Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Featured Alumna: Chriselle Tidrick, BA '94

English BA Chriselle Tidrick has followed an unusual career path since graduation.

I received my B.A. from GW in 1994 with a major in English and a minor in Dance.  During my senior year, I had the opportunity to combine these loves by writing an honors thesis about how Isadora Duncan was portrayed through several texts from various parts of the 20th century.  I was fascinated and inspired by my research, and I longed for the opportunity to learn this modern dance pioneer's movement style.  Unfortunately, such classes were not readily available, but I continued to enjoy studying ballet and the contemporary modern dance classes that were offered at GW.

I have had an interesting journey in the years since graduation. My family had strong expectations that I would follow a traditional career path, and after graduation I tried to fulfill these expectations by pursuing a Master's Degree in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. I then taught high school English for four years in the New York City public school system, before realizing I was frustrated and unhappy. This was not because I didn't love talking about literature with kids all day. Rather, it was because class preparation and paper marking were preventing me from spending time with my other love-- dance. I realized dance was not a passion I could wait until retirement to pursue, so with much fear about diving blindly into the unknown, I left teaching to explore the possibility of developing a performance career.

From Chriselle Tidrick's solo piece "Absentia." Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Since then, I have been blessed to perform with a number of small to mid-sized dance companies in New York and have had the opportunity to travel throughout the US and abroad. I began working with Alice Farley Dance Theater in 2000-- at first performing modern dance work, before learning the company's signature stilt dancing work.  I have performed in two of Alice Farley's full-length works,  and I have performed on stilts at scores of parties and special events in the New York tri-state area and around the country.

In 2004, I finally found my way to Isadora Duncan technique class with Catherine Gallant and Loretta Thomas.  This afforded me the opportunity to learn and perform the works of Isadora Duncan with their company, Dances by Isadora. At last, I was able to connect my academic understanding of Isadora Duncan's ideas and principles to a kinesthetic understanding of the movement and repertory. It is a gift to feel a part of the legacy of dances passed down from dancer to dancer from the time of Isadora herself.  In 2007, I began working with Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance. The company creates vaudeville-inspired acrobatic choreography as well as choreography inspired by another modern dance pioneer, Loie Fuller.  I have appeared in five of the company's New York seasons and have toured not only to Massachusetts and Nebraska but also to India, Australia and the UK.

From the aerial dance piece "RAW." Photo by Julie Lemberger.

In addition to the inspiration of working with a range of wonderful companies and choreographers, it was my childhood love of gymnastics that ultimately inspired me to start my own dance company. In a sense, it happened by accident. After leaving my high school English teaching job, I began coaching gymnastics at the 92nd Street Y.  One of my fellow coaches was an accomplished aerialist and encouraged me to attend classes held at Streb Lab for Action Mechanics. I fell in love immediately.  It was the perfect fusion of dance and acrobatics-- a fusion I had actually been searching for, for years.  As soon as I began learning the basic skills and techniques, my mind began to flood with images and ideas for movement and choreography. At first, I searched for existing companies creating the kind of work which was filling my mind-- a true fusion of dance and aerial work which expanded the possibilities of both disciplines.  In 2005, there weren't many options.  So, I began to create my own work and eventually realized that I needed to create a platform to present this work.  Thus, in 2007, Above and Beyond Dance was born. 


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