Jess Humphrey (MFA, CLMA, RSME) is a dance artist and educator. Her movement research began in childhood with competitive gymnastics and continues today with dancemaking from various, shifting perspectives and states of body~mind. Her dances are expressions of her engagement in contemplative and somatic practices, Integral Theory, and reverence for those within whose lineages she moves.
She has an MFA in Modern Dance with a focus on contact improvisation and creative process from the University of Utah and a BFA in Dance from California State University, Long Beach.
An intensive study with Deborah Hay in 2009 changed her life and continues to inspire her every move.
Her collaboration with Eric Geiger (UCSD) and Leslie Seiters (SDSU) spans a decade and multiple contexts including pause, a trio by Deborah Hay. She has shared in the creation of several evening-length dances as director, collaborator, and/or performer over the past eighteen years with other artists including Gabor Tompa, Sara Shelton Mann, Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s La Pocha Nostra, Nugent Dance in Los Angeles, and Core Dance Theatre in Idaho, and LIVE.
Years of practicing and performing spontaneous dancemaking with LIVE (Kris Apple, Emily Aust, Liam Clancy, Viktor De La Fuente, Ron Estes, Chloe Freeman, Eric Geiger, Zack King, Veronica Santiago Moniello, Justin Morrison, Krista Kaye Nelson, Nhu Nguyen, Mary Reich, Karen Schaffman, and Leslie Seiters, and
She completed the Integrated Movement Studies (IMS℠) program and was certified as a Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA) by Peggy Hackney and Janice Meaden in 2006 and is a Registered Somatic Movement Educator (RSME) with ISMETA (International Somatic Movement Education & Therapy Association). She is engaged in The School for Body-Mind Centering®’s SME (Somatic Movement Educator) program with primary teachers Amy Matthews and Mary Lou Seereiter at Moving Within in Lorane, Oregon. She has studied the Feldenkrais Method® with Seiters, Geiger, and Kristen Baum Wilcox and Alexander Technique with Marjean McKenna, Eileen Troberman, and Shelley Senter. In 2002, she certified in Pilates with Karen Clippinger and Rael Isacowitz (Body Arts and Sciences, International) and has taught in dance, physical therapy, and fitness settings throughout the US. She is also training to become an Integral Facilitator through Ten Directions.
Jess continues to learn by teaching in the Division of Dance at San Diego State University, was co-facilitator and teacher at Practice: a dancing intensive in San Diego for two summers, and taught at the Winter Intensive for ADF. She has also enjoyed teaching and directing work with students at the University of California, San Diego, California State University, San Marcos, and MiraCosta College and occasionally teaches contact improvisation and co-facilitates the weekly Contact jam in San Diego at Stage 7 School of Dance with other members of the local Contact community.
dancemaking ~ teaching
“The dancing does the teaching. The teacher points to that.”—Steve Paxton
Learning asks people to stand on a foundation built with what they already know and bravely fall, supported by curiosity, into what they do not know. In dance education, this is not a metaphor. The learning process is public in the performing arts, and the focus on the body in dance can make even the most skilled students feel overexposed. I’m willing to do whatever I ask of students because I love learning right alongside them. I continue to make dances because I have questions. I teach because it asks me to articulate the edges of my own knowing with clarity and simplicity. My hope is that my own vulnerability promotes an atmosphere of risk-taking where art simply emerges…and we all point to it.
I ask students to move their questions so that answers, ideas, and new questions in dance can emerge from dancing at least as often they are applied to dancing. It can also reveal common understandings within some of the most diverse classrooms, as well as radical differences among students who might appear similar. When the dancing itself becomes the teacher, students’ experiences are validated, they learn how to initiate and enact embodied inquiry through a process that will always be available to them, and I become more dispensable.
