A Familiar Face: An Interview with Jessica Gray

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National Water Dance Day, Dance Waterloo, 2016

Jessica Gray has been dancing with us for two years now. We are thrilled to create our second artistic work, Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly in just a few short weeks! We often refer to her as the Dance Waterloo “poster child”, as we have captured a ton of great photos of her throughout the past two years. Jess, originally from Rowlett, Texas, has been dancing for as long as she could walk. She attended The University of Texas at Austin where she received a BFA in Dance and is now pursuing a career in veterinary care and medicine. She plans to return to school in the near future to further her education and achieve another lifelong dream of working with animals. Jess has three older siblings, Jennifer, Chris and Edward, as well as two amazing, supportive parents, Jeannette and Brad. We asked Jessica a few questions to learn even more about this Dance Waterloo vet and her artistic mind.

What has been your favorite experience or memory with Dance Waterloo within the past two years? 

In my two years of working with Dance Waterloo, my favorite experiences has been the rehearsals. A rehearsal with Morgan or Rachael leaves me feeling enlightened, more aware, and often with a different perspective. They make dancing so much more than just movement. Their rehearsals are my playtime and my time to heal.

You’ve been in Austin for quite a while now! What made you choose to stay here post-grad? What do you love about dance in Austin?

I decided to stay in Austin post-grad because I wanted to stay in my home state of Texas, but also to be in a place that fosters an artistic point of view. Austin is a place where dreams are alive and thriving and creativity abounds – what’s not enticing about that?

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I like to write, read kooky novels, and watch cult classic films and TV shows. I also love to rock climb, to go out with my friends, and play and cuddle with my dog, Bear. Bear is my world, and my only fur-baby when I’m not helping and caring for other people’s pets.

Who has been a big support to you as you have grown as an artist?

My best friends, Maggie, Hillary, and Jennifer, have always been a big support system for me when it comes to growth as an artist and as a human being. However, my parents have always been my biggest supporters on and off-stage. My dad’s favorite memory of me growing up is driving to dance competitions and playing The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy, to get hyped for the long day ahead. It always helped calm the jitters long enough to get ready for the solo competitions.

You are currently in rehearsals with Dance Waterloo for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly. What has this experience been like for you? What’s difficult? What’s exciting? 

Thus far, the rehearsal process for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly has been both exciting and unnerving all at the same time. It’s a good kind of unnerving, keeping us all hyper aware and ready for anything. The studio rehearsals were a breeze, but working at the site, on the painted, recycled lobster rope, holds many colorful obstacles to overcome. I don’t realize how challenging it is until I am there trying to work through movement, and once we are done it feels like a dream, having accomplished something that felt so difficult in the moment. And then being told afterwards by Morgan or Rachael that whatever I’m doing looks exceptional is sometimes surprising but so exciting. It is very fulfilling to beat the obstacles, to take on new challenges each time and come out on top – literally, standing on little Hurlyburly hills.

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Rehearsals for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly, Dance Waterloo, 2016

Why do you think people should come see Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly

This performance is going to be cathartic, reminiscent of easier times. The piece is beautifully free and chaotic. It’s one of the most physically demanding sites I’ve ever worked on and it will be so rewarding to take some time to play like a child with friends and family. Plus, as an audience member, you get the option to choose your own soundscape to experience the piece. WHAT? That’s crazy! I would love to be an audience member myself just to experience that portion of the project. I know this is going to be one hell of a performance!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Jess! Dance Waterloo is blessed to know and have the privilege to work with such an amazing dancer and human. We hope our journey together continues! In the mean time, we will be at Hurlyburly, experimenting and crafting a one of a kind performance, Panorama Playground. You can now reserve your multi-channel headsets for this performance. We’ll see you there, December 3 & 4.

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Rehearsals for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly, Dance Waterloo, 2016

Ally Wheeler

Communications Assistant

Dance Waterloo

October 31, 2016

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