Michelle Renee Erard is a multisensory dance artist trained extensively in non-western forms, the traditions of which underpin her artistic work and teaching. Rhythm, improvisation, and somatosensory experiencing heavily inform her creative process. Her teaching includes ideokinesis, somatic movement practices, and improvisation as tools for cultivating embodiment. Michelle creates performance as a method of transformation, remaking meaning out of messages that permeate the psyche. Excavating unconscious beliefs through ritual and remixing text, sound, imagery, objects, and movement act as a recycling process to upend power structures. Objects and information created during or used in performance also play a part in this recycling practice by being repurposed or traded with collaborators and audience members to facilitate transformation.
While Michelle grew up studying ballet, tap, and jazz, her interest in rhythm and tradition led her to expand her studies to include African dance (primarily West African) and flamenco. Michelle has had the privilege of studying African dances with artists Diadie Bathily, Rujeko Dumbutshena, Marilyn Sylla, Ninoska M’bewe Escobar and Vivien Bassouamina. She studied flamenco at Amor de Dios in Madrid, the Conservatory of Flamenco Arts in Albuquerque, and the University of New Mexico where she received a BA in dance with emphases in flamenco and contemporary dance. Flamenco artists she studied with include: the Encinias family, Mercedes and Karime Amaya, José Maya, Carmen “La Talegona,” Fuensanta “La Moneta,” José Galván, Antonio Canales, Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernandez, Nino de los Reyes, and Concha Jareño.
Michelle has performed in works by Angie Hauser, Marilyn Sylla, Barbie Diewald, Rujeko Dumbutshena, Bill Walters, Tomaz Simatovic, Sonia Olla, Alejandro Granados, and Diadie Bathily, and with the companies Los Flamencos, Alma Flamenca, and Afriky Lolo. Her work has been presented at Smith College, the University of New Mexico, Tricklock Company, and venues in St. Louis, MO, Albuquerque, NM, Santa Fe, NM, Northampton, MA, and Providence, RI.
Michelle earned her MFA in Choreography and Performance through the Department of Dance at Smith College where she is currently a Lecturer. She is also affiliated with Smith College’s Department of Theatre as a Research Associate. She is a certified Action Theater teacher and is earning a teaching certification in the somatic movement practice, Open Source Forms.
Milestone (work in progress)
November, 2021 | Dance Works in Progress Salon, Metamorphosis Dance Company and Balliamo Dance Collective
Inspired by regularly walking Northampton’s bike path and the surrounding areas, Milestone explores themes of memories as markers/milestones for one’s life journey, locations and objects as memory activators, and layered relationships between location and memory. I began a practice of noticing what memories arose due to partnering with the environment, rather than making anything in the environment the subject of my actions. Material was generated from interior states that occured in response to the environments, allowing me to discover and inhabit those intersections of memory and location in the present moment.
Camera work and editing by Nikki Lee
August, 2021 | Presented by MAD House + Eggtooth at Shea Theater
By Mike Bartlett, directed by Gabby Farrah. Hired as movement consultant for lifts, falls, feedback.
Photos by Sasha Finley
February, 2021 | Shown at EarthSpirit Feast of Lights online event
In creating rekindle I experimented with ritual and its connection to meditative states and embodied memory. I recorded my repetitive movement patterns multiple times, then layered the recordings, exploring how overlapping moments of my past actions created interactions of familiarity and the unexpected through time.
if i were writing this…
August, 2020 | Shown at SFDI online event
A visual poem where I explored "seeing" rather than "framing" with the camera, and moving the camera and body as a unit. Layered text serves as a response through another medium. Created during Eiko Otake's Delicious Movement intensive for the Seattle Festival of Dance + Improvisation.
Peter and the Starcatcher
March, 2020 | Smith College production
Based on the novel Peter and the Starcatcher by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted by Rick Elice, directed by Cathy Kennedy. Hired as movement consultant for lifts and falls.
Photos by Derek Fowles
The Magic Flute
February, 2020 | University of Massachusetts production
By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with a German libretto by Emanuel Shikaneder, co-directed by Stephanie Carlson and Ellen Kaplan. Hired as choreographer, movement and character work consultant for Three Ladies, Three Boys, Slaves, Animals, and Tree with Noose.
Photos by Marjorie Melnick
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
October-November, 2019 | Smith College production
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens, directed by Ellen Kaplan. Hired as choreographer, movement and character work consultant. Worked with a cast of neurodiverse and multigenerational actors.
Photos by Derek Fowles
February, 2019 | Presented at Smith College
Mixed Matter is the result of creating a collective history through improvised movement. Noticing what developed during rehearsals and revisiting meaningful moments caused a world to emerge. Original text and music composition created a container for the world. The structure of Mixed Matter allows the dancers to inhabit the known and unknown through improvisational scores and set movement, tuning inward and to the environment within momentum and precise timing. The piece requires the endurance of repetition, focused attention and attunement.
Photos by Derek Fowles
Warp and Weft
May, 2018 | Pre-show installation and performance presented at Smith College
Warp and Weft moved contemporary dance from the stage into a social setting. Dancers improvised in rehearsals with me, moving experientially to live improvised music to generate material for the piece, by trading and refining steps. Over time we found repeatable patterns, and set the piece in a circle with live improvised music and sound samples of looms that used the same time signatures and tempos we used in rehearsals.
Photos by Nikki Lee
Los Restos en mi Cuerpo (rehearsal)
December, 2017 | Presented at Smith College
The piece is a structured improvisation of recorded text, field-captured sound, and live movement that combine to form the mood of this piece within the exploration of its themes: ancestors, location and home, and the history in the body.
May, 2017 | Presented by University of New Mexico
Using Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces as a point of departure, this piece is an evolution of my choreography through an exploration of self-reinvention and performativity. It employs my movement knowledge, music, writing, design, and collaboration with a production team.
Photos by Sam Katz