Alia Swersky is a movement artist, performer and educator deeply engaged in dance improvisation, durational time based work, site-specific work, and environmental installation. She graduated from Cornish College of the Arts in 1998 with a BFA in dance and has been teaching movement for the last two decades.
She has taught at Velocity’s Strictly Seattle Festival and the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation (SFDI). She was a long time Co-artistic director of Dance Art Group (DAG), a non-profit organization that promotes the practice and appreciation of dance and somatic education in the Seattle area, including the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation. Influences and inspiration come from her many years being immersed in movement practices and performance. Specific forms include contact improvisation, release/somatic techniques, yoga, Authentic Movement, Tuning Scores, Buddhist meditations, and many pivotal dance partners and teachers.
Alia danced and toured nationally and internationally as a member of the LeGendre Performance
Group. She has also collaborated and performed in the works of many Seattle artists some of which include The Maureen Whiting Company, Khambatta Dance Company, Jurg Koch, KT Niehoff, and Salt Horse.
Alia has been actively teaching, performing, and creating improvisational and choreographic
works in Seattle since 1998.
In my dancing, I am drawn to--and seek out--the real and the raw. My artistic path over the last two decades has been shaped by this yearning for deep and meaningful connections with people and places. Some of my most profound dance and performance experiences have taken place in living rooms, galleries, studios, fields, dusty parks, streets, and spaces I barely fit into. These dances have been with my children, my students, strangers, random spectators, and my long-term movement collaborators.
My creative process begins with a deep inquiry into the body, asking: what is my internal landscape and how does it want to move? The inner world of the body is an entire ecosystem, and my practice is to have an ongoing dialogue with that unknowable “home” we carry within our bodies. The subtlety of attending to breath, the permission to be patient, and to not force oneself toward virtuosic, kick-ass dancing unless that is the truth of the body’s experience. This is the cornerstone of receiving and sharing somatic richness, stepping outside of the capitalistic constraints of productivity to just be with the vast and strange wisdom below our surfaces.
I believe in embodied movement as a means towards human understanding and social change. All bodies are inherently political. As a womxn, an older dancer, a parent, queer, and an explorer of unconventional relationships and ways of living, I feel these politics more than ever. How does our body teach us about belonging, especially in rapidly changing environments and a divided culture? What history of dance are we dancing, and whose stories are missing? How do I use my somatic understanding to communicate with those whose life experiences have been so different from mine? I want my to work upend those forces that want to suppress difference and regulate notions of what is beautiful.
I think of myself as a co-creator, a ritual maker, and a “horizontal” director alongside those with whom I share space and time. Essential to these visions is the fact that as a movement artist, I literally and figuratively seek to touch others through dance, somatic presence, vulnerability, and fierceness. This process has manifested in many ways: full audience participation, physical acts of endurance, repetition, stillness and subtlety, singing, soft energetic grace, movement explorations that range from abstraction to caricature, and deconstruction of clichés such as extreme high femme expressions. I’m very interested in generating detailed movement that may barely look like dance, or creating movement that transcends our ideas of dance and instead captures the idiosyncrasies of a performer, speaking to and from the moment we are in.
Much of my work touches on intimate acts and inner worlds that are universal in nature but that we usually keep hidden from each other. Over the last 14 years I have created and performed many iterations of a solo, “A Walk Towards the Sun…the Moon…and the Stars…” designed to be experienced by a single audience member. The solo explores personal meaning and connection as it asks how we reconcile our ideas of perfection with our humanity, how we allow ourselves to be seen, how we receive or reject intimacy, and what we perceive as being truly essential. Another similar exploration was a performance involving breast-feeding my infant daughter; we nursed and then I folded her body into mine and slowly rolled our bodies together in a voluptuous traverse across the stage.
My teaching and work seek to create practices that embrace endurance--on stage and in life--and that frame endurance as acts of resistance, resilience, release, and beauty.
Photo by Jessa Carter