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Monday, June 17, 2013

Admirable Artists Meets Spectacular Sportspeople: Exclusive Interview with Mover and Shaker Chriselle Tidrick, Dancer Extraordinaire Our Coverage Sponsored by ECO SWIM BY AQUA GREEN

Chriselle Tidrick

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Like many dancers and athletes before her, Mover and Shaker Chriselle Tidrick found herself coping with a major injury in early Spring 2012. She ruptured her ACL performing a simple tumbling skill, and suddenly she saw all her spring performance commitments slip through her fingers. She was quickly scheduled for ACL reconstruction surgery with world renowned orthopedist Dr. Phillip Bauman, and she spent the remainder of 2012 in intensive physical therapy with Erika Kalkan at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. As shocking and heartbreaking as this experience was, Ms. Tidrick is deeply grateful for the incredible care she received in the process of putting her body and her life back together. It has been a slow and complicated process, but it is gratifying for her to see her creative life returning.

Since re-emerging into the dance and circus arts worlds this year, Chriselle has immersed herself in the rehearsal process for two projects. She is currently in rehearsal with Dances by Isadora, an Isadora Duncan repertory company, for an appearance at the Isadora Duncan International Symposium in Washington DC this June. She is also rehearsing with Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance for performances at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church June 27-29. She is enjoying participating in the development process for Ms. Sperling's new work Time Lapse Fantasy, to be premiered on that program. She is also looking forward to resuming her role in the repertory work Turbulence.

Chriselle Tidrick has also been busy performing dance work on stilts at a whole host of special events with Alice Farley Dance Theater. She performed at a casino in Baltimore on New Year's Eve, and she has performed in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Baltimore this spring.

In addition to her work for other companies, Ms. Tidrick is beginning the development process for her own company's next full length performance. Her company, Above and Beyond Dance will premiere a new piece tentatively titled Dreamscapes in Spring 2014. As with her previous work, the piece will fuse dance and circus arts techniques in the creation of innovative dance theater. This particular piece will use contemporary dance, aerial work and stilt work to depict the ethereal wonder of dreams and the surreal terror of nightmares. She is currently submitting grant proposals and making preliminary preparations for this production. She expects the creative process to get underway this summer.  We are thrilled to present Chriselle Tidrick as our latest interview, especially as a double feature in Admirable Artists and Spectacular Sportspeople, as what she does is not only an art but also an athletic achievement.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Chriselle for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: It seems like even when one has a bad day, if you have your health you really do have everything. How has your injury altered your life and career?
Chriselle Tidrick: Well, it certainly put my performance life on hold for the better part of a year. Many people assume this means I suddenly had a lot of free time since I wasn't rehearsing, performing, or choreographing. On the contrary, I was actually even busier while I was injured because of the amount of time I spent rehab-ing my knee.

Every year of a dancer's short career is precious, so it was really difficult to set my professional goals aside while I was focusing on regaining function in my knee. But, knew it was necessary. I was asked many times why I didn't focus on choreographing for my company during this time. The answer is two-fold. First, I knew my primary focus needed to be on regaining my health. Second, I am highly kinesthetic. When I choreograph, I need to be able to put my body into the movement to really understand what it is and how it should progress. Sadly, I was in no physical condition to do that.

At long last, I am incredibly happy (and relieved) that I am now back to performing with the companies which which I enjoyed working before my injury. I am also excited about getting to work on some new choreography of my own. I have many ideas, and I am anxious to see them come into manifestation.

What are the merits of physical therapy and how has it all progressed?
I am a big believer in physical therapy. It is an essential aspect of regaining full function following a whole range of injuries, and it has helped me to overcome some other, less serious injuries. In this case, I don't think recovery from my ACL rupture and subsequent surgery would even have been possible without it. That said, the key is to find a therapist you trust and who is in a situation in which there is plenty of one-on-one time with each patient.

I am grateful to have had Erika Kalkan, a gifted physical therapist at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries who walked me through every phase of the healing process. She actually worked with me previously on several less serious issues, and I had complete trust in her knowledge and guidance. She helped me to regain full range of motion post-surgery (some patients never do), and she has been by my side through the complicated process of rebuilding the muscles in my right leg, all of which completely atrophied after surgery.

