Founder and Director Sophie Needelman
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.