Jesse Phillips-Fein

Jesse Phillips-Fein


Artist Statement 

What are the complicated ethics of using other people, and specifically their bodies, to create? This is the tension my dances move in as we labor with the forces of gender, sexuality, race, and capitalism that are always already choreographing us. Questioning the ways that movement makes, unmakes, and exceeds meaning, I am curious about what is abstract, what is symbolic, who is represented by whom, whether performance is fake or real, and how to mobilize these different queries within my work. My practice cuts and pastes from set movement to improvisation, pivoting choreography between the axis of remembering and the impossibility of repetition, as appearance and disappearance occupy the same moment. I use text and sound like found-objects, anchors that tie us to places, times, and events that we hold as collective memories. The process of making is about our experiences within the tenuous alternative worlds that we are seeking, creating, inhabiting. I am interested in responsiveness, responsibility, and what it means to be making anything in the midst of (extra)ordinary violence, both its quotidian and spectacular forms.


My dance training began with studying modern and post-modern dance at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and I earned a Diploma in Dance Studies from The Laban Centre, a B.A. in Dance & Cultural Anthropology from Smith College, and a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Dance, Race and Capitalism) from The Gallatin School/NYU. As my studies shifted towards African Diasporic, Haitian & Cuban Folkloric forms, with Dr. Yvonne Daniel, Nia Love, Baba Richard Gonzalez, Peniel Guerrier and Danys La Mora Perez, it became imperative to attend to notions of power, appropriation, colonization, and the meaning of my white body in the spaces these dance forms conjure and the histories they hold. While these movement vocabularies are not part of my choreography, the inquiry they require deeply informs my work.

Press Quote

“Some of the strongest bolts of insight came from Phillips-Fein and DD4DD. Both of their pieces laid bare the artists’ questions and conflicts at this particular time in their lives — for Phillips-Fein, the focus was on the upheaval of becoming a new mother amid political crisis…Rather than being purely self-reflexive, the two works showed artists asking how to remain human in the midst of conflict, how to challenge, relent, give in, refuse.”

 –Alexis Clements, Hyperallergic   June 2, 2017