Thursday, June 13, 2013

Inspiration Everyday & Professionalism: Michelle Moeller

Artist INC Peer Facilitator Michelle Moeller (r) with
OVAC associate director Kelsey Karper
Michelle Moeller is the director and founder of Perpetual Motion Dance, a modern dance and choreography company located in Oklahoma City. In addition to her work with Perpetual Motion Dance, she is also an Assistant professor of Dance at the University of Central Oklahoma. Moeller will serve as a Peer Facilitator for the Artist Inc. program in Oklahoma City in fall of 2013.

Erin Shaw: What is an important piece of your artistic philosophy, something that you feel is necessary to you and your particular art practice?
Michelle Moeller: I am most interested in creating work that explores our collective human experiences rather than creating fantasy.  My choreography frequently examines our vacillation between strength and fragility, grounded-ness and precipice.

ES: Describe a pivotal experience or conversation within your career.
MM: I had a conversation a few years ago with my mentor, Jamie Jacobson, who recently passed. I was thinking about leaving my work in the arts for something "more stable" but she wouldn't let me. She said "You are a dancer, that is who you are and you can't walk away from that."  She was able to help me find my path again and my strength. There are always moments of struggle in an arts career but we are given a gift of passion and that can't be ignored.

ES: What do you feel is your unique contribution to the OKC arts community?
MM: I think primarily my contribution is trying to create awareness of dance as a dynamic, ever-changing art form within the greater arts community.  I have tried to seek out artists of other disciplines through collaboration or as a patron.  I believe it feeds my creativity as an artist to take in as much as possible and also contributes to the community by adding a new voice. The work of Perpetual Motion I believe contributes to the vitality of Oklahoma City because of our vision of being on the cutting edge of dance.

ES: When did you first realize you were an artist or were going to be an artist? Were there any circumstances that were vital to this?
MM: I believe I have been a dancer since birth. I don't have a memory of it not being in my life.  Even as a child, I always had a vision of being a choreographer (even put that on my PSAT projected career!)  I certainly believe my parent’s support of my choices impacted my ability to follow through with my vision. I was never questioned about my choices from them, and they continue to support my career as a dancer and teacher.

ES: One or two pieces of advice you would give emerging artists as they begin their careers.
MM: I think my advice is two-fold: To not limit what you think your discipline is or the kind of art you choose to see, to let yourself be inspired everyday.  Secondly, that detail and professionalism are tremendously important, from applications to resumes to the relationships you build.

ES: How have you resolved (or have you) the tension or relationship between making art and making money.
MM: I am lucky to have a full-time job in the arts that has made that tension lighter.  However, I have that job because of focused work on my education, creativity and professionalism.

ES: Talk a little about how you have used your work for social or spiritual change.
MM: The beauty of dance is that it is a communal art form. I joke that my company is a tribe of women; we support each other, balance each other when one is struggling and mostly laugh a lot.  Our personal lives and experience naturally come through in our work and this gives the work purpose and meaning.

ES: Describe unique aspects of your artistic practice and how you have been able to make a life making art.
MM: Working as a choreographer/director, I am always in collaboration with the dancers of the company.  This process really facilitates creativity as you discuss your ideas, expand on one another's thoughts, and each year the ideas get bigger and bigger.  We have luckily made many friends along the way who work with us, such as our welder Joey Smith, who can create pretty much any apparatus we dream us, and recently Kyle Van Osdol, who created a series of film shorts for our concert.  As we continue to tackle the projects, our dreams and aspirations only continue to grow.

I definitely recognize that much of my career exists because of good timing and opportunity, but I know I have worked diligently as a teacher and artist to make sure I am always questioning myself and challenging myself to grow.  I think that is all you can do is just try to make each work or each event just a little better than the one before, and over time you look back to see all the things you have accomplished.

Guest writer Erin Shaw profiles the Artist INC peer facilitators to explore their artistic practices. Oklahoma artists of all disciplines may apply until June 14, 2013 for the Artist INC program held in Oklahoma City this fall. See for more information and the application. 

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