Feb 9, 2022
This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra interviews Elisabeth Motley, an award-winning, Brooklyn-based choreographer, scholar, and teacher, who is using her platform to make dance accessible to all. Motley — who holds a BFA from the Juilliard School and an MFA from Goddard College — has focused her work on neurodivergence, crip theory, and disability as choreographic sites. Elisabeth also currently teaches choreography at a New York City-based university, while pursuing her Ph.D. at a UK-based university.
Elisabeth’s work has garnered vast amounts of praise — her work has won several awards and been featured in numerous dance and arts festivals. Elisabeth has focused her life on harnessing the inherent creativity in disability and bringing it to the stage. And her own story is just as inspiring as her world-changing work. On the podcast, Motley walks through her entire journey of peaks and valleys and helps audiences gain a new way of thinking about disability and the arts.
"The world has been ready to embrace difference for a long time. People are thinking about the beauty of difference, and it's becoming more a part of our cultural discussion."
"First thought, best thought... Trust your instincts. Follow your intuition. Follow your passion and your desire."
"What is the inherent creativity that is a part of adversity? That is a part of challenge? Because it's there. And it's definitely there in the disabled community."
"Being told 'no' is not an invitation to stop.”
"I'm hoping to impart new knowledge into the field of disability studies. I'm hoping to offer new models and procedures for creativity. But I'm not attempting to measure anything, specifically because measurement systems within the medical community can be really damaging for disabled people." "The dance field is not a straight upward trajectory. There are so many ups and downs. It's been helpful to think about how I'm charting my own unique path — my own unique journey."
"I've always believed that there's a meaning behind my experiences... There's been a sense of 'I need to make meaning of this situation' ... There's always been this mantra for me that I need to make my own meaning — to figure out how this is going to help me survive this disability. And integrating challenges and adversity into my life became important as well. How is this a part of who I am, rather than pushing it away."
"I don't like to think about Plan B. But, rather, multiplicity. I asked myself, 'How can I know a lot? How can I get lots of options?'"
"I think internships are really wonderful. Because you build community with people you wouldn't anticipate building community with. Which broadens your career potential, really."
"The dance field is not a straight upward trajectory. There are so many ups and downs. It's been helpful to think about how I'm charting my own unique path — my own unique journey."
Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:
3:21: Elisabeth discusses the PhD that she is pursuing and her research on disability and neurodivergence in dance.
4:55: Elisabeth explains how disability is an enabler of creativity and how her research is offering a new way of thinking about disability in the arts.
9:37: Motley shares her optimism at the broader acceptance of disability and difference in today’s culture and society.
11:38: Motley walks through her dance career and educational choices and shares some advice on finding your own way.
15:51: Elisabeth, whose story is one of resilience, shares her thought process through all her journey’s ups and downs.
21:41: Elisabeth discusses her decisions to pursue different types of degrees and internships and describes the value of diversifying skills.
25:53: Motley explains what she is most proud of.
27:32: Motley gives a sneak peak of some upcoming projects and what’s next in her journey.
28:56: Elisabeth shares some sage advice that she constantly tells her students.
Bullet List of Resources –