We had the good fortune of connecting with Robin Conrad and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robin, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
My career has been based around dance: as a concert/commercial choreographer, movement educator and scholar. In a sense, both my work in dance and the answer to why I chose it comes down to the same thing: possibilities. I’ve always been fascinated by what we as embodied beings can make happen, alone or together, in all sort of environments and at any given moment. And I suppose that’s an inherently artistic point of view, so maybe it’s no surprise I wound up in a creative field. When I’m working as a choreographer there are so many considerations––different ideas that I want to convey. Or if I’m working with a director I concentrate on how to bring their vision to life. Shaping movement based on how different people experience their bodies is totally thrilling to me. I also love teaching and encouraging my students to tap into their own creativity. That’s the root of why I think teaching dance transcends the subject itself…it’s about how to live in new ways as a moving human. In the last few years, I’ve shifted some of my focus to scholarship––I finished my PhD and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to work with a research unit in Denmark. All of this involved reading huge amounts of theory, mainly in philosophy and cognitive science, that integrates the body and movement. I’m finding this process of thinking about and enacting ideas to be an exciting hybrid of scholarly and artistic practices; again asking myself, what’s possible?
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.
I’m pretty sure most people in the dance world wear a lot of different hats. I think if a non-dance organization ever wants to hire a supreme multi-tasker, they should put out an ad seeking dancers! That said, I’m super excited to choreograph ideas that existed only in my head on amazing dancers and see things come to life. And I also love working with non-dancers and facilitating new ways they can move. I’m thrilled I’ve gotten to teach not only great, inspiring students, but work in communities of passionate teachers. And now in the world of scholarship I’m excited by the possibilities for collaborations both with other dancers and also people in other disciplines, who may not have considered the complexities of how movement can shape how they think and reflect what they value. Challenges: so many, too many. I struggle with confidence. I’m anxious about my work being good enough. I am sometimes terrified to get things wrong (even though I totally encourage my students to make big bold mistakes and revel in them!). So it’s always a major process to put my work out there. But I’ve learned that things almost always work out because I care really deeply about what I do so I put in a crazy amount of effort, down to the smallest details. I really want people to know that I will choreograph the shit out of whatever project I’m given and teach with all my heart and soul to whoever wants to learn. I’m approaching scholarship in ways that I hope will change the way we integrate movement into education. Everything I do revolves around dance, around making the process of an experience positive and around keeping myself dyamically engaged by always following the threads of questions that excite me. Accomplishments! I completed my PhD in the Spring of 2019, spent the summer presenting on my research at various conferences, including in Melbourne, Australia and Chicago, and by the Fall I had secured a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Movement, Culture and Society research unit at the University of Southern Denmark. It’s not easy to get a postdoctoral fellowship, especially in my field, so I was really grateful for that, and for the opportunity to live and work abroad. Other recent highlights include choreographing a commercial for Facebook, and appearing as a mentor for students from my alma mater, UC Irvine, on the PBS show Road Trip Nation. A nice tradition on the show is that all of the mentors from previous episodes sign the inside of the Winnebago with a quote or maxim that inspires them. I wrote something I really believe in: “Lead with love.”
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?
There’s so much to do and see in LA. That said, I tend to keep it kind of local, which is the east side of town for me. Restaurants I love and go to regularly are: Penny Oven, Hippo, Mh Zh, and Little Pine, just to name a few! There are great cocktails all over the city…General Lee’s, Everson Royce, Checker Hall, but chances are we’ll end up in my backyard drinking rose! These days, with none of us going out due to Covid-19 physical distancing restrictions, I’ve found a lot of calming satisfaction in working in my garden and cooking. But if we’re talking about things being open, there are some great museums including the Broad in downtown, as well as galleries that are always inspiring––LA has a great visual art scene (shoutout to one of my amazing artist friends, Jennifer Rochlin!). We’d probably wind up taking Sweaty Sundays at Ryan’s Heffington’s The Sweat Spot – which also happens to be one of the research sites for my PhD dissertation. And/or we’d take a Pilates class at the fantastic Pilates Eagle Rock (where I used to work many years ago!). And there’s no doubt we’d wind up at the beach at some point because we’re just so lucky to have access to the coast…not to mention all the tasty restaurants and cute shops in Venice. Time permitting, we’d definitely head up to Santa Barbara, where I grew up. For a long list of recommendations there, you’d just have to get in touch!!!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m so thankful to have great people in my life who are super supportive and who I can get into really good conversations with about everything from art to philosophy to politics and have a good laugh while we’re at it! That said, at various stages of my life there have been influential people who show up and light the way, having a significant impact on my growth as a person. So I want to give a shout out to one of the professors in my PhD program at Texas Woman’s University, Dr. Rosemary Candelario, and my dissertation adviser Dr. Matthew Henley, who is now at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. They both modeled excellence in both their academic and artistic pursuits, proving you can have it all!!! In both cases, they have also been personal advisers and I so appreciate the extra effort to help me along my path. This list could be really long but I’ll keep it brief and just add one more…my husband Matt Ward. He is both an anchor of support and a breeze at my back and I’m thankful every day that we are on this life adventure together.