The tricky part has been rebuilding muscles in the correct balance so that the proper muscles fire in coordination for any given movement. Erika has been essential in helping me figure this out so that I can continue to perform at the highest possible level.

At what point did you feel total recovery?
I hate to say it, but honestly, I don't think I'm quite there yet. Even thought I am able to rehearse and perform again, it still feels weaker on the right side (the side on which I had surgery). Thankfully, I am blessed with wonderful health insurance which continues to cover physical therapy, and I am continuing to get stronger. I feel I can now trust that leg more and more, and I have been assured that very soon it will feel just as solid as the other side.

What can dancers do to avoid injury and what risks are involved in what you do that others may not realize?
The best thing dancers can do to avoid injury is to eat properly, get enough sleep, keep their muscles strong, maintain flexibility, and warm up well.

As for risks— there are always risks. Mistakes when partnering, falls, bad landings, and overuse injuries are common. In my case, I was injured doing a bad take-off. I inadvertently hyper-extended my knee on take-off and the ligament tore. I didn't even know that was possible.

When it comes to circus arts skills, however, there are two levels of risk— human error and apparatus/equipment failure. Of course we take all possible precautions, but some level of risk, however small, always remains.

Looking at the big picture, I started gymnastics at age 5 and dance at age 8. I have been doing stilts for 12 years and aerial for 9. Although I have had some other less serious injuries, considering all those years of risk, it's not so bad that this is my first surgery.

Tell us more about your upcoming performances please.
I actually just came back from a rehearsal residency at Vassar College with Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance. We had an intense schedule, but we were able to finish her new work, Time Lapse Fantasy, and we even set lighting cues. The premiere will take place at Danspace/St. Mark's Church on E. 10th St., June 27-29 on a program which will also include Turbulence (2011). The evening will be shared with Rachel Cohen/Racoco Productions. We will continue to rehearse and fine tune the new piece, and we will re-stage and rehearse Turbulence between now and the performances.

I have worked with Catherine Gallant/Dances by Isadora since 2004. I actually wrote my undergraduate thesis about modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn and perform her dances. We are currently rehearsing a very interesting program for the Duncan Symposium in Washington DC, June 16-18. In addition to a workshop, Catherine is presenting works by Isadora Duncan, works in Duncan's style, as well as contemporary works Catherine choreographed herself. We are working on Duncan's rarely-seen Grand Marche, some Brahms Waltzes Catherine composed in the style of Isadora Duncan (Duncan is well known for the Brahms Waltzes she choreographed), and Catherine Gallant'sSynopses choreographed to music by Lisa Bielawa.

I have worked with Alice Farley since 2000, and her work is stunning. She choreographs for dancers on the floor and dancers on stilts, and she is one of the most brilliant costume designers I have ever met. She has a brilliant sense of the way that stilt work and sculptural costuming can work together to create creatures with their own movement vocabularies. I have been blessed to perform in full-length productions she has created, and I have been busy with a number of corporate and special event bookings this spring.

You were in the Disney film Enchanted; do you have any other motion picture roles upcoming?
Well, I haven't done another major motion picture since then, but my dance company and I worked with BMC films in 2011 to create Eastern Winds, a dance documentary inspired by the Arab Spring. I served as both choreographer and dancer, and four of my company members performed with me— Sharon Livardo du Maine, Fernando Francisco, Tomomi Imai and Lisa Natoli. The film premiered in January of this year at the 48th film festival Solothurn, Switzerland. It was selected for "Director's Choice" at the Dance Film Festival Lucerne. It was also well received by the Arabic audience at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
As I mentioned in my last interview, I would love to tour my own work. It would be great to be able to bring Above and Beyond Dance to venues and regions that haven't had much exposure to dance fused with circus arts work. I had hoped to spend 2012 connecting with venues and presenters, but unfortunately I was sidetracked. Hopefully that's something I can get underway this year.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Sadly, there's nothing new since my last interview, since my life has revolved around knee rehab.

