Quarantining Through Dance: Interview with Jasmine Domfort
Maxine Flasher-Duzgunesa month ago
Photo by Meghann Padgett

Jasmine is an Assistant Professor of Dance and Co-Director of H2 Dance Company at Hope College (MI). She has been improvising to jazz and classical since before she could talk or read, making dances ever since. For her, artistic collaboration is about a constant exchange of energy and the building of community on and off stage. 

What and who inspired you to become a dance maker?

Jasmine: Music undeniably inspired me to become a dance maker, and my parents inspired me by introducing me to music before I was even born. Being raised by musicians, I was constantly surrounded by Jazz and Classical music. Hearing the many ways that musical phrases could be linked together, I felt moved to create my own visual music with my body. I remember improvising to the intricate rhythms and melodies before I could talk, and later beginning to craft phrases of movement that I could commit to memory before I could read. I’ve been creating dances ever since and am still inspired by the beautiful complexities of music.

What defines your practice of artistic collaboration?

Jasmine: For me, any artistic collaboration is defined by a constant exchange of energy. This energetic exchange requires a deep practice of listening and responding from all parties; Listening being the key word. 

What does a typical day look like for you as a dance professor?

Jasmine: One of the beauties of teaching in higher education is having a diverse day to day schedule. Using this past semester as an example, my Monday schedule consisted of one morning class, two afternoon classes, office hours, and an evening rehearsal. In contrast, my Tuesday schedule entailed one morning class, a faculty meeting, and one afternoon class.

Photo by Corrine Bates

What has proven the most important thing for you to have before stepping into a dance studio?

Jasmine: A clear mind and positive spirit. Checking my problems at the door has proven most important as both a student and teacher. So in a sense, I more so answered what is most important for me to NOT have before stepping into a studio. I find this crucial not just for myself, but for everyone in the room as energy is contagious! 

What is your favorite work you’ve performed and why?

Jasmine: Urban Bush Women’s Shelter by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, for the simple fact that it changed me as a performer and person. In learning and performing this piece during my undergraduate training, I discovered that dance can be a vessel for much more than dance itself. I learned how much we can really say with our bodies and our artistry. Zollar taught me how to perform with honesty and vulnerability as opposed to “putting on a show”. Most importantly, I learned how to build a community both on and off the stage. Shelter blessed me with an unforgettable experience, and all of the collaborative artists involved will forever have a special place in my heart. 

Photo by Ella Bromblin

How has the quarantine informed your perspective on the sustainability of dance as a digital art?

Jasmine: Dance as a digital art was on the rise long before the quarantine, however our recent isolation made it necessary even to those who have been avoiding this artistic outlet. Quarantine did not inform my perspective on Dance for Camera as much as it did for live streamed performances and classes. There is no doubt in my mind that dance as a digital art will be sustained, however I hope that live performances and in-person classes can also remain relevant as the energy experienced across screens simply cannot replace the energy felt at a live event. I know that there is room for both.

When we resume in-person dance activities, what will be the first thing on your mind?

Jasmine: Reconnecting with my students will be number one. MOVING will be number two, three, four, and five.

Photo by Kokyat

What do you yearn for, that is still missing from your dance community?

Jasmine: True Diversity. I’m not just referring to racial diversity, but gender and sexual, societal, and cultural diversity as well.

What other fields of art or culture have been illuminated for you in this quarantine that otherwise would not have surfaced?

Jasmine: Along with many others, I found myself watching a lot of movies during the first stretch of this quarantine. Except I noticed I was seeing them from a different perspective than I had in the past, and seeing them mostly from a creative perspective. I saw and appreciated all of the choices behind each camera angle, every actor’s gestural or verbal delivery, and all editorial cuts. I took pride in the fact that the arts have gotten us through this pandemic, and by such was reminded to really see the art in it all.

Read more about Jasmine at her website and follow her on Instagram @jazzydoms.

by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes
Maxine is a writer at inbtwn.

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