I started dancing when I was four but I didn't think I would be good enough to pursue it as a career so I barely tried. Until I was 17 and saw Mia Michael's dancers at The Pulse and knew that no matter what other people thought, I was going to fight for my spot in the dance world. Since then it has been my life.
I grew up in Colorado where I trained at Grand Junction Academy of Dance, then I had the honor of training and being a member of dance companies such as the Schiff Dance Collective, Rogue CO and Blue Moon Dance Company. I moved to New York a year ago and was selected for the Broadway Dance Center's Professional Semester Program where I had my world rocked by teachers like Hannah Frederick, Ashle' Dawson, Mike Esperanza and Princess Lockeroo to name only a few.
I have studied mostly contemporary and ballet, but I have been trained in tap, hip hop, waltz, tango, swing and whacking.
"Haunted Love" was created when I was in the Professional Semester Program at BDC. My iPod randomly put the song on and I just envisioned it: the outfits, the concept, the movement and I knew that was my next piece. The music is what drives everything for me and I have to actually see it in my mind before anything else. Choreographing is a very stressful process for me, because it is putting your voice as a person and as a dancer out there into the world to be judged. However, I had some amazing dancers that were easy to work with and it all fell into place. The piece won the Choreographing Award for BDC. A few months later I saw the video which was horrible quality and decided I wanted to tape it nicely. I wanted to do almost a short dance film that would make sense with the music and my concept. I went location scouting, wrote storyboards, juggled dancer schedules, placed the movement on different dancers in three hours and then directed it with the help of my cameraman. It was the most thrilling experience I have ever had and it showed me how much more I want to do.
With the concept, I was listening to the song and kept thinking about pretty zombies. The idea that something dead and decaying could still be beautiful and graceful was a powerful thought to me. I grew up watching a lot of old movies and Doris Day was this gorgeous woman who was bold in her humor and sexuality. She became an inspiration in style and a role model for this piece. I wanted the costumes to reflect a time period where women were still supposed to be housewives: pretty, delicate and covered up. Then it hit me, what would happen if you were the perfect 1950’s housewife (like Doris Day) and woke up to realize that the person you loved the most, killed you for another woman or for your money. A lot of the gestures and movement were selected to represent that first realization that they were dead and discovering the truth.
The dancers I used were all international students from BDC from Canada, Sweden and France. They are the sweetest, most passionate people that I have ever met and had the joy to work with. They fought so hard to be training as dancers in New York and it inspires me every day to make the best of the opportunities I am given. I choose people that are nice and seem interested in what I do. I don’t really care about tricks but I do want to work with people that believe in me as much as I believe in them and who will embrace my craziness with their own.
The location in the video is Fort Tryon Park in New York City. It took me three times to find those arches because they are hidden, but once I did I was blown away by the beautiful vastness of those arches.
The first teacher that believed in me was Heidi Heath-Fay. She was the one that took me to New York for the first time and showed me that there was a place in the dance world for me as long as I didn’t give up. In addition, Jenny Schiff, Pat Connelly, Meghan Law, Hannah Frederick, and Ashle' Dawson have been the most amazing mentors and people in my life.
My inspiration to dance and to choreograph? The music is so important because I like to tell stories, and most of the time I will hear the music and just see the entire piece played out and know that is what I am doing next. I am also a big fan of opposites, where something can be pretty and creepy, sad but sexy, and lately I have been drawn to those ideas. I believe that dance is the easiest, most honest way to communicate and connect with people (which is something that I and everyone struggles with) and that alone drives me to want to create choreography and continue to dance.
I would love to start my own dance company, filming and choreographing dance videos like Haunted Love that are almost like music videos. I love the idea of making beautiful dance music videos and hopefully work with artists one day to bring dance more into the visual world of film. I am a big fan of doing everything and anything as long as it is still dance and I am challenged.
Courtney Murray / Dancer, Performer, Choreographer