the University of Houston has allowed her to actively teach, choreograph, and perform. Prior to the arrival of her daughter Tess, Teresa performed exclusively with Karen Stokes Dance for five years, and danced works by Amy Ell and Toni Valle. But it's a love of teaching that makes the university environment a perfect fit for her. "Teaching affords me the experience of witnessing the growing of new dance artists and dance patrons. The University of Houston offers the only degree granting program for dance in Houston, so we get to see a lot of wonderful talent come through."

What inspires her: It is common practice for choreographers to set old work on new dancers. But that process hasn't worked out so well for Teresa, largely because her inspiration comes from the dancers she works with. "I make a dance specifically for the dancers involved," she explains. "I guess you could say my best inspiration comes from the dancers themselves, the way they move, and the qualitative choices they make naturally."

If not this, then what: "I honestly cannot think of another profession for me," she says. "Although sometimes I think it may be nice to buy a place in Belize and rent out mopeds on the beach. I guess another one would be owning a small bed and breakfast with a tiny restaurant on the New England coastline that serves only the best gourmet pizzas in town. I love pizza."

If not here, then where: The moped and bed and breakfast idea would come after retirement, of course. As far as being an active dance artist is concerned, it appears Houston is where she's meant to be. "The restaurants are fabulous, the people are nice, the parking spaces are big, and there's no snow or ice to deal with."

What's next: In case you missed Shifting Spaces, Teresa's recent evening-length collaboration with visual artist Lucinda Cobley, there is a chance you may able to see it in the near future. She has submitted the work for consideration for this summer's Inside/Out Festival at Jacob's Pillow, and Wade Wilson has offered to show it at his Sante Fe Gallery. "Lucinda has submitted it for consideration at a gallery in New York, and I'd like to do some version of it in Menil Park." Moving past Shifting Spaces, more collaborative efforts look to be in the works. "In 2009, I curated a dance event at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which included three Houston-based choreographers and two companies from out-of-state. It was very satisfying." Just like watching her choreography.

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