We had the good fortune of connecting with Donna Sternberg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donna, how do you think about risk?
For an artist every new creation is a risk because you never know what the outcome will be or how it will be received. I don’t think you can be an artist and not be willing to take risks. If your art comes from your heart and a deep inner prompting you have to follow it no matter where it leads. When I begin a new work I think of myself as standing on a cliff. I’m going to jump off that cliff and there’s no telling if I will sink or I will fly. I regard each of my works as an experiment, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t but what’s important to me is to keep that spirit of inquiry and exploration no matter what the outcome or how it is received. In the end taking the risk is more important than the result. Entering into the art field is a huge risk – how will you survive financially, how will you deal with criticism and rejection, how will you be able to do your art – all of these come into play. You can’t play it safe as an artist, you’re putting yourself out there on a public stage for all to see, opening yourself up and being very vulnerable. That’s the only way you can grow.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My path as a dancer/choreographer has taken lots of twists and turns to bring me to where I am today. I wouldn’t say it’s been easy, in fact in the beginning it was quite difficult. Throughout the challenges I just always had a sense that this was what I was meant to do, I felt like it was a calling that I had to listen to and that’s what helped me through the hard times. The lessons I learned from this is that you have to trust your own inner voice, no matter what anyone else is telling you. You have to learn to discern what comes from within you and what is the chatter that is put on you from the greater community surrounding you, including your own family sometimes. I originally started my career as a dancer and danced for several professional companies. At some point I felt the desire to express my own voice and began choreographing, first performing solo concerts. I always enjoyed collaborating with other artists, finding it a rich source of inspiration and expanding my own limitations. After a while I wanted to reach beyond myself and formed a company of other dancers which I’ve maintained for 35 years. My interests and way of working with the dancers has also changed a lot over this time. About 12 years ago I got very interested in working with scientists, trying to find a way to create bridges between dance and science and most of my work since then has been collaborating with a wide range of scientists, which has been rich and multilayered. I also began around that time exploring site-specific performances, taking dance outside of traditional theaters into all kinds of environments and spaces. Discovery and exploration are what is important to me. I work collaboratively with the dancers, using much of their own generated material for the final dance. Collaborations continue to be the most exciting and productive ways for me to work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Below is a dream week, with money no object! Grand Ave. corridor – Disney Hall, Broad Museum, MOCA. Dinner at Au Lac or Grand Central Market, dance performance at Redcat or Music Center Beach walk with lunch or dinner at Double Zero Getty Museum Poking around arts district downtown with stops at Hauser & Worth. Lunch at Manuela, dinner at Bavel. Visit to The Last Bookstore Huntington Botanical Gardens with tea Spa day in Koreatown with dinner at local restaurant If time visits to: LACMA, Hammer Museum Movie at Laemmle Theaters Dinner at Cassia, glass of wine at Esters Dance performance at Royce Hall, UCLA Walk through Tongva Park, Santa Monica Visit to Lake Shrine
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people, books, inspiration, encouragement that have contributed to my longevity as an artist, I honestly can’t count or remember them all. My husband Chris has stood by me through both hard and good times. I’ve had scores of dancers, board members, supporters, donors, friends, colleagues and audience members that have helped me climb that hill every single day. There is truly a village behind me. I have learned so much from other people, from other art forms, from nature, from sources known and unknown. I try to remain open to inspiration coming from all kinds of sources and people so that I don’t limit myself to what comes into my being. I am endlessly curious and this has led me to people and places that astonish, delight and feed me.
Other: Vimeo: Donna Sternberg & Dancers
Personal image: Photo Paul Antico All other images labeled with photographer