Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebekah Brown.
Rebekah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in the small town of Ashland, OH and started dancing when I was seven at Opus II Dance Studio. My mom put me in dance because, as she says, I “was always bee-bopping around the house.” I was accepted into Opus II’s pre-professional company, Ashland Regional Ballet, and performed with them for five years. One of the shows, Choreographer’s Showcase, allowed students to create their own dances from top to bottom—including scheduling, costumes, and lighting ideas—and perform them for an audience. It was an amazing opportunity to start honing my choreographic craft.
After graduating from high school, I attended The State University of New York at Buffalo and received my BFA in Dance Performance. Between my junior and senior years, I received a scholarship to attend the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC. It was during their six-week summer dance intensive that my love of modern dance began to bloom. During my senior year of college, I pioneered a study abroad program with the University of Chichester in England, spending five months studying with a variety of teachers and gaining exposure to other cultures and styles of dance.
When I graduated from college, I moved back to Ohio but soon realized I missed performing and teaching, and that my dream was to one day teach at the collegiate level. So, I started a two-year MFA program at Mills College in Oakland, CA in the fall of 2011. I was drawn to Mills because of a particular class that was offered, “Seminar in Interdisciplinary Collaboration,” taught by Molissa Fenley, which sparked my budding excitement for multidisciplinary work. My thesis, “Discovering and Defining Relationships between Painting and Dance,” was a crossover between two of my loves, dance, and painting. I stayed in Oakland for another three years, teaching, performing, and working. It was during this time that the idea of starting my own dance company was hatched, and in July 2015, H2O Dance Company was born.
September 1, 2016: I arrived in San Diego, knowing one person and needing a fresh perspective. I took jobs where I could; choreographing for random gigs, studio teaching, and managing a Pilates studio. After a year of the nomadic artist life, I applied for the Performing Arts Coordinator position with San Diego Dance Theater (SDDT), and got the job! I jumped right in helping the company get organized, grow, and continue the legacy of our artistic director, Jean Issacs; and in January 2019, I was promoted to full-time Operations Manager. Working at SDDT has been a wonderful experience, feeding both sides of my brain—the administrative, organizational, planning side and the creative, teaching, and artistic side.
Since moving to San Diego I have gotten involved in many exciting projects. I have been choreographing for and performing with my church, C3 San Diego, since October 2018, working with them to produce two fully staged productions and multiple single events each year. I am co-curator of “Fresh Dances” with colleague Emily Miller. Now, in its third year, Fresh Dances is a performance opportunity for up-and-coming artists, showcasing fresh new voices in the San Diego dance community. This April, I worked with colleague Ian Isles to coordinate the ArtMOVES dance stage at ArtWalk San Diego in Little Italy. I am also a freelance choreographer and teacher; most notably I’ve set four pieces on Ashland Regional Ballet, my home company, and will be setting another piece on them in June; and, I’m in my second year of a Guest Choreographer residency at the Creative, Performing, and Media Arts Middle School in Clairemont.
H2O Dance Company, of course, also came with me when I moved to San Diego. The company is my love and my passion. I continue to build the company, working with amazing dancers, exploring new themes, and performing all around the county.
In all, I’m so happy to be where I am and blessed to spend my time doing what I love.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My road, like everyone else’s, has had its curves, potholes, straightaways, and roadblocks. Life is challenging, but also rewarding and beautiful. The struggles sometimes seemed endless but they are a big part of what has gotten me to the point where I am now…happy, content, passionate, and most of all, blessed. When I was growing up, I struggled with bouts of depression, and in college, I struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, and an eating disorder—because I wanted so badly to “fit in,” and I thought I had to change the way I looked to do that.
The standard I had set for myself was perfection, but, that’s unattainable—no one is perfect. What I’ve come to realize is that everyone is their own version of perfect. I went through being financially prolific to being broke, questioning my faith, struggling to keep together a codependent relationship and getting out of that relationship, being too proud to humble myself and ask for help, injuries, feeling so alone in the world, even losing my love for dance for a period time. I felt like a disaster. It took many hours of therapy, tears, quiet times in the studio, and prayers to sort it out but what kept me going were glimmers of who I knew I was deep inside. Now, my standard is excellence (with a side of perfection).
It hasn’t always been an easy road directing a dance company, either. Finding the time and energy to keep the company growth can be exhausting, especially on a shoestring budget. Not to mention the vulnerability of creating my own work for others to experience and critique. But, there is something so satisfying that comes from putting everything together, and that’s why I continue to press in and expect progress.
Someone once told me recently that there are no disasters in life; a disaster is just a learning experience. It’s such a different mentality and I’m clinging to that. Being able to finally take a step back and see the amazing things that I’ve accomplished and know that I am surrounded by people who support and love me, friends and family alike, who will always be there for me no matter what—now that’s living.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about H2O Dance Company and San Diego Dance Theater – what should we know?
I feel it’s equally important to talk about my dance company, H2O, and the dance company I work for, San Diego Dance Theater.
In July 2015, I started H2O Dance Company as a way to centralize my creative endeavors. I keep making work; why not try to build it into something that can reach more people? Our mission is to create inspiring, accessible dance work while providing a space where artists can be supported, ask questions, and above all, create community.
In Oakland, H2O was just getting started. There, I produced my first full-length show in September 2015 with ten dancers and five new works. H2O’s first performance in San Diego was February 2017 and since then H2O has been involved in over 10 performances, including ArtWalk San Diego, National Water Dances, and Shared Spaces. We are now in the process of collaborating with the Rodger Anderson Chorale for a performance in June. In March of this year, I produced a full-length H2O show with eight professional dancers and four pre-professional high school students at White Box Live Arts at Liberty Station. This show included repertoire from as early as 2010 and as recent as 2019 with two new premieres for the show. I’ve met so many dancers in the San Diego dance community, but now have a solid group of company dancers who are passionate about creating art together. I’m so blessed to be able to work with each of them every week.
At San Diego Dance Theater, it’s been a constant ride up the mountain! SDDT is a San Diego cornerstone and the team has cultivated a loving, artistic, exemplary environment. My role at SDDT is multifaceted and I wear many different hats. I manage the school schedules and teachers, work-study students, our theater rental space (White Box Live Arts), and many other day-to-day basics as an arts administrator. I am also a teaching artist through SDDT, participating in middle school and high school residencies. Currently, I am finishing up my second spring residency at the Creative, Performing, & Media Arts Middle School where I have the honor of setting a new piece on intermediate dance students. Each summer, I teach for SDDT’s Summer Modern Dance Workshop, where I teach students ages 14-60 and have the opportunity to set choreography for their workshop-end showing. The work-life balance that SDDT encourages is refreshing and important to a successful company. I am proud to be a part of such a familial community that continues to produce excellent work.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Passion, perseverance, patience, and love of movement.
- Website: www.h2odance.com, www.sandiegodancetheater.org
- Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @h2odance, @sandiegodancetheater
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/h2odanceco, https://www.facebook.com/sandiego.dancetheater
Doug McMinimy, Renee Kunkel, Kurt Loeffler