Brittany Whitmoyer was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she studied Cecchetti Ballet from an early age. She attended East Carolina University to study dance and immediately developed a deep connection to modern dance. Upon graduating from East Carolina with honors, Brittany moved to New York City and pursued performing and choreographing professionally. There she joined Mariana Bekerman Dance Company, but left in 2009 in order to establish and develop bnw:dance. As artistic director of bnw:dance, Brittany has led company tours throughout New York City, Richmond, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago. In 2010, the company was selected for a summer residency in London, England, and created and presented Interrogation with the help of London lyricist, James Reindeer. Brittany went on to receive her MFA in Dance from the University of Michigan, in 2014. Brittany has taught dance to many youth programs across the country, specializing in modern, ballet, improvisation, and composition. She currently lives in Atlanta, where she is on faculty at The Studio Atlanta Dance, a freelance videographer for CORE Dance (Decatur), and continues to showcase dance on film.
Dance Canvas: What sparked your interest in dance?
Brittany: “My parents enrolled me in dance at a very early age. By elementary school, I was floating between gymnastics and dance and my mother finally said “choose.” Ultimately, The Nutcracker is what did it for me. I had been in it twice by that point and couldn’t fathom giving that up- the fake curls, stage make-up, costumes, and larger than life stage which came with an audience. From that point, I was in a ballet conservatory six days a week and had been in The Nutcracker eight years straight. By high school, I was burned out. I quit completely for one year. I thought I would never dance again. Cut to… my high school had a dance program and it was amazing. Ballet, Jazz, Modern; so much more freedom than what I was previously doing. I thought, OKAY! I will join this instead. I auditioned and didn’t make it. Here are the emotions of a teenage dancer getting cut for the first time: confused, sad, angry, embarrassed, determined, motivated. This is the moment I knew dance was a forever concept for me. I couldn’t take NOT doing it. I worked my butt off, auditioned the next year and the rest is history. Completed three years of the high school program, got my BFA in Dance and then my MFA in Dance!”
Dance Canvas: What inspires you to dance & create dance?
Brittany: “People inspire me. The kind of invisible string that ties us all together, moving through this world, that inspires me. Within those people, other dance makers inspire me- the ones that are candidly enthusiastic about their work, open minded and hearted, and show strength and perseverance. Those are the people that inspire me to make work and who I want to make work with! My main other hobby is in fact filmmaking and photography. I am a dance filmmaker by trade, but have been doing some documentary and promo films- even some wedding cinematography! I also have been moving back to film photography. It’s not dead! It’s so much more of a skill than digital photography and it’s been a welcomed challenge.”
Dance Canvas: What is your choreographic process?
Brittany: “My choreographic process changes every time I make something new. I bounce between the world of Screendance and dance for the stage, and both are created so differently for me. Depending on my cast, the familiarity and comfortability of the dancers, and timeframe, each piece is unique. I usually begin with a phrase and let it trickle and digress in rehearsal. Sometimes it leads to dissection and reorganization of the phrase, sometimes it inspires the dancers to improvise. Always listen to the voices of your movers. They are inside of it and have a perspective you do not. There is always some level of collaboration in my work. Even if I have choreographed every inch of a piece, if I am having conversations with my dancers about the work and that influences my next step, that is just as paramount as if they offered me the next eight count in the music.”
Dance Canvas: What is the mission of bnw:dance?
Brittany: “bnw:dance was created at the end of 2008 in NYC. It was accidental. I was unhappy in the company I was in and had been asked to make a piece for Uptown Performance Series at Bridge for Dance. On a whim, I quit the company, made a trio and after exposure and a review, we were off. It quite literally snowballed into bnw:dance. Our mission for the first couple years was to create innovative and engaging dance that fosters a new dance community through conversation. However, the company was relocated to Richmond, Virginia for a couple years and then relocated to Chicago. Through that time and with the growth and development of the company, our mission changed and expanded. We added an educational component, offering summer workshops, and bnw:dance became more of a collective, as my dancers were given their own choreographic opportunities within the company. As I began graduate school, bnw:dance went on indefinite hiatus and I haven’t officially picked it back up again, but it waits in the wings! It organically happened the first time and when the time is right, it will happen again.”
Dance Canvas: How have you grown as a choreographer?
Brittany: “Oh boy! How have I not grown? You evolve. Your thoughts, opinions, your body. The work I make now is nothing like what I was making 6-7 years ago. How could it be? There’s a maturity that develops the longer you are creating and with the more you experience. You can’t jump into that right away, it’s a gradual thing, whether you want it to be or not. I look back at my work from that time period and sometimes I think, yuck. But then, I think: You know what? That is where I was in the world, telling my story, and I always found an audience that let me share my voice. And I am so grateful for that. As I evolve, my life takes change and growth, my choreography reflects.”
Dance Canvas: Any words of advice to young dancers & choreographers?
Brittany: “You create your own path. If you want to move, move. If you want to create something, don’t wait for an opportunity. Get a couple dancers in a studio and make it. There’s always a way and always a solution. You will learn where your work can live and thrive, but it takes experimentation. New York isn’t for everyone. Live performance sometimes isn’t for everyone. Maybe it’s site dance, maybe it’s Screendance. Do it ALL and then figure it out. Taking a well versed dancer or choreographer to coffee to pick their brain is a wonderful idea and rarely rejected. To quote a dear friend and colleague: to begin, you must begin.”
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