Sonya Smith - performance and collaboration
Sonya Smith 
aerial dance choreography and teaching
Master of Fine Arts in Dance, 
PMA-Certified Pilates Instructor, GYROKINESIS® Instructor


PhotoArtist Statement

I am a queer female post-modern aerial dancer. I choreograph, collaborate, perform and teach aerial dance and modern dance that is heavily influenced by contact improvisation, post modern and release techniques as a means to more fully inhabit my own skin. Teaching, performing and choreographing are equally weighted in my work as a performing artist, each providing different, essential opportunities for researching the body as central ground of lived experience.

I am excited by creating movement for theater productions such as the award winning Aerial Choreography for UC Boulder's production of Metamorphoses, as well as aerial choreography for Berkeley Playhouse’s Cinderella Enchanted and Peter Pan. I created ground-based movement for Vanguardian production's Truce and Crowded Fire’s Forever Never Comes. My choreography and collaborations with Courtney Moreno have been seen at ODC/Fresh Meat, Dance Mission Theater/SKYDANCERS: women who fly through the air, Jon Sims Center for the Arts, CounterPULSE and 848 Community Space.  In the spring of 2006 I was awarded a residency from the Jon Sims Center for the Arts to create innovative, site specific aerial dance work.  In 2007 I returned to my hometown to set the piece "Groundbirds" on Kansas City’s City in Motion dance company.  

Pure embodied power of the physical body, particularly the female dancing body, shows the fluid possibilities of the body and identity in live performance and is central to my research. In particular, I focus on training and performing aerial dance that is rooted in a post modern, contact improvisation-inspired aesthetic; an aesthetic spectacular in its sensitivity to dancing partners, human and apparatus. This challenging physical research heavily influences the themes and subjects of my choreography, resulting in abstract choreography that captures essential experiences of being human in relationship and expressing a fullness of identity through the body. My evening length work Beneath the Text. an aerial dance. with books. combined an explicit questioning of the absence of powerful, queer female images in aerial performance and literature alike. Athletic movement, a suspended chain employed as an aerial apparatus, and a variety of relationships between the five dancers offered a richly realized female presence on stage.

PhotoMy creative process often involves collaboration, through necessity and choice.  I prefer to work with musicians, dancers, riggers, video and set designers in transforming space to create a complete environment and experience for the audience.  My work is always site specific, even in traditional theatrical environments. The rigging demands of aerial dance heighten both dancer and audience sensitivity to the entirety of the space, a sensitivity and openness essential to my performances on the ground as well. Often I begin with an evocative image that holds some physical urgency such as dancing on a spiral staircase, outside on a fire escape, or suspended in an elevator shaft. Through the various collaborations with dancers and designers this image then becomes the heart of a piece infusing the multiple layers with a coherence and richness. By physically returning to the essence of this image, the work retains a storytelling integrity that is rarely narrative, but ultimately satisfying.

Short Bio

In 2015 Smith was awarded her Master's of Fine Arts in Dance with an emphasis in Aerial Dance, the first person to complete the Aerial Dance Track of the MFA program at the University of Colorado Boulder.  While in Boulder she had the privilege of working with Michelle Ellsworth, Gesel Mason and Kim Olson/SWEETEDGE. Prior to returning for an MFA Smith obtained a BA in Biology, with a minor in dance, and began dancing professionally in Minneapolis, Portland, and the Bay Area. Since arriving in San Francisco in 2001. As a performer she has been honored to work with incredible Bay Area artists including, Rapt Performance Group, Dance Ceres, Kim Epifano/Epiphany Productions, Eat Cake Productions, 
Dance Brigade’s Great Liberation Upon Hearing, and Berkeley Playhouse’s productions of Peter Pan, Singin’ in the Rain and a guest appearance in Cinderella Enchanted

From 2002-2005 Smith worked as the facilities manager and core member of the group managing 848 Community Space and CounterPULSE.  As a member of the Board of Directors, she coordinated construction of CounterPULSE’s new theater space in the SOMA district of San Francisco.  Her work continues to be a fiscally sponsored project of CounterPULSE.
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