In trying to rediscover my mind and body connection, I’ve started taking modern dance classes at Wells. I grew up doing Irish dancing, but had to stop when I was twelve. I felt so empty without dance in my life, and getting back into it is the best thing I could have possibly done for myself. Since my first class I’ve felt really connected with my professor. In working and talking with her, I’ve learned so much about my body and its capabilities. I’ve only known Heather for half of a semester now, but she has opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. I know that so many others can benefit from what Heather has taught me, which is why I want to highlight her. A simple article couldn’t do justice, but I figured I’d try.
Heather Acomb, dance artist and educator, is from Rochester, NY. She is a visiting professor of dance to Wells College, but also teaches dance at Nazareth College and the College at Brockport. She received her MFA in dance from The College at Brockport in 2009, where she began working with her teacher who soon became her “dance grandpa,” Bill Evans. After graduate school, she spent three years performing, touring, and teaching with Bill Evans in his dance company and summer workshops. She then came to Wells in 2016 as the Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance, where she has truly made a difference for me.
Heather has made me realize that dance is more than just dancing. Dance is about understanding your body’s capabilities and truly finding a connection with your mind and body. I’ve found that these things really move beyond the dance studio. In working on moving through the dance studio, I have found ways to move through my life with grace. That said, I really wanted to further understand Heather’s experience with dance and what it truly means to her. In interviewing her, I’ve gotten a further understanding of Heather’s experiences and therefore, shaping my own.
Q: When and why did you start dancing?
A: “I started dancing when I was 5 because my mom said I had to pick an extracurricular activity. I took jazz classes for fun throughout my K-12 years. I always loved dancing and performing, but never thought it would turn into my career until I was about to graduate from SUNY Geneseo. I was a dance minor there, and one of my teachers encouraged me to apply to grad school for dance. So, I did, and I got into Brockport, and I went.”
Q: What does dance mean to you?
A: Dance is everything to me. It’s my life. It’s my career. It’s my passion for living. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my living, moving body.
Q: In your words why is dance so important? And how can it help us understand ourselves?
A: Dance, to me, is a field that celebrates diversity, community, and the human spirit. When we come to know ourselves as dancers, we come to understand that we can learn from our living bodies. We only really have the present moment to live in. When we embrace all aspects of our thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting selves through movement I believe that we lead much richer and fuller lives. We are connected to ourselves on an internal level, and at the same time, we are able to make connections with others and with the larger community around us. This is invaluable, especially in our current socio-political climate.
Q: As a teacher, how have students inspired you?
A: “Students inspire me to keep learning. I am never satisfied as a dancer or a teacher. There is always more to learn, more to know, more to gain, and more room for growth. When my students can teach me something new- either about dance or about myself- I am grateful. The work is never finished. We always have room for change and growth. I hope to instill that value system into my students as well. I hope they leave my classes with the understanding that their work is never done. They should always be learning, changing, growing as dancers and as humans.”
Q: Where do you think dance will take you in your future?
A: “I have no idea where dance will take me. It has unexpectedly taken me from Maine to California and back again. It has unexpectedly taken me to live and work in Hawaii. It has unexpectedly brought me here to Wells. The beautiful thing about this moving art form is that it has taught me to expect the unexpected and to keep my doors open to many possibilities. Dance has taught me to find stability within mobility. I am along for the ride!”
Like I said, a simple article couldn’t possibly do justice for what Heather has taught me. So thank you, Heather. Thank you for being a support system for me. Thank you for teaching me what my body really is. Thank you for teaching me how my body works, within and beyond the studio.