Britta Joy Peterson Fuses Diverse Skills, Experience into the Art of Dance

Posted on August 29th, 2012 by

Britta Peterson '09

Britta Peterson ’09

(Written and published by Arizona State University, Outstanding Graduate Students)

With a passion for movement, Britta Joy Peterson (Gustavus, 2008) explores the versatile art form of dance with a transdisciplinary approach. By synthesizing a diverse range of training, experience and inspiration, her dance and choreography is electrified by musicality, physicality and athleticism.

Primarily a postmodern contemporary dance artist, Peterson also has a passion for jazz, which is inherently fused into her work.

“This is why I love dance,” she says. “There are always ideas, things to research, new avenues to discover.”

As a graduate student at ASU’s School of Dance, Peterson is choreographing her MFA thesis, titled MOVE, as a project that reveals the body’s movement potential and how it can be a source of celebration, joy and fulfillment in daily life.

“I’m working with an extraordinary cast of six dancers, both undergraduate and graduate, who collaborate and research with me,” she says. “I also am collaborating with artists in light design, costume design, video/film and music composition.” She will present the performance November 16 to 18 in the Margaret Gisolo Theatre on the Tempe campus.

Growing up in Minnesota in an active and artistic family, Peterson learned to value creativity, relationships and nature at an early age. Throughout her childhood, she danced, played violin, sang, acted and enjoyed a “brief stint with a mandolin.”

Peterson expanded her accomplishments as an undergraduate at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she danced with the Gustavus Dance Company for four years. She studied with choreographers, contributed choreography to four theatre productions, co-directed two dance concerts, and produced her own evening-length concert as her capstone project. She graduated magna cum laude from Gustavus with a bachelor’s degree in dance and communication studies.

“I combined my two majors — dance and communications — to discover how the strategies used within rhetorical acts, such as speaking and writing, are similar to those found in dance making.”

A spinal disk injury while preparing for a performance sparked her passion for exercise therapy and injury prevention, and she became certified in personal training and nutritional consulting.

Following graduation from Gustavus Adolphus College, Peterson performed in the national ACDFA (American College Dance Festival Association) concert at Barnard College in New York. As part of the ensemble for Vigorous Incubation, she received a nomination from ACDFA/Dance Magazine for Best Performer. In Minnesota, she choreographed for regional theaters and co- developed the Edina Summer Dance Program that teaches jazz dance technique and repertory to 70+ teens every summer. Peterson continues to teach semi-annual master class workshops in Minnesota every winter and summer.

A professor inspired her to apply to graduate school. “I knew that I wanted to be a dance artist, and I knew that I had a lot of growing to do,” Peterson says. “I knew that graduate school would stretch my mind, body, and spirit in ways I couldn’t even dream of.”

Britta Peterson '09 in Concert

Britta Peterson ’09 in Concert

Peterson says she was drawn to the School of Dance at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts because of the school’s approach to teaching dance, artistry and synthesis. She cites the Learning Lens as an example of the learning environment.

Since joining ASU in 2009, Peterson’s choreography and performance have been shown across the valley as a part of the Arizona Dance Festival, Phoenix First Friday, Expresiones Quatro and Cinco, Dulce Dance Company, Desert Dance Theatre, HIDA showcases at the Icehouse and the ASU Graduate Project Presentations. She danced on scholarship at the Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop, researching the jazz and modern dance practices of artists from across the country.

Recently she presented her work Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance at the American College Dance Festival at University of California at Dominguez Hills. “My work was one of eight selected for the Gala Performance at the end of the festival,” she says. “It was a real honor to have my work presented alongside artists whom I have large respect for, specifically Keith Johnson.”

“In the future I plan to continue as a teaching dance artist, working as a choreographer and teacher,” says Peterson. “I hope to push my artistry over the next few years through travel, research and new connections. I love the energy that comes from being in academia —surrounded by others who are hungry for knowledge and research — so I eventually will land within a college or university as a professor in dance.”

As a teacher, her future plans include learning how to teach injury prevention and rehabilitation within university dance classes, as well as providing curriculum ideas to studios. She also enjoys combining traditional jazz concepts with contemporary jazz dance and music. “I would love to develop a jazz dance history course.”

“As an artist, I’ve been dreaming about a way to bring conservation and dance together,” she says. “I am obsessed with the ocean (I would be a marine biologist if I weren’t a dancer) and have been brainstorming about how to bring ocean life, and ocean strife, to the stage, or perhaps bring the dance audience to the ocean. I know that travel will be a large part of this research. Something I’ve always wanted to do is choreograph a stage version of Where the Wild Things Are, one of my favorite childhood books.”


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