ADF and NCDF with Defero Dance Collective

As well intentioned as I have been to keep my blog updated, my life has been increasingly busy with wonderfully challenging things.  My last post was about two years ago, and I haven’t posted anything since moving from Italy.  The day I landed stateside, I threw myself into two North Carolina state dance festivals that has consumed most of my artistic time and energy.

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In early 2014, I was selected as a North Carolina Dance Festival Touring Artist for the 2014-2015 season.  An honor that I was so happy to receive because the opportunity lead me to meet and work with a fabulous dance company, Defero Dance Collective, based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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As a dance artist with many years of experience, I can say that this collaboration has been one of such unique and favorable circumstances.  Not only is Defero Dance Collective an exceptional group of dancers, they are one of the most kind, loving, and welcoming group of women I’ve ever encountered.  It is rare to find a company that knows one another so well, physically and personally, but also has the great maturity and courageous femininity to love themselves and each other in the most binding way. Fate smiled on me when I found them.

Since June 2014, we have collaborated on two works.  I reset As We Are on Defero, and we toured the 10 minute work to UNC Charolotte, Appalachian State, Duke, and University of North Carolina Greensboro during the 2014-2015 season.  In early 2015, my work [ME]thod was selected for the American Dance Festival’s Here and Now program on June 25th, 2015. We worked quickly to reset the 15 minute work and enjoyed presenting the work with a rich and diverse program at ADF.

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2014 and 2015 have been very fulfilling and busy years in dance, and I look forward to another collaborative project with Defero Dance Collective in 2016! Thanks Defero for all your hard work and helping me make these project happen!

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“Two to One” premiers with WCDC, June 28-29th at the Ragan Theater

American DreamThis weekend my new work “Two to One” will premier at the Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company’s concert,”The American Dream.” WCDC’s concert highlights works focused around American History, and “show inspired by the great events of our nation’s history, from the writing of our National Anthem to the experience of modern day army wives. The American Dream is a wonderful way for the entire family to learn about and show appreciation for our country on the weekend before Independence Day.”http://wasatchcontemporary.wix.com/wcdc#!catalogue

My work, Two to One, is an expansion of a solo I did for the Artist, Interrupted conference about three years ago. My husband and I interviewed each other about our life in the military and in the arts. The piece was meant to be a duet, but due to a change in my husband’s training schedule, I went solo. So, to replace him I used his boots – and it was a lucky misfortune to make a duet into a solo.

When WCDC asked me to choreograph for their “American Dream” concert, I decided to revisit that solo and expand it to a trio. i interviewed three couples for the audio text and edited about three hours of interview material down to a six minute work. There was a LOT of great interview material to choose from, but I tried my best to highlight stories that demonstrate life as a military couple.

The entire work was set long-distance using video, email, and skype, which was quite a challenge. I have done plenty of video work with dance, but actually setting a piece, organizing all the instructions, and clarifying through video was a lot of extra work for me and the dancers.

One of my favorite sections of the work is a longer partnering section between the three dancers. My instructions were as clear as I could make them, I showed a few examples of other rehearsals and outcomes of the improv score. The process of reviewing ten to twenty minutes of improvisation and selecting second by second sections of movement was very tedious, but extremely rewarding once we set the final product.

If you want to do something unique this year for the Fourth of July, go see WCDC’s concert this weekend!

“As We Are” premiers November 16-17th, 2012 at BYU

“As We Are” premiers this weekend at BYU for DancEnsemble’s Fall concert VITAL SIGNS. Unlike most of my work, which is usually physically complicated and even irksome to the the body, As We Are is a soft, flowing, and quietly beautiful piece that shows dancers working in their raw, yet lovely, element.

One of the most challenging aspects of the piece was to break the dancers from their “performance self” and train them to just “be themselves” on stage. My favorite moments, which is shown in the above photo, is when the dancers stop and watch the audience. Audiences always come to watch dancers, but I love this opportunity for the dancers to watch the audience watching them. It was interesting to see how uncomfortable the dancers were with just watching. At first, they were fidgeting and feeling like they needed to do something on stage. Observation is a common theme through the piece: dancers watching others on stage, dancers watching the audience, allowing themselves to be watched, and acknowledging that observation is part of their performance experience.

I liked building this piece because it’s made me think differently about what we truly find interesting about performance. Is it the super-human skill dancers have to defy the laws of gravity that makes us watch dance? Or is it the risk-taking? Do we like to pretend as viewers that what appears to be easy, actually is?

Some moments in As We Are, the dancers aren’t performing. They aren’t trying to create an illusion: they breath and sweat and actually fix their hair if its in their face after that just did a turn into a leap. They are simply being themselves, and that authenticity and genuine presentation is what I think makes us most interested and invested in others around us. This dance says, “I am enough, I am plain, yet unique, and this is what I am, here, for all of you to see.”

