Why I Dance: Tamara Riewe

February 23, 2010




A relaxed yet crystal-clear dancer with long, elegant limbs, Tamara Riewe joined the Trisha Brown Dance Company in 2006. As a child, she
played tennis, swam, and learned traditional Asian dances from her mother, a Taiwanese ballet dancer. Riewe attended the University of Washington in Seattle, then moved on to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City as a dance major. After graduation in 2001 she came to NYC, where she worked with several choreographers before touring with Bill Young/Colleen Thomas and Dancers while also working as a personal trainer. As a member of the TBDC, she has performed and taught all over Europe. Always game to express herself in words as well as dance, Riewe wrote for our June 2008 issue about breaking into the New York dance scene right out of college.


Encouraged by the smiles surrounding me, I struggle to pronounce my newest French word, déséquilibré, in an attempt to describe the exact quality I’m asking my students to embody. I take a breath and pour my concentration into dancing the phrase again, and am happy to hear, then see, small signs of understanding. Teaching this workshop in Paris, sans translator, has brought unexpected moments of fun as I’ve been able to meld a fascination with language and culture to my passion for movement.


Throughout my life I have danced from many vantage points and for many reasons, but always because I love the spirit of exploration and honest communication at its core. I feel incredibly lucky to have a career that brings me physical exhilaration along with intellectual discussion each day in the studio. Whether I’m rehearsing a piece, teaching a class, or collaborating on a new creation, I thrill at the myriad ways my mind and body are pushed to new heights.


I came to dance at a late age, having rejected it as a child—much to the dismay of my mother, a ballet dancer-turned-teacher. In my late teens I found my own place at the barre, looking only to gain strength to improve as an avid rock climber. I was intrigued to find the nuance layered within the difficult athleticism of each movement. Piqued by this surprising complexity, I signed up for ballet and modern classes in college.


My university dance classes opened my eyes to the spectrum of emotions and ideas that a trained body could evoke. I was excited to discover a physical outlet for the concepts I encountered in my academic classes. Each technique, from Graham to ballet, came with a history and aesthetic that could enhance my ability to convey meaning. I chose to pursue a BFA in modern dance because it was a highly physical field rooted in psychological investigation. It fed my intellect in ways no sport had been able to.


In my second year as a dance major I fell from the top of a multistory building while rappelling in a performance. After several surgeries and months in the hospital, I was told to hope only for a return to pedestrian movement. But even the most modest success in basic rehab kept me from feeling devas­tated—the smallest step forward whispered of the sweeping motion I had once relished. With the support of my family and teachers, I overcame my doubts enough to re-enter the studio and accept my strange, uncooperative body. My slower pace allowed me to see the beauty in my classmates’ struggles to hone the body. Their patience spurred me to find my own determination to persevere. What started as a fight to regain lost ability deepened into a journey that encouraged me to enjoy the entire process of dancing.


I had the great fortune to earn my dance BFA and follow my dreams to New York. I appreciated the anonymity of large classes and auditions, but cherished the sense of community that developed in each project or company. Eight years later, I still find inspiration dancing with the brilliant artists I have the honor of calling friends, teachers, and students. I have the joy of working with a company whose repertory motivates me to evolve as a performer and teacher. As a key part of my personal odyssey, dance teaches me to fully inhabit each moment in life, and to experience every step with gratitude and passion. 



Photo by Colin Fowler