Photography by Garret Hill
Hi Quinn—we love seeing these wonderful images of you. Can you introduce yourself…..and tell us a little about who you are, what you do, etc?
Hi Rachel! I am so happy with this collaboration and I am glad to have the opportunity to share my story with you. I am a 24 year old pisces contemporary dancer and choreographer living in Los Angeles with a desire to bring dance to all aspects of my life and those around me.
Like all artists and their craft, my relationship to dance is constantly in flux and has not always been smooth. I started dancing at two years old in a “mommy and me” ballet class, then I picked up more rigorous classes as I continued my training at a local studio. When I was 14 years old, My dad passed away suddenly in an accident and I did not feel like doing much of anything after that. I have no concrete memory of the year or so after he left this realm, but I do remember the feeling of emptiness that grief left in my body. I am grateful for the lessons he taught me in resilience prior to his passing because I do not think I would have kept dancing, much less fully living my life, without them. I had to grow up quickly and I realized that the only person who was deeply missing my dance practice was myself. This taught me quite early that the world will rarely beg an artist to continue being an artist. It is my experience that artists continue to practice because they have no other choice. Contrived as it may sound, this early trauma helped me pursue the discovery of enjoyment everywhere in my life, and the way I do that most honestly is by finding dance everywhere. After making it through highschool (with so much patience from my teachers and peers), I attended Chapman University where I earned a BFA in Dance Performance and a minor in Peace Studies. During my time at university, I gained excellent technical skills and so much knowledge that I would not have otherwise received. That being said, I often question the institution of formal art education, especially in a privately funded university setting as I experienced. Lately in my personal practice, I have been exploring how a valid and fully lived dance practice can exist everywhere. Dance continues to happen even if I need to slow down because my world has dramatically shifted. My life has so far taught me that the situation can and will absolutely change at any moment, and while our current situation is one of extreme difficulty, to say the least, I have to keep doing my best to support myself and my community.
Dance is usually such a social experience. Needless to say, these are not the times for dance productions, rehearsals, etc. How are you managing to do what is essential to your life, your career, even though you cannot do it in person?
To be completely honest, dancers (as are all artists) are profoundly struggling right now. There is no option to work from home when your career would normally have you performing in crowded venues, departing on a cruise contract or filming a music video. We are not being financially supported by federal funding and unemployment benefits are, in my case at least, not a livable source of income. There is also limited access to the necessary training required for our skills, which we have been honing for the last 15+ years in many cases. Some of the most iconic dance spaces in Los Angeles are closing permanently because there is no support (or leadership in power) to keep them alive. These spaces have been serving the dance community for decades before I arrived to dance here and now they are gone within months.
Zoom has been an incredible tool and I believe it has made dance significantly more accessible during shutdowns, but it is not a sustainable way for dance to exist. There is no longevity there. It is a temporary solution to provide access and space for dancers of all levels everywhere while we are staying safe from the pandemic. If there is one thing the dance community is known for, it is for our resilience in any situation. We continue anyway. We make it work. We check in on each other and continue dancing. We will make new spaces, we will take dance outside, we will respect each other and the trauma we are experiencing together and move forward.
During the pandemic, I have had to reconsider how I can engage with a constant and rigorous dance practice and what that means to me. With plenty of time to quiet down and think, I have found that I am confident in my understanding that dance exists everywhere. I believe that a movement practice can exist on a slip ‘n slide, in a bar, during intimacy, during sex, in a “proper” studio, in the passenger seat, during a fight with your partner, right before you fall asleep and nowhere at all. I am obviously not the first person to have this notion about art making, but I like to share the thought because this mindset is helping me get through this time of isolation.
I am currently staying home and continuously trying to maintain and upkeep my relationship with dance by reaching out to people who inspire me and seeing how we can keep creating given the circumstances. Most recently, I had the opportunity to create movement for a music video by Lucia & The Best Boys, a band based in Glasgow, done virtually. My roommate, Sara Cath, happens to be a very talented photographer, and she and I shot it all and sent it to the editor who created the final product. Projects like this video really inspire me because I have so much admiration and love for musicians. I love creating dance with musicians because we each bring such interesting concepts to the table and can build upon them. Especially right now, I feel comforted that the musicians I have spoken with understand and share the longing to perform for a crowd again. I know we will and until then I am trying to make the most of this distance.
For those who love to dance but are too busy, inhibited or distracted, what would you say to them? Why is dance so important in your life?
