Institute Director | Curriculum in Motion® Institute
Co-founder | Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion®
Lead Artist | Jacob’s Pillow Medicine in Motion
Artistic Director | Grinnell College Dance Ensemble/ACTivate
Celeste Miller is a multi-faceted dance artist whose career includes solo performance, choreography, education and arts activism. She is also the director of programs and initiatives that support the flourishing of individuals and communities through movement-based reflective practices.
Miller holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Hollins University/American Dance Festival. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Grinnell College where, in addition to choreography, she teaches courses that include “Choreographing Gender and Sexualities,” “Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice,” and independent studies projects in dance connected to other disciplines including linguistics, medicine, education, and environmental studies.
Miller’s work with the Medical Humanities began in 1996 with The Nurses Project, a community-wide project “celebrate, honor and give voice to the nurses of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.” Most recently her work with Medical Humanities has been in partnership with Des Moines University’s medical humanities department and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Medicine in Motion project. Her work on embodied practices in medical humanities programs and settings has been presented at the Health Humanities Consortium and Community Campus Partnerships for Health. An article about her work with Des Moines University was published in Dancer-Citizen.
In Her Words:
I was born in New York City, and raised in Jersey, a bus and subway ride from Manhattan. This proximity allowed me to study at the schools of Alvin Ailey, The New Dance Group and Merce Cunningham; as well as with Latvian-born Stanislavski dancer Valentina Litvinof, and dancer/activist Eleo Pomare. I finally landed at the place that was my best fit – with Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais, where I also studied with Phyllis Lamhut and Robert Small.
A profound shaping of who I would become as an artist was shaped by the era I grew up in. I turned 16 in 1969. And as much joy as I found in dance, I was torn between whether I should be in the studio or on the streets protesting. I sought, and continue to seek, spaces where these intersect.
Moving to Atlanta in the ’70s, I took over the lease on a small theatre, with an upstairs dance studio. I gathered together a collective of performer/ dancers/ musicians. We taught and performed in the space, and explored our transitional neighborhood. This resulted in a partnership with the homeless shelter a few blocks down, and a Headstart program in the basement of a local church. This was an exciting time to be in Atlanta. Maynard Jackson ran for mayor, and served three terms. Jackson initiated a political revolution in the heart of the South. He transformed Atlanta into a mecca for blacks from across the country, set up affirmative-action programs for city workers, gave neighborhoods a voice in city planning, and developed strong local arts funding. During this time, I also began my involvement with Alternate ROOTS, a coalition of artists committed to social justice through art-making. I continue to gather regularly with these artists for renewal and continual challenge as we practice what it means to make art that matters. My birth as an artist took place under these circumstances, and I will always call Atlanta my true home.
I have received numerous grants and awards including National Endowment for the Arts Choreographers Fellowship, Atlanta Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts, a nomination for the United States Artist Fellowship, and others. I am humbled by these honors that recognize my work as a solo performer of text + movement, ensemble choreographer, and animator of community dance projects; exploring the possibilities of dance as embodied expression of ideas and a laboratory to cultivate our capacity towards kindling our humanity.
My work has been presented in urban and rural settings, from theatres and museums, to rock clubs and grange halls. Support for community-based projects has come from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation, American Festival Project, and the National Endowment for the Arts. A National Performance Network Creation award currently supports a collaboration with Tijuana artists exploring borders as physical, emotional and spiritual sites.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance has been the home for the development of my methodologies since 1993. As director of Dance & Community Partnerships Choreography Lab (1994-2010), co-founder of Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion®), (1994-present), and currently with a National Endowment for the Arts Creativity Connects grant to develop Medicine in Motion with local partners in the medical community. Currently we are at work to launch The Curriculum in Motion® Institute, building a THINK/ACT/DO cohort of choreographers investigating how our work as dance-makers can prepare us as essential civic and community partners in a COVID-19 and Beyond world.
I am an associate professor of dance at Grinnell College, with an MFA in Choreography from Hollins University.