Sarah East Johnson has loved to dance since her teen years. She took countless classes in her hometown of Los Altos, California, honing her movement skills. However, the message from her teachers was anything but encouraging. They suggested she get rid of her blue hair, lose her muscles and drop 10 pounds.
“When I couldn’t find a place inside the dance world, I created my own space,” she says. “Along the way, I found some very special women eager to join in.”
In 1998, Johnson founded LAVA, a feminist acrobatic dance company based in Brooklyn, New York that pushes the boundaries of dance, gravity and gender expectations.
The company presents its work “A Goddessey” at Wise Fool New Mexico on May 12 and 13.
“The show has been a super collaborative process from the very beginning,” explains Johnson. “It’s a story about finding yourself and finding your own community. While I felt comfortable with most aspects of putting the show together, like themes and concepts, I had never been a storyteller and felt I needed help with that aspect of the production. I brought in theater directors to give me feedback. With their help, the show has been brought into a whole new realm.”
Johnson has developed a dance vocabulary that includes movements from the sport of wrestling, which, she says, has a wonderful way of expressing aggression and opposing forces.
“A Goddessey” is a journey of reconnecting with our lost potentials, of crossing bridges into the deep self, of going in deep and coming up whole and of coming home to a fabulous feminist utopian future,” she adds. “Our work is about empowering the feminist community.”
Johnson is the winner of a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) and a Village Voice Off-Broadway Theater Award (Obie) for her choreographic work with her company and has received numerous residencies and fellowships.