Oh I guess I already touched on this but… Dance is EVERYWHERE! For me, dance happens to be my entire life in one way or another, but it does not have to be the same experience for others. We all have intimate and unique relationships with our passions. That is valid. I think all you really have to do is take a moment to acknowledge dance is happening. You are constantly dancing, your houseplants are dancing, the light in your window is dancing, watching is dancing, stretching in the morning when you wake up is dancing, having sex is dancing, taking a bath and lifting your arm to take a sip of wine is dancing, falling in love is dancing, laughing with your best friend over facetime until you pee is… dancing!! It takes no extra time, inhibition or intent focus to dance because you already are. It does not have to be a precious virtuosic experience unless you want it to be. Maybe it is more a shift of understanding, and allowing that space and love for yourself to not take it so seriously. That being said, of course deeper investigation and codified practice is always possible. Just keep dancing.
If anyone would like to know where to begin / what virtual class to maybe take / how to start your own movement practice, please reach out because I am more than happy to guide you, with love and to the best of my ability.
I see that you have so many interests and skills. Reiki 1 being one of them. Have you been able to continue a Reiki practice through Zoom or FaceTime? How is that for you?
I am a certified Reiki practitioner and love doing energy work, but of course that is another love I am not able to fully engage with safely now. While I know it is possible to do energy work virtually, I have not found that to be compatible with my process in a session. As my priority is always the physical safety and comfort of everyone involved, I do not think I will be able to practice Reiki for a while, other than on my quarantine pod/myself. I know so many people need healing right now and as soon as I feel it is safe for me to do so, I will happily start offering sessions again!
Are there any ways in which the restricting of your life has also expanded it? In what ways?
There are so many instances of personal life expansion that I can recount joyfully... Having time to cook dinner with my housemates every night (and eat it without having to rush to a shift), catching up with old friends over facetime, falling more in love, working through existential dread, resting, etc.
When we were receiving livable unemployment benefits to stay home, for the first time in my adult life I had a moment to truly rest and not feel the pressure to hold down a few jobs (and maintain a dance career) to meet my financial needs. That deep relief allowed me to reevaluate how I want to interact with work and how much I will allow capitalism to dictate how I spend my time. I have always somewhat understood that being a dancer would not be my main source of income partially because the US does not financially support/value artists and partially because the practice is too special to me and tied to my deep self for it to be my only job. With dancing, teaching, choreographing and energy work all forcibly on hold, I have been looking into becoming a birth doula. From what I know, and I am still learning a lot, I feel like birth work combines my love of advocacy for the body, womxn, and magic into a practice I could joyfully have as a career. I am just beginning to find my path with birth work, I would not have had the opportunity to slow down to investigate otherwise. I am really hopeful and excited about this new journey!
I have also been able to really expand and take time to lean into love. Within the last year I reacquainted with someone who I fell in love with at first sight years ago. The timing is finally right and I have been so happy to be together through this huge change of pace. Having a break from work gave us an opportunity to focus on each other and we even drove across the country and back. I spent some time with his sweet family on the East Coast and saw parts of the country that I may have never seen otherwise. Driving 3,000 miles while camping in a van would not normally be my go to idea, but given the circumstances and wanting to be safe, it turned out to be the most incredible experience.
I am hopeful that my life will always expand under restriction. Restriction can be hot.
In what ways are you finding Kindness and Generosity to the world, the community, and yourself at this moment in time.
Through this pandemic I have been so disheartened by the lack of consideration from others. Specifically the selfishness of those who refuse to wear a mask or limit exposure for high risk individuals. That being said, I have also seen the most generous outpouring of mutual aid within the communities I am a part of. This outpouring of mutual aid, although it should not be needed because that is literally the government's job, has been such a special example of ongoing kindness and generosity through the pandemic. I received a grant from a local organization’s mutual aid artist relief fund at the beginning of the pandemic, which was the only reason I was able to pay my rent that month. A few months later when the Black Lives Matter movement gained more momentum, I was able to give to various mutual aid funds to help the people I was out protesting with and those we were protesting for. While the commodification of a revolution and capitalization on the loss of life is a much longer and different conversation, these acts of generosity and mutual aid continue to stand out to me. There are so many kind and generous “good” people in the world, it is the institutions and the people holding those institutions up that need to be radically changed and rebuilt.
Dancer & Choreographer: Quinn Foster
Photographer and Video Editor: Garret Hill
- All of the photos were taken on 35mm film by Garret Hill.
- He had them processed at a local film lab but scanned them all himself.
- Access to his film scanning services can be found here https://filmobjektiv.org/process-scan