“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will…An education which should improve this faculty would be an education par excellence.”—William James
I believe that dance training is the best laboratory for the cultivation of the kind of extended, expanded attention that is conducive not only to learning, but to a way of being in the world that is conscious, empathic, and responsive. My hope is that these qualities might enable students to take a more active role in their education and in the world.
I’ve experienced the tranformative power of contemplative and somative movement practices over the past decade. These sophisticated technologies can expand awareness and cultivate consciousness in all parts of dancers’ whole selves. These include practices that train us to listen and become aware of what is already happening in one’s body-mind without trying to fix anything. I have witnessed intelligent and specific change in students who learn to practice in this way.
Identification, articulation, differentiation, and integration are steps in the creative process of embodied anatomy described in the introduction to Sensing, Feeling, and Action by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, creator of Body-Mind Centering® (BMC®) that I constantly return to. What are the details (parts)? How are they in relation to each other? To the bigger picture (whole)? What is the big picture (and how does it change when we explore its specifics)? These steps and questions enable my work as an artist and educator (dance making, performing, writing) to more fully permeate and support my teaching.
The Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis (LMA) training I engaged in greatly influences my approach to curriculum design, teaching, and learning. I certified with Peggy Hackney (UC Berkeley) and Janice Meaden in the somatically-oriented Integrated Movement Studies℠ (IMS℠) program, where the focus is the embodiment of the LMA/Bartenieff work. It is the most holistic educational experience I have had to date. I learned as much about learning as I did Laban’s theoretical framework. I now use the LMA system to analyze and articulate various styles, which enables me to support students’ choreographic processes across a greater variety of aesthetics.
I grew up doing gymnastics and valuing measurable perfection. I found contact improvisation less than ten years into dancing and it welcomed the upside-down-ness of my early movement training while quietly softening any patterns of fixedness left over from years of “sticking it”. I learned to choreograph my consciousness when I worked with Deborah Hay as she pushed me to “transcend [my] choreographed body”. This did not mean getting rid of anything. It was about becoming aware in a way that made everything available. I have a deep respect for students’ skills and perspectives no matter where they are in their own development. I trust that what they know and love now will both endure and mature as they evolve. Rather than “fixing” students, I am interested in bringing to their attention what they are already doing, and increasing the number of choices they have available to them as artists and human beings.
“our bodies and minds are not two and not one…our bodies and minds are both two and one.”—Suzuki Roshi
“Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.”― Shunryu Suzuki
or, for short:
The inclusion of multiple perspectives in the study of phenomena can create a more holistic knowing. Somatics is the study of the human body from a first-person, subjective, experiential perspective. While I believe this approach is essential, I also value the objective, “outside in” ways of working.
This both/and approach permeates much of my work and provides a greater number of lenses through which I can teach and design classes. A few sets of concepts that are alive in my teaching right now include somatics~dance science, process~product, full-bodied and high energy movement~simple and subtle movement, how~what, inner~outer, horizontal growth (integration, translation, the qualitative)~vertical growth (transformation, the quantitative), allowing~asserting, experimental~traditional, minutia~big picture, movement~moves, and learning how to learn~learning information.
The key to each often exists in the other. One can be an inroad to the other. Attempting to live in both simultaneously is generative. Occasionally, they blend and create something new. Each has its own definition and any set can exist along a continuum, one clarifying the other. If neither is repressed, denied, or undervalued, then nothing is “othered”. What could this mean for dance? For relationships within dance making processes and dance communities? Between department and even schools within a university?
A true “both/and” mindset includes both “both/and” and “either/or”. Context determines which side of the coin I privilege at any given moment. More often, I choose that which is underrepresented or less known, but I never ignore its counterpart(s). Attending to both ends of any spectrum exposes biases, explodes the number of choices available throughout the creative process, and allows for many different kinds of relationships to exist between seemingly contradictory ideas. I’ve come to call this paradox praxis.
The graphic below is my attempt at a visual representation of how the different areas of my work as a dance artist intersect. I made this in 2014 when I applied for my current position at SDSU.