Meet the Artist: Justin Tornow

December 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Justin Tornow is a dancer, educator, and choreographer. She received an MFA in Choreography (2010) and BA degrees in Dance- Choreography and Political Science (2001) at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She co-founded and directed the NC nonprofit dance-based artist collaborative [project incite] 2005-2007.  As an independent artist, her choreography has been presented across North Carolina, including a statewide tour of the North Carolina Dance Festival.

After receiving her MFA, Justin relocated to Brooklyn, NY; she presented new and re-formed work in the NYC area, performed for independent choreographers, and embarked on collaborative projects. Most recently, Justin has collaborated with Julia Y. Edwards on a project called MOVEABLE, performed in the DUMBO Dance Festival in NYC, and co-produced a show entitled One Space, Three Dances with colleagues Katherine Kiefer Stark and Marion and Jung Woong for the Philly Fringe Festival in September 2011. In addition to making new independent works and productions– currently in the NC area– Justin is an adjunct instructor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Take a look at to see video, photography, and writing on archived works.

For NCDF Community Day, Justin will present a solo created for dancer Audrey Baran, titled No. 7.2.  This solo is part of a larger group of solo projects currently in progress, and has been developed on a trio of lines.  It explores both the simplicity and complexity of variation.

Hear a little from Justin about her introduction to dance and choreography, as well as more info on her current work.

Dance Project: When did you first begin dancing?

Justin Tornow:  My interest in dance and music started when I was really young– my mom was just recently talking about the physicality of my responses to life and music when I was a kid over the Thanksgiving holiday. After staging multiple productions in the backyard to Madonna, Cindi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, and the soundtrack to White Nights, my parents enrolled me in dance classes at the age of 6. I studied ballet, tap and jazz, and then fell in love with modern and contemporary dance in college and beyond.

DP: How did you become interested in choreographing?

JT: I guess I started choreographing almost as soon as I started thinking of myself as a dancer. Some of my favorite memories are creating dance renditions of the movie The Labyrinth, with theatrical breaks for bad acting moments and sections comprised mostly of cartwheel sequences. I did my Senior Exit Project (I’m not sure if they do those anymore, but it was basically a research project with a presentation that you had to complete to graduate high school) on Modern Dance, and that project included choreographing short bits in various styles. I’ve studied and practiced choreography from that point on– I work as an independent choreographer when I’m not going to school to study it.

DP: Can you tell us a little about your choreographic process?

JT: What an ever-evolving thing… I am always trying to “figure out” what my process is, which I consider a habit I’d like to eventually break. But what I’ve learned about it is that no matter how it starts out (an image, some movement– improvised or crafted, or a concept) it always feels like a whittling away at something to try and get at whatever it is. Lately I’ve been improvising a lot, mainly because I’ve been working alone so much, but I’ve really enjoyed the change it brings about in my process of making a work.

DP: What choreographic projects are you working on now?

JT:  I’m actively working on 3 solos right now for specific people, and they’re all considered part of this larger project of No. 7. They’re sort of character studies of each performer, they share some variations of movement vocabulary, and are all concerned with the idea of performing, performativity, and who we are/consider ourselves to be onstage. I don’t know if this work will also include a duet and some larger group pieces, but I hope so. I’ll be performing No. 7.1 in the COOL New York Festival in February 2012.

DP: Besides choreographing, what other activities are you involved in?

JT:  Because it’s cold outside, I’m knitting scarves for friends and family. I’ve recently started cooking in a more serious way (with cookbooks,) and tried my hand at baking a couple of weeks ago– so far I’ve made some cookies, herbed boules, rolls, and crackers. I teach and take as many dance classes as I can.

Justin’s new work, No. 7.2, will be shown in the free NCDF Community Day showing at 3:30 on Jan 28 in the Greensboro Cultural Arts Center.  Stay tuned for profiles of  the other presenting choreographers!


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