Directed by Sophie Needelman
The Defiance Project Promo Video by Jason Lee Segal:
The Defiance Project is a dance company.
Dancing- this dancing- is done every time someone moves and is moved.
Movement is of the body, but also of the mind, spirit, soul, breath, words, being.
A company- this company- is a community of people participating in this movement of exploration, transformation, and acceptance.
Participation in this dancing and this community is as simple and whole as being present with us, building connections with us, and allowing oneself tochange and be changed.
Dance with The Defiance Project, directed by Sophie Needelman, in whichever way and through whatever media you chose. We are collaborators, innovators, shakers and movers of our bodies and beyond.
The Defiance Project is a dance company that uses processes of defiance to engage a community of collaborators through personal and collective experiences of presence, connection, and change.
The Defiance Project uses the creation, expression, practice, and performance of dance to explore what it means to defy. The company behind this project manifests defiance in both the form and function, and process and product of the work it does. As a director, Sophie Needelman is interested in the method and means and process of defiance as a tool in and of itself- independent of what is being defied or why. Defiance is a lens through which we can experience and interact with expectations, standards, norms, and comfort- regardless of what the nuances of these objects of defiance may be. Choosing to experience through the act of defiance is defiance in and of itself.
Defiance is not just open disobedience- it is not just a reaction and it isn’t an innately negative thing. Defiance is power and empowerment; it is an action- our action- and dance is the form it takes. Through the creation, practice, and performance of dance we employ defiance as the means to an end of a world where defiance is no longer necessary. The value in defiance is that it allows one to achieve exploration, acceptance and transformation- presence, connection, and change.
The company behind this project manifests defiance in both the form and function, and process and product of the work it does. This work examines Defiance as presence within and because of one’s physical being, as occupation of self through sought sensation. This work examines Defiance as connection within and among physical beings through breath, pulse, and rhythm. This work examines Defiance as change through movement, because and in spite of connected presence and present connection.
Boundaries must first be known in order to be broken. Defiance allows us to know ourselves- because of and in spite of these boundaries. It yields the growth necessary to then become limitless as a dancer and as a human being.
Change. Movement is change; by moving we are changing. Even in a state of rest, our bodies move with pulse and breath; these movements are the foundation of life. Change is innate to our humanity and to our lived existence. Defiance is embracing oneself as a changing being- by changing oneself. Change, without judging change as progressive or regressive; it is merely a process and a product that leads to a difference based on what once was the same. Move and be moved.
Connection. Points of connection within the body are the source of initiation and engagement for movement. Connectivity allows for space to be made as a foundation for and initiation of movement. Space allows for engagement. Connection is liberating. Connection between bodies exists through the catalyst of rhythm. Our breaths and pulses are consistent and constant; the stability of rhythm is innate to our humanity and existence. We can control our bodies on a rhythmic level to connect to other bodies, connect to music, and connect to the momentum of life in space.
Presence. It is generally known that physical sensation it inspires thought. However, this cycle is reversed through dance; one must intentionally seek the physical sensation that comes from movement. Through this, presence is both created and maintained. One can only feel completely present by being aware that there is sensation to be sought- and thus that one can experience presence through thinking about the physical sensation that can come from moving through space.
During a recent recording session with The Defiance Project’s resident filmmaker Jason Segal, director Sophie Needelman reflected on the concept of defiance and the way it inspires the dance work she does within the scope of this company. Defiance is not just the product she strives for- it is the process through which she hopes to evoke change.
“For myself and other collaborators in The Defiance Project, dance is an expression of the relationships we build with one another- it is an expression of our growing relationships with ourselves. We build these relationships to change how we exist in the world around us. They serve the creation and expression of the work we do. Our dance is our defiance, and our process is the new regime against which we one day will no longer have to defy.
Defiance is not just open disobedience- it is not just a reaction and it isn’t an innately negative thing. Defiance is power and empowerment; it is an action- our action- and dance is the form it takes. Through the creation, practice, and performance of dance we employ defiance as the means to an end of a world where defiance is no longer necessary.”
Sophie Needelman is a modern dance practitioner and theorist whose style is influenced by postmodern and contemporary dance concepts with an emphasis on release technique. Her dance training began in San Diego at the Envision Dance Conservatory and Eveoke Dance Theater where she was exposed to numerous artists and dance styles. It was here that she also began her exploration in professional dance performance and choreography. Since having begun her studies in Dance and Performance Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, Sophie founded a dance company of her own called The Defiance Project. The Defiance Project is a dance and artistic production company that uses processes of defiance to engage a community of collaborators through personal and collective experiences of presence, connection, and change. The Defiance Project produces work throughout the East Bay Area and San Francisco, with its latest works focusing on collaboration with Faultline Theater Company, The Garage San Francisco, and Dancers’ Group.
The Defiance Project defies
societal norms that don’t allow for creative expression
positions of privilege that don’t allow for full human connection
norms that suppress people
expectations based on labels we are forced to assume by society
the assumption of societal labels
pressures to act a certain way because of assumptions
I personally defy
The idea that a woman can’t run her own company
The idea that dance can only be used for entertainment and virtuosity
That a college student or young person can’t start a business
The idea that pursuing a career in the arts can’t be professionally rewarding
As a queer person, I defy standards of heteronormativity by outwardly identifying as gay so that every little girl out there knows that liking boys isn’t their only option. The content of the work I create explores and expresses various types of relationships and sexual orientations. My work also directly addresses confines of heteronormativity by challenging expectations of sexual orientation and gender dynamics through the portrayal of relationships between various human forms.
As a cis female-bodied woman, I defy the gender binary by acknowledging the privilege of my gender identity and its situation within a socially constructed notion of gender. The expression of gender and sexuality in my work challenges gender expectations as well as the idea that gender is something universal, inherent, and unable to be escaped. I also strive to challenge the ways in which the expressed form of gender impacts to the way we relate to one another.
As a young adult, I defy the idea that young people can’t start a business by developing not only the creative elements of my own artistic identity but also the business and financial development of the company in which I channel my work. The Defiance Project is not just a creative project but also a business venture with financial infrastructure and support.
As an artist, I defy the idea that dance can only be used for entertainment and virtuosity, and that pursuing a career in the arts is unrealistic and professionally unrewarding by starting my own dance company that uses defiance through dance to promote presence, connection, and change. My company’s mission statement states: “The Defiance Project is a dance company that uses processes of defiance to engage a community of collaborators through personal and collective experiences of presence, connection, and change.
The Defiance Project is a fiscally sponsored project of Dancers’ Group.
Dancers’ Group promotes the visibility and viability of dance. We serve San Francisco Bay Area artists, the dance community and audiences through programs and services that are as collaborative and innovative as the creative process itself. In response to the needs of its constituents, Dancers’ Group has evolved to fulfill a dual function as a service organization and as a presenter of performance opportunities that maximize the visibility of dance in the Bay Area.Dancers’ Group fulfills its mission by delivering programs that serve three interlocking constituencies:
- Individual dance artists
- The dance community
- Dance audiences
We strive to bring a variety of artists and organizations together that create engaging partnerships and civic collaborations, ensuring that we continue to identify and leverage resources for our members and our community.Strengthen
We work to build the quality and accessibility of dance in the SFBA through services including our fiscal sponsorship program, California Dance Network, professional training seminars, and our monthly publication In Dance.Amplify
Our presenting and co-presenting programs increase visibility for dance artists that engage a diverse community in an effort to bring new audiences to dance.