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Celeste Miller

Choreographer & Performer

Celeste Miller is a choreographer, solo performer, Educator, community arts animator. Her solo work intertwines movement with text in a choreographed arrangement of the body and spoken language to create a mytho-poetic symbol system. As a result, the relationship of text to movement and image are in a constant shift of subtext to one another through the manipulation of juxtapositions. Noted dance writer Marcia B. Siegel described her as a “master orchestrator” of this form. In her work, whether solo, ensemble, community projects or in the classroom - she explores the possibilities of dance as a performing art, cultural practice, political act and a method for the embodiment of ideas and beliefs. Dubbed "Dance Whisperer",  Celeste has devoted her life to finding ways that anybody and everybody can find a way to experience the world, and express ideas through participatory dance-making. Her performance style is a combination of spoken word and movement that plumbs narrative for physical imagery in juxtaposed connection with text.  She has toured extensively with her full-length solo performance repertoire since 1983, creating over fifty-five original text + movement works. Her work was presented in venues that included theatres, galleries, cafes, rock clubs and grange halls.  From the avant-garde hot bed of New York City’s downtown dance scene at PS 122, to Symphony Hall in Atlanta; from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; to the Los Angeles Fringe Festival to homes and schools throughout rural Montana – Celeste’s work has been witnessed and acclaimed by critics and audience members alike.

Fellowships and awards for her work include the National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowship, The Atlanta Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts, Individual Artist Fellowship for Solo Theatrical Performance by the Maryland State Arts Council, Massachusetts New Playwrights Fellowship; as well as grants and awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, Atlanta Circle of Drama Critics, City of Atlanta, Fulton County Arts Council of Atlanta and arts councils in Georgia, Massachusetts and Maryland. Among the commissions for her work are those from Atlanta's High Museum of Art, Augusta Museum of Art, Grinnell College, Emory University, American Festival Project, Smithsonian’s Discovery Theatre, Boston Dance Umbrella, American Festival Project, Columbia College, New Orleans Ballet Dance Collective, Florida Dance Festival, and Balance Dance Company.

Celeste’s work with community arts projects includes the two-year long Nurses Project, celebrating and honoring the nurses of Cape Ann; and the three-year American Festival Project Big Sky Spinning created in collaboration with composer Philip Aaberg drawn from the stories of five Montana communities.  As Artist-in-Residence, and later co-artistic director with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange from 1999-2003, she worked on Lerman's national Hallelujah project as project leader, choreographer and performer. From 2006-2013 she was part of the artistic team for Headwaters, a community story play centered in the community of Sautee-Nacochee in Georgia.In January 2019, she collaborated with members of the Frederick, Maryland community using the “Stranger in a Strange Land” format to create a piece to celebrate a diversity of voices from their community. This work was commissioned by and performed for the Gala Opening of New Stages.

From 1993-2010 Celeste was the director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival’s Choreographer’s Lab focusing on dance and community engagement. She been the co-founder and director of Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion since 1993. This nationally recognized program is a leader in the field of exploring the use of dance-making as a method for learning classroom curricular material.  An article outlining her particular approach was published by Cambria Press in "Hybrid Lives of Teaching Artists in Dance and Theatre Arts: A Critical Reader".  In 2019, through a National Endowment for the Arts Creativity Connects award, Celeste has been working with the Pillow on a partnership with Berkshire Health Systems to apply the principles of Curriculum in Motion to a new program, Medicine in Motion.

Currently Celeste is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Grinnell College, a position that allows her to combine her love for teaching with her investigation of dance as a performing art, cultural practice, political act and a method for the embodiment of ideas and beliefs.  She continues her work as a solo performer, choreographer and community arts animator. She maintains an artistic base in Atlanta in addition to her home in Grinnell.

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