Now, as a dance artist, and with all this talk of watching, know that the dancers don’t watch and walk on stage the whole time. There is plenty of that in this post-modern world. As We Are has lots of full and flowing movement, partnering, dynamic spatial changes…because, hey, that’s what I love to create! But, as I post more from the work, just be on the lookout for those moments that say – this is me, just as I am.

Photography by LiletFoto

As We Are: new work to premiere at BYU this November

As We Are is a new work that I am creating with BYU’s DancEnsemble. It is a process-based work that highlights individual dancers as “in-process beings”: something they are now, built on where they came from, but may not continue to be in the future. It is intended to capture the immediacy of the moment, and expand into a reactive ensemble. The work showcases the beauty of unique individuals moving together, as they are. Check out a small clip below:

As We Are

As We Are Preview from Kristen Jeppsen Groves on Vimeo.

Recent dance happenings – Summer 2012

It’s been a few busy months, but now with a regular schedule I’ve been able to take some time to update my blog! Near the end of May 2012, I finished teaching in the children/youth dance program for SKIES in Vicenza, Italy. SKIES is an art/activity program for military children abroad. Since January I had the amazing opportunity to teach dance to talented and creative children. I enjoyed teaching a beginning Hip-Hop class for 7-8 year olds as well as a Contemporary Jazz class for 10 and up. In May, my classes presented their co-choreographed works at the Spring Recital in Vicenza. It brought back a lot of very sweet memories when I was a child waiting backstage to perform. They were nervous, excited, maybe a bit fearful, but they did an amazing job. Following their performance, they were beaming with pride. I didn’t expect to spend time after receiving my MFA to teach in a children’s program, but the SKIES program has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of 2012.

Following the end of the SKIES program, a colleague and I worked collaboratively on a dance film which premiered at Core Project Chicago’s “Going Dutch”. Camille Spencer and I filmed two solos in Italy and Scotland. With our recent moves to Europe Lost/Found explored ideas of space, identity, displacement, and discovery. It was a unique challenge to choreography and share material via the web only, as well as find ways to edit a film long-distance. We presented the duel film on two screens that flickered back and forth between me in Italy and Camille in Scotland. It was a very fulfilling project and a great way to keep working when resources, rehearsal space, and time were limited.

Following the Core Project Chicago event, I focused my time on finishing a paper for the WDA/DaCI global summit in Taipei, Taiwan. For the last year, Marin Leggat,Associate Professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, and I have worked on researching and writing a paper on empathy in ares in conflict. We focused on artists and directors teaching youth in conflicted areas in the Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Israel. We presented “Constructions Of Empathy: Exploring perspectives & biases of empathic pedagogy in classrooms abroad” on the final day of the week long conference. The paper will be published in the WDA/DaCI fall journal.

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Soon after the Taiwan conference I packed up my bags and returned to the states. I am currently teaching in the Contemporary Dance Department at Brigham Young University. Teaching, choreographing, and working with such exceptional students has been such a fun experience. I have a heavy technique focused course load and I am setting a new work on BYU’s DanEnsemble.As We Are. The students are excellent dancers, choreographers, and performers. I will post more as the semester continues. More dancing to come!

Choreographing for “Il Ratto dal Serraglio”


The past two weeks I’ve been working with a group of musicians and opera singers organized by the Teatro Comunale in Vicenza. Every summer the famous Teatro Olympico holds weekly musical events and this year the season opener is Mozart’s comedy, “Il Ratto dal Serraglio” (The abduction from Serraglio).

Since this is a first for me working on an opera I didn’t really know quite what to expect. My assignment was to create a fun and funny dance to Mozart’s Turkish Dance for a choir of 25, each of whom needed to dance with a newspaper. The choir members were very good sports as they listened carefully to my beginning Italian teaching them the steps and sequences to the dance work. I think for many of them this was their first time learning and performing a strongly choreographed section – and they have performed exceptionally well! Beyond setting a short dance work I’ve been helping with staging and some minimal choreography for the main characters in the opera.

It has been a thrill to work with a full orchestra, choir, and masterful singers in such a stunning venue! The opera opens tomorrow night, May 20 at 18:00 at the Teatro Olympico and will run until Wednesday, May 23. Click on the link for more info about the show.

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“Widows…Temporarily” watch now!

Widows, Temporarily from Kristen Jeppsen Groves on Vimeo.

Widows…Temporarily
Directed by: Kristen Jeppsen Groves
Dancers and Military Spouses: Melissa Baker, Veronica Hovander, Brittany Starr, and Erica Constancio
Music: “Hallelujah” by Vitamin Strings Quartet
Location: Vicenza,Italy

Widows, Temporarily is a short dance film I created for the Artist, Interrupted national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. It premiered last weekend at the “Initial Impressions” dance concert which included 26 dance artists who each explored a different letter of the alphabet under a time limit of 1 minute and 30 seconds. My letter was W and I focused on “women, waiting, war, wives, wishing”, and of course, “Widows…Temporarily.”

Special thanks to my friends and fellow military spouses: Melissa Baker, Veronica Hovander, Brittany Starr, and Erica Constancio for their work and willingness to create the film.