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By: Gail Obenreder
Joan Warburton-Phibbs started dancing when she was six years old, beginning – as most young dancers do – with ballet. But in high school she formed a modern dance club and performed in all the musicals, an eclectic and encompassing approach that typifies her distinguished career as a choreographer and educator.
One of her mentors has had a profound influence on Warburton-Phipps’ pedagogy, the legendary teacher Rosalind De Mille, with whom she studied at Smith College, where she received her MFA. As a professional dancer, Warburton-Phibbs worked with Lonny Joseph Gordon, Steve Paxton and Moses Pendleton (of the acclaimed company Pilobolus), always finding inspiration in the free spirit of Isadora Duncan and dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham’s philosophy of chance.
In creating her works, Warburton-Phipps has always been a collaborative choreographer. She engages her dancers in a group process that often ranges across other art forms. She will begin with a concept, image or event. But she then talks to her dancers, including them in the creative process with “brainstorming sessions that include painting, drawing, and free form writing while listening to selections of music that are concomitant with the concept.” And she encourages improvisation, finding satisfaction in “the look on the dancers’ faces when they are fully in the moment.”
Length of Full Work in Minutes: 5:02
Length of Work Sample Submitted: 1 minutes 55 seconds
Role in Creation: Choreographer
Her mother loved to dance and her father was an athlete, so it’s not surprising that the Arden resident enjoys golf, sailing and swimming. Trained in the exacting practice of Labanotation (a system for recording movement), she also teaches stress management for artists and teachers, incorporating it into her life and work as a yoga instructor, speaker and proponent of mindfulness training.
Warburton-Phibbs is grateful for the Division’s Fellowship, which she plans to utilize to expand her work, collaborating with area artists and creating a new show that addresses current societal issues, continuing to evolve in the same responsive way as the dances she creates.