Risa is an active member of the dance community for more than 30 years. As a solo artist, teacher, rehearsal coach, and director of the works of José Limón, has toured the world performing and teaching extensively. Former principal dancer with the José Limón Dance Company, Bill Cratty Dance Theater, Annabelle Gamson, Anna Sokolow’s Player’s Project, Colin Connor, and American Repertory Dance Company of Los Angeles. Guest artist with choreographers including Wally Cardona, Sean Curran, and Danzahoy of Caracas, Venezuela. Her solo concert, A Celebration of Dance, features repertory from Isadora Duncan and Doris Humphrey to contemporary choreographers Wally Cardona and Ann Carlson. As a reconstructor of the works of Limón, has worked with companies and dancers around the world including Nureyev and Friends, Frank Augustyn, Karen Kain, and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Was a dance panelist for the N.Y.S. Council on the Arts and presently sits on the Artists Advisory board for Danspace Project at St. Marks Church.
Currently she is the Associate Director of The Juilliard School.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?
My earliest memories of what I wanted to be when I grew up was a Kindergarten teacher and then it quickly turned into wanting to do something better than my older sister. Once my mother put me into dance classes, I learned that if you work hard, you get an attention that was supportive and encouraging. I also realized that my body spoke clearer than my personal voice. No, I did not have a ‘plan’, I just kept finding out more about dance that kept me moving forward in it.
Your Favorite Things?
Being in airports
Sitting in a movie theater, watching a film and eating popcorn
Debriefing with friends
The feeling I have when the class I taught felt seamless
My cell phone (I confess)
Favorite Things to eat?
So many things….Actually anything that is satisfying my bodies yearnings.
Confederacy of Dunces, Death be Not Proud, Fathers and Sons, IQ84
Too many….I get lost in the world of film
Favorite Dance Piece or Show/Musical or both?
Moor’s Pavane, Green Table, Funny Girl (On Broadway), Avenue Q, Stomp
I like dancers who…
Communicate and don’t demonstrate
I am afraid of…
A dance piece should…
Be well framed
Something you like to do other your current job?
Finishing a crossword puzzle in the New York Times
One of the happiest moments in your life?
So many…my most recent is being asked to join the production of Sleep No More
One of your most unusual or coolest experiences?
A week of dog sledding in Canada.
One of the most embarrassing moments in your professional career?
Oh, bad memory! A performance in Toronto and I had just danced a hard solo from Limon’s A Choreographic Offering and it had gone very well. Immediately following the solo there was a blackout and we had to start the piece over again and I did not dance the solo well the second time. I was humiliated.
Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?
Anna Sokolow – she taught me to always be honest (or try) on stage and a gave me an understanding and respect for fear
Annabelle Gamson – she taught me about the solo artist
Helen McGehee – she taught me how to always strive for more
David Wood – he believed in me
Some challenges of being a teacher?
One of the challenges about being a teacher is the amount of pressure I put myself under to make a class I believe in; a class that will do everything I am hoping to achieve for the students. I believe that teaching is a huge responsibility and honoring that to the standard I set for myself can be – is exciting and hard.
Something you would change for women in the DANCE world?
I believe women answer to a different set of standards in the world which includes the dance world. They are not allowed to fail as part of a process of learning and developing; men get more opportunities even if they are not ”successful“ each time. I also think that a woman is faced with having to choose between family and career in this country – it is hard to know if that is a choice or a consequence.
Something you would change for women in the REAL world?
I believe the same issues as I mention above are the same be it the dance world or real world (as you define them)
What inspires you?
People who are kinder than I am
Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?
A piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Savor the music
Take ownership of your body and respect and train it as best you can.
Be realistic but also dream.
This is your journey, no one else’s. Listen but make your own choices.