Vanessa Justice


Vanessa Justice is a choreographer and performer living in Brooklyn. Since 2003 she has been developing a relational approach to choreography where divergent sources/styles/modes of information meet and create a context for interplay. She founded VANESSA JUSTICE DANCE in 2007 as a structure to support ongoing experimentation and performances. The dynamic processes of perception, the human body, and consciousness, as well as healing from a life-threatening injury, have influenced her recent choreography. In addition to live performance, Vanessa makes videodance with collaborator Rachel Boggia.

Over the past six years, Vanessa’s work has been presented consistently in NYC. She was commissioned in 2008 by SEAD (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance) to make work that then toured to Austria, Germany and Poland. Her work has also been staged in other US cities including San Diego, Denver, Honolulu, and at Wesleyan University. She has received artistic residencies from Joyce SoHo, San Diego State University, the Bogliasco Foundation, SEAD, Movement Research, and Yaddo. Supported by a Watson Fellowship, she spent a year studying and performing in Asia and Europe. In 2001, the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) awarded Vanessa for her research about how choreography challenges and redefines cultural beliefs about the body. 

Vanessa’s background includes postmodern dance, improvisation, ballet and somatic practices. In addition to studying Western forms, she has lived and danced in non-Western cultures (India, Nepal, Taiwan, Hawaii, and Java). Neither rebelling against nor staying inside a pre-existing form, she makes work in relationship to dance history, history of representation and imagination, movement research, and culture.

Vanessa has taught dance and movement courses at Long Island University (Brooklyn Campus), SEAD, The Ohio State University, and the University of Hawaii. She currently maintains a private practice teaching Pilates.

Vanessa was a graduate fellow of The Ohio State University (MFA Choreography) and graduated magna cum laude from Pomona College (BA Religious Studies/Philosophy).

Artist Statement

I am interested in developing a network-based imagination founded on larger systems of interaction and participation that keep my perspective mobile, open, and reflective of the moment or particular project, rather than honing a single aesthetic point of view. I value art that enriches human existence and I endeavor to make dances that reflect life in its strangeness, poetry, and complexity.

I call what I do “relational choreography” to express my interest in how choreography and the body express complex systems and multi-faceted, layered processes involving interactions between self and other, as well as with history, environment, biology, economics, and culture. My dances respond to and reference different kinds of information ranging from interior experiences of the mind/body to cultural texts and current events. I believe dance can work with and juxtapose radically diverse kinds of information and ideas and not be exclusively about those sources—but rather about how they effect the infrastructure, tone, or internal logic of the piece. Sources that have influenced some of my past choreographic decisions include Edwin Abbott’s Flatland, my dreams, David Lynch’s Eraserhead, a popular YouTube homevideo, the rolling pattern of a plastic cup, Edmund Burke’s On the Sublime, Umberto Eco’s thoughts on the open text, experiencing a difficult physical injury, and Pavlova dancing The Dying Swan. I endeavor to create relational capacities for meaning, and to explore the poetic potential and rich ambiguity of dance as an art form.

I am intrigued by the phenomenon of the body–by its pure presence, its huge range of movement qualities, and its ability to adapt, shapeshift, and constantly communicate meaning. With research and experimentation, I invent a specific movement vocabulary for each piece. I am currently interested in life energy, which I feel is the basic healing energy of the body, the organic drive for procreation and creativity, the biological flow/integrity of an organism.

I crave to create work that operates on different levels simultaneously. I often superimpose intentions and processes, cultivating unexpected relationships among disparate elements. I am interested in the coexistence of different aesthetic realities, and the layering of contrasting modes and methods. As I make a work, I want to include the intellectual, irrational, emotional, intuitive, detached, and spiritual sides of myself and my collaborators.

I have been exploring the use of video and multimedia and how different uses of time, space, and form can be injected into live performance via digital performance. I believe that flatscreen images, which are so often used toward commercial means, can be used in personal creative work to help disrupt the manipulative fantasies that commercial tv and movies sometimes create. I hope to use video in ways that humanize the flatscreen.

I am interested in the topics of consciousness, perception, systems theory, and dance improvisation. A weekly improvisation practice helps me to regularly explore impulses and curiosities. This practice informs my work. 

I believe in the power and beauty of performance and value the way it empowers audiences to actively perceive and interpret their experience.