Whether through the shared ritual of a class or a performance, dance is about connecting to self and community, journey and transformation. As embodied knowledge that is simultaneously cognitive, sensuous, and emotional, dance is a powerful means to express, celebrate, and transform human experience.
My vocabulary as a performer, choreographer and educator emerges from years of creative work in a variety of settings, from dancing and choreographing for professional dance companies to working in the community with youth and adults of wide-ranging ages and levels of experience. Throughout my creative process I carry an open-ended question about what it means to embody the range of dance forms that inspire and challenge me: what are the cultural and historical narratives embedded in these expressions? Where are the boundaries around each “form,” and what concepts of culture, identity, and beauty do they contain and communicate? Are these boundaries ever restrictive of development and transformation or can our disciplined study of them lead to liberation and a deeper awareness of self? How do individuals and communities continue to make traditional, social, and concert dance forms meaningful?
As an American dancer and choreographer, the landscape of my dance journey is richly textured and diverse, from classical ballet, to Afro-Cuban, to modern dance, allowing a beautiful, provocative, and enriching flow and interplay through and between genres. I feel that I can engage each style for the ideas, aesthetics, and energetic qualities that teach and inform, while creating spaces where each body may tell its own story.
In the studio, at a house party, on the concert stage, or in a ceremony, dance can lead us away from strict dualities and compartmentalization towards more integrated experiences of mind-body-spirit. Dance encourages us to stay rooted in our bodies as we act, decide, and participate in the world.
Rebecca Bliss is a dancer, choreographer, and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently on the dance faculties of Barnard College and Ballet Hispanico, in addition to offering an ongoing schedule of open community classes.
Previous teaching experience includes professional trainings (Ballet Hispanico Dance Company, Areytos Performance Works), workshops for Universities (Sarah Lawrence College, Rutgers University, Barnard College), and over a decade of work with after-school and community based programs, including: El Puente Academy for Peace and Social Justice, School of the future, Project Reach Youth, the Lexington School for the Deaf, and El Taller Latino Americano where she taught community classes for over six years.
Performance and choreography credits include guest appearances with Max Pollak’s Rumba Tap (Central Park Summerstage, Judson Memorial Church, Symphony Space, Drom NYC), several school and community performances with traditional Afro-Cuban ensemble Grupo Ara Oko, and performance/choreography work for contemporary Afro-Caribbean dance theatre ensemble Areytos Performance Works.
Rebecca received her initial training in modern and ballet at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and later devoted over a decade to studying the African-based dances of Cuba. In addition to studying with artists from national dance companies (Conjunto Folklorico Nacional, Ballet Folklorico Cutumba, Yoruba Andabo, Afro-Cuba de Matanzas, Ban Rra Rra) and with master teachers from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Rebecca learned extensively from informal settings throughout the island. She completed an individualized master’s degree at New York University (2009) with a focus on performance and pedagogy related to her work in both Cuba and NYC.
Additional dance training includes African Contemporary dance with Ronald K. Brown, Ballet with Merceditas Manago-Alexander and Beth Goheen, and participation in several summer intensives including the Jacob’s Pillow Cultural Traditions program and a two-month professional training in African Contemporary dance in Senegal, West Africa with Germaine Acogny/Janti-bi.
Rebecca was the 2003 recipient of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange “Pass it On” award for arts education.