Becky Engstrom: Dancer and choreographer

Arts Profile

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2000

Dancing in silence: Becky Engstrom, 36, has performed, choreographed and taught dance for almost 20 years. She's worked with dance companies, theaters, community groups and dance academies, and has produced her own projects. She's choreographed dance to the poetry of e.e. cummings, to paintings and to silence.

"My preference is to choreograph dance with no music," she said. "If you always use music, you have to stay with it. It always drives and pushes you, instead of letting your movement be driven by how you're feeling at that moment. With no music, the timing really comes alive."

She said dancing without music also frees the audience to be more responsive to the moment.

"A lot of the time music tells the audience how they're supposed to feel. With no music, they do more of their own thinking."

Full time teacher: Engstrom grew up in Arizona and studied dance, education, journalism and advertising in college. She first came to Juneau in 1996 to perform with ORTS, a modern dance company based in Tucson. She stayed for the summer and taught at the Juneau Dance Unlimited Fine Arts Camp, and applied with the Juneau School District. She said she was hired that fall as a special education aide because she is fluent in sign language. A year later she was hired to teach third and fourth grade at Gastineau School, where she still works.

Trapeze dance: She also teaches hip hop and jazz dance classes, and an improvisational dance class that meets regularly with the drumming group African Rain.

"It's great to have live musicians," she said.

She specializes in trapeze dance, and teaches dance classes for adults and children.

"There's no release moves - it's not dangerous. This is not like in the circus," she said.

Dancing Glacier: She's married to drummer and composer Andy Engstrom, and the two frequently collaborate. In May she produced "Visions," a dance performance event inspired by the paintings of Rie Munoz, Jim Fowler and Dale DeArmond. She choreographed a dance to a painting by Fowler of the Mendenhall Glacier, and Andy composed the music.

"We experimented a lot with how a glacier would move," she said. "We had a wall of women become a glacier."

The dance interpreted the advance, retreat and calving of the glacier, complete with blue-clad dancers as icebergs floating out into the audience.

In addition to her many teaching responsibilities, this fall she's also working with Perseverance Theatre, choreographing the upcoming production of "Gypsy."

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