Why I Dance

April 27, 2009

A lush, fluid dancer with meticulous control, Cecily Campbell has a gift for exploring details within the subtlest of movements. The New Mexico native began training in ballet at age 6 with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet School (then the Santa Fe Dance Foundation) before moving to NYC to earn her BFA at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Campbell joined Shen Wei Dance Arts in January 2008. She has toured with the company around the U.S., Italy, and Canada, performing a featured solo in
Re- (Part I). Campbell stands out onstage for her exceptional musicality and curiosity about movement. She will appear with SWDA at the American Dance Festival next month.


I am endlessly fascinated by the body in motion.


Living in New York, I am constantly surrounded by a frenzy of physical activity, hundreds of people engaged in the movements of day-to-day life. These simple movements are a kind of common denominator between us as humans, something we share at a very basic level.


But the body is also an extraordinary vessel, capable of extraordinary things. I spend my work day in the studio challenging my body to extend outside of itself, to play, uninhibited, beyond what is comfortable, what is common. For me, part of the adventure is that search for a new physical language. When I am dancng, I can feel the subtle and constant communication running between my head, heart, muscles, nerves, and gravity. The moments in the studio or onstage when I can feel those lines of communication humming at their highest resonance are the moments that fill me the most.


I am also intrigued by the kind of physical intelligence we develop as dancers. I really enjoy the process of learning new material or being given a motivation for creating movement, and then digesting that information and seeing how it translates into my own physicality. I love watching my body problem-solve. In the company, Shen Wei gives us a lot of opportunity to develop our own movement within a certain physical quality or sensibility. Making movement in that way feels to me like encountering a sort of physical puzzle, and the task is then to discover the way my body wants to go about solving it. I like to think of dance as a physical science, or a scientific art, or an artful physics. It is the interplay between those worlds that makes dance so powerful, so captivating.


On a good day, I feel totally physically satiated when I’m dancing, and I’ve grown to crave that sensation of fullness. But it is much more than a physical fulfillment that motivates me as a dancer. Because it isn’t only a physical sensation to feel the heat and breath and noise of an audience filling a theater. It isn’t only a physical sensation to dance in unison with a group of people whose energy collectively interweaves and swells and gives birth to a universe unto itself. The sensations of that universe, the electricity of the energy created by a body or a group of bodies moving in space together, these elements transcend the realm of physical activity and move dance into an experience where I feel mystery, magic, and captivation.


My body is the form that makes me human in the most honest and basic sense. It is the structure at the root of my humanity, a root shared by every human being on earth. To feel the commonality of that root when I dance, and at the same time to feel that transcendence, that magic, that mystery of my body as a vessel to extraordinary and otherworldly sensations—that is why I dance. That is what I search for in movement, and why I am forever enthralled by the sensation of a body moving in space. 



Photo: Mark Murray, Courtesy Shen Wei Dance Arts