Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellice Patterson.
Ellice, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
My artistic story starts about eight years ago when a spinal operation left me with physical challenges. I had been dancing off and on before then, but after surgery, the thought of dancing on a “professional” level was near impossible. It was not until I went to Wellesley College, majored in Biology, and sailed across the Atlantic that I felt that I could do anything I set my mind to, including dance again. The journey in relearning to dance was especially difficult. I could not find any spaces that knew how to teach adults with disabilities, so often I was in children’s classes, it was a frustrating and uncomfortable experience that there weren’t opportunities available to me but I stayed the course.
After graduating I moved to Maine and immersed myself in the struggling artist world. I bartended, joined an artist union, and attended the Bates Dance Festival. It was there that I started choreographing and incorporating the walker I often use into dance. I created a piece called Abilities there that really propelled me into developing myself as a choreographer in the inclusive dance space. I returned to the Boston area to attend the BU Questrom School of Business with the drive to create more inclusive pieces.
It was a dream to start a dance company in the next twenty years once I built up my resume within other companies. However, I quickly found that other companies I auditioned for would not develop and allow me to perform on a professional level due to my physical limitations. I even discussed with the director of one company my limitations and inquired if there was one choreographer among the many there that would modify to meet my requirements. She kept repeating that this was a professional company. I was angered by that interaction. I decided that if there was not an institution for me and run by people like me then I would create it. Abilities Dance -Boston was born.
I developed myself quickly as a choreographer and CEO in the span of months before our very first show. I had friends in my master’s program to help walk me through the business side and others for moral support as I quickly created a presence for the company. Since that show a year ago, I have grown so much as a director and an artist. I have been amazed at the folks of all different abilities that come into the space that I get to create amazing work. I am continually challenged by them and myself to create powerful pieces that focus on their abilities and not their disabilities.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I am a dancer and choreographer. I create pieces about themes in the universal human experience such as struggling to grasp the concept of religion and a higher entity and the complexities of romantic partnerships. I produce pieces that challenge myself as a choreographer and dancer as well as my dancers physically (safely) and artistically. The idea is that mixed abilities dancers are telling these stories because these experiences are universal to all humans, those with and without disabilities. It’s powerful to tell these stories that show the audience we struggle and celebrate the same things that you do, maybe differently at times, but we are still struggling and celebrating.
People should know that I put every bit of myself into the stories that I tell as a choreographer. I work hard to put every bit of myself as a mover on stage in order to engage the audience and promote deeper conversations of inclusion for folks with disabilities and how that intersects with race, gender, and sexuality.
I create the work because I need to as an artist. I hope that my work can not only entertain but inspire others to value inclusion and create work and spaces for themselves if it’s not available to them like I have with my art and Abilities,
Do current events, local or global, affect your work and what you are focused on?
I don’t think the role of artists have changed, but focuses have definitely shifted. I think with current events there is much more emphasis in making statements then just purely entertaining. With grant funding being cut to support work and identities of dancers (like race and gender) being challenged by our president and a more elevated intolerant society, artists are strongly influenced to fight against these unjust times in their art.
I am constantly affected by my environment and the events around me as an artist and a human. Often times I am not sure how to react or fight against those events. However, through using my art as a platform to raise awareness to these issues, I feel that I am protesting in my own way and doing my part towards resolutions.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can check out our website: www.abilitiesdanceboston.org and social media pages: Facebook and Instagram @abilitiesdanceboston . They can come to our upcoming show: Next Level June 2 & 3 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/next-level-by-abilities-dance-tickets-44086300311. We need all the support for our first two-day Abilities produced show. Continue to come to our performances, engage us in conversation, and support our mission of increasing inclusion in dance.
- Website: www.abilitiesdanceboston.org
- Phone: 781-465-4032
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: abilitiesdanceboston
- Facebook: abilitiesdanceboston
Image of me in underwear with walker: Jennifer Thomas
Image with colored background: Eric Levin
Image with walker and red skirt: Kyle Davi
Image with two dancers: Russell Haydn