However, I was blessed to receive a NYFA BUILD/Stability grant in 2011 and grants from the Darby Foundation for my 2008 and 2009 productions. My company was selected to present work at the LaMama Moves Festival (2009), The BAX Acrobatics and Dance showcase (2010), and the NYC Aerial Dance Festival (2010 and 2011). I have also received strong reviews for my work from iDanz, Studio Phoenix, Lively Arts, Watching Dance, and Berkshire Fine Arts.

What one word best describes you and why?

It is extremely challenging and expensive to maintain a company producing new work in New York City, and yet I have produced 3 shows since 2008 and look forward to another in 2014. There were obstacles and difficulties with each production process, and yet I was able to come through each and present a show of which I could be proud.

This adjective also applies to my way of dealing with my recent injury. Throughout the healing process, my focus has been on returning to pre-injury levels of physical ability, and I am getting closer and closer to that level. There have been obstacles in the healing process, and I have faced each and gotten through them.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
There are quite a few wonderful dancer/circus arts performers in New York City. However, I have to say, I have been blessed with the performer/collaborators who have worked with my company since 2008. I can't imagine working with anyone better than the talented artists who have already contributed so much to my creative process. I am open to new artists, but for my 2014 production of Dreamscapes, I do hope to maintain the relationships I have with the artists I have already used. In particular, Lisa Natoli and Tomomi Imai are gifted choreographers in their own right, and I hope they will be available to work on this next project. I would also love to work with Sharon Livardo du Maine, Fernando Francisco and Madeline Hoak again. 

I have also had two great composers working with the company— Nicholas Csicsko and Reinaldo Moya. However, since my last production, both of their lives have changed significantly, and I'm not sure if they'll be available to create music for my new production. So, I guess the big (and unanswered) question for me is who would be the ideal composer for this new project, if Nicholas and Reinaldo can't do it.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Honestly, I am quite happy being myself, with all my idiosyncrasies and strange gifts. However, I would love to spend a day in the mind of Alice Farley with whom I have worked since 2000. Her way of envisioning costuming and movement is so different from my own that I think it would be incredibly enlightening.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
In my last interview, I chose Isadora Duncan, and I can't think of any famous person I would prefer. However, I lost my grandmother last year, and another dinner with her would be a beautiful thing.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I have done quite a bit of teaching which is always satisfying. I have taught English, dance and gymnastics. I'd have to say that teaching gymnastics has a special place in my heart. There's something wonderful about teaching young girls what it is to feel powerful in their own bodies. Most recently, I have been doing some English tutoring. I love working with students one-on-one to improve their grammar and writing skills.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
There are a lot of small dance and theater organizations producing brilliant, innovative work but not being sufficiently recognized for it. Their difficulty lies in connecting with the media and new audiences, since they usually have very small advertising budgets. Conversely, although there is some great work on Broadway, there are Broadway productions which are decidedly overrated.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
As a former English major, I have to stick with the same choice I made in my last interview—For the Literary Set. But, with my obvious devotion to the fine and performing arts, of course I also enjoy The Arts.

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
Sadly, since my last interview, my life has been too consumed with my knee rehab to have as much fun as I might have liked, so nights out drinking the Peachy Deegan were hard to come by. I need to attend to that soon!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I wish I had the luxury of focusing solely on the creative process for my 2014 production of Dreamscapes. However, two of the big challenges of producing new work are audience outreach and fundraising, and these are time consuming and sometimes stressful tasks which I must attend to myself. Since I am building toward this new Above and Beyond Dance production, I would love to connect with people interested in dance and circus arts work who might like to attend my next show. Also, as is the case with most small performance companies, we have a very small budget, and I would love it if any companies, foundations or individuals were interested in helping to support my next production. 

I think Dreamscapes will be a very exciting production. I will utilize aerial techniques, contemporary dance movement, acrobatic elements, partnering work, and choreography on stilts to expand the dimensionality of the space and make movement possible through both horizontal and vertical planes. This facilitates the generation of dreamlike imagery by altering the viewer's sense of proportion and by creating an environment which functions beyond the bounds of gravity. Readers can check out video excerpts of my past work at: Or, they can follow the company on Facebook at:

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Readers should feel free to reach out to me via email: They can also check out my website and blog at:

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