We had the good fortune of connecting with Spenser Theberge and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Spenser, what role has risk played in your life or career?
As a dancer and choreographer, I’ve found that risk taking is not only inherent in the work, but it’s also necessary in order to develop. And I mean develop not only in relationship to the execution of skills and technique, but also in the sense of developing artistry and values. To me, taking risks means challenging myself to go beyond what I already know. As a dancer, I have to constantly ask myself to be bigger than I think I am, to be faster or slower, more delicate, or more explosive than I think I am. I’m always trying to ask myself to go beyond my point of knowing. There’s risk of failure in there, for sure, but there’s also this incredible reward of discovery, newness, and growth. I try to remind myself to do this with my career, too, taking on projects that push me into new roles or experiences, and this has had an incredible affect on the growth of me as a person and artist. If we only ever do what we know, then we only ever do what we know. When we engage with the unknown, then at least we’re dealing with the potential for some kind of advancement, and I think that’s more than worth it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a dance artist and choreographer, I’ve been truly fortunate to have trained at incredible institutions and worked with groundbreaking organizations. I feel all of these experiences as records inside my body, and I try to honor them every time I move, every time I create. As a dancer, I feel like I have an inherent skill for achieving what I’m asked to do and for fulfilling other artists’ visions. This seemed like a great advantage at first, but became problematic eventually. I was only ever satisfying others and never considering my own perspective. It didn’t even occur to me until much later in my career to really give thought to my point of view. What am I interested in as a dancer? How do I want to interpret movement and what do I want to contribute to this world? Once I started thinking this way, I couldn’t stop. What I understand now, is that I’m not just a representation of the institutions I’ve experienced, I’m also a representation of myself. And I am a collection of things related to dance as well as other aspects of life. Learning how to bring all of my influences and interests into my dance work has been transformative for me. I believe in making genre-less, interdisciplinary, and intersectional work, which isn’t what I initially set out to do. I learned these values along the way by asking tough questions of myself and truly listening to the response. (And, of course, by balancing that with looking outward, doing research, and collaborating with other artists!)
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love to get to know a city by eating. Some of my favorite memories of traveling come from planning a food itinerary and marveling at the neighborhoods, landscapes, and people that were a part of those places. LA is special because everyone has their own version of it, and my partner and I definitely have must-visit places for family and friends when they visit. I’ll try to keep it concise! The food I can’t live without is All Time, Salazar, Pine and Crane, Tzubaki, Grand Central Market, the burger at Atrium, Walrus and Hedgehog, Jitlada, Cosa Buona, Kitchen Mouse, Silverlake Ramen, Bar Ama, Friends & Family, and Phat Birds for a fried chicken sandwich. I love coffee and therefore love Obet & Del’s, Maru, and Paramount Coffee Project. Natural wines please and forever at Tabula Rasa, Botanica Restaurant and Market, and Kismet. I don’t go out as much as I used to, but if I’m going to, I’m going to Akbar or Short Stop or an event at NAVEL or some seriously sweaty dance practice at Kiss ‘N’ Grind. I’m so looking forward to a post-pandemic return to Los Feliz 3 cinema, Skylight Books, and the Last Bookstore. And it isn’t LA without beach and mountains— I’m a lover of Escondido and La Piedra beaches in Malibu, and hiking near Strawberry trailhead in the Pasadena Mountains. Barnsdall Park for sunset is a must, and so are visits to the Underground Museum, the Broad, MOCA, and Pineapple Mama for some seriously serious vintage clothing. And no Sunday feels quite right without a trip to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. It’s my happy place. Can we get all that done in a week?!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I can’t think of people who have influenced my development without immediately thinking of my partner, Jermaine Spivey. Jermaine is also a dancer, teacher, and choreographer (truly one of the best in the world!), and he and I make performance work together. I have this incredible opportunity to love, live with, and make work with Jermaine, and in doing so I’ve learned so much about the value of presence, honesty, and compassion. Jermaine leads with these traits in everything he does, and collaborating with him reminds me to foster my own relationship with these traits. From Jermaine, I’ve learned to trust myself and separate my sense of worth from external validation. And I’ve learned to listen without assumption, because that’s how I hope to be listened to. He challenges me to think further, to consider more, and to embrace new experiences with generosity and love. My gratitude for him is immeasurable, and my success and happiness have been influenced by him in ways that I can’t comprehend yet. Jermaine! I love you!
Jacob Jonas Michael Slobodian Josh Rose Tilo Stengel