Interview with Jessica: Dancing and Festivals

We think conversation is one of the most fun parts of language learning. On Thursdays, we switch languages and ask each other questions to learn more about Tuesday’s topic. Today, Rober interviews Jessica about her dance background and Missoula festivals in light of the Mountain Dance Fest in August. You can read Jessica’s original post about the dance festival here

Rober: When did you start dancing?
Jessica: I started dancing when I was 14 at a little studio in Missoula. I did a lot of my own choreography at my drama department in high school and then ended up majoring in dance in college. After that, I took a pretty long break, because while I love the theoretical side of art, my experience with it in college had taken some of the fun out of the physical aspect. I had to find my way back to enjoying it. I did a lot of acrobatics during that time and eventually jumped back into performing with a few groups in San Francisco.

One of my favorite photo shoots with my friend’s company, H20 Dance. (Photo: Stephen Texeira Photography)

R: Have you attended any other dance festivals?
J: Just a few. Several dancers from my program in college went to the American College Dance Festival in our region. There were performances every night and an adjudication the next day for the previous night’s pieces. This was one of the most interesting parts of the festival because they talked a lot about the craft of making dances and what worked and what didn’t in the pieces we saw. That festival was my first introduction to the Alexander technique and capoeira, so that’s a cool thing about some of the bigger festivals – that you can be introduced to movement that you wouldn’t encounter in your regular classes. Although, actually, even at this smaller festival, several of our morning classes were gyrokinesis, which I had never tried before.

R: What is your rehearsal routine like? Do you practice every day, or several days a week?
J: I try to take technique class 2-3 times a week, when possible. There are a couple of regular classes I love in San Francisco, so when I’m visiting, I always try to squeeze those in. Missoula has fewer classes, but there is a company that offers class once a week and then I do a lot of cross training with Pilates, weight lifting, and aerial dance. And then if I’m performing, there are usually a few rehearsals a week on top of that. I’ve found that it is really important to keep up the training aspect and not just go to rehearsals. I took that for granted in college when we were required to attend class every day.  


“Cross-training” at Lake Michigan.

R: Have you attended any other festivals lately?
J: I was just at River City Roots in Downtown Missoula a few weeks ago. This is a free two-day music festival completely supported by volunteer efforts and the community. They block off one of the streets downtown and set up a main stage and a fine art market. There is a children’s music stage at Caras Park and a family fun run on Saturday morning. I met up with my parents and heard two bands Friday evening: Laney Lou & the Bird Dogs and Nathan Williams & the Zydeco Cha Chas. Both were great, and the day was beautiful – the wildfire smoke had cleared out of the valley after several days of smoky skies. I would have attended more of this festival except that I had just finished a week of dancing and my legs were getting sore standing in the street!

River City Roots tries to keep the event as low waste as possible with reusable cups that you purchase with your first pint.

R: Which festivals interest you most in Missoula/Montana?
J: I think the festivals that interest me most are ones where I can do more than attend. Missoula First Night is a New Year’s festival that has been going on for a long time. One year, I performed with an African Dance group when I was visiting for the holidays. The Montana Book Festival is coming up in September, which interests me because I had a “lightbulb moment” at this festival when I was in high school. My drama and creative writing classes participated in an workshop where the writers wrote 2 page skits about how their parents met and the drama kids acted them out. At lunch, the workshop facilitators tasked us with cutting the same skit to half a page, leaving just the essential parts. This blew my mind at the time, to see how much you could cut from writing and still have it be clear. Not only this, but many of the skits were much better after the edits. I think in the future, I may try to volunteer at some of the other festivals, like River City Roots. I like feeling like I’m a part of putting something on. There are so many options, the Documentary Film Festival, the Wildlife Film Festival, Sunday Streets, the Folk Festival…

First Night Performance with Unity Dance and Drum in 2008

Feature photo: Stephen Texeira Photography


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