Interview: Jodie Randolph
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Q: What has been your professional dance journey and how did you create your company?

I grew up in a small town and found dance to be my passion, but didn't want to pursue performance professionally. I took 4 years off between High School and college to try to figure out what to do with my life, and somewhere in that timeline I was offered a teaching job. I turned it down, more than once, because I didn't think I would teach. Eventually, once I took it, I found education to be something I really enjoyed. In that period I decided that the only thing I really enjoyed doing was being in the studio.

I got my undergrad from Eastern Michigan University, and started to find my voice as an artist. After I graduated, I started my company (Jodie Randolph Dance Company) and it was a playground for me. I didn’t think it would be more than experimental for me as a choreographer, and then it just grew. It is hard to say how that even happened. I developed more programs, eventually got a non-profit status, and added more dancers. I am not one to plan ahead—I take things as they come, and I see it as a sign from God that if He wants it to happen, it will happen, and it has really just grown from there. Working for my company for some time totally changed the way I viewed my work. In 2016, I went to get my MFA in Choreography at  Jacksonville University in Florida, where I found my voice as a choreographer—not just as a pattern maker. Now, the company has been touring for the last couple years all along the East Coast, the Midwest, the Carribean, performing and teaching masterclasses. We now receive national and local state funding. We’ve been growing, and making it all happen.

Q: Who are the mentors or important people in your life that have shaped the way you dance and or think about the arts?

A lot of my recent mentorship has been from my grad school cohort; they were all women, which was a fluke. Usually that is not the case. These are women from all over the country, who had careers for many years. They’re really smart, intelligent, out-of-the-box thinkers with varied disciplines. One woman was a Musical Theater professional, two of them were Hip-Hop professionals, and two of us Contemporary/Modern people. It was very impactful to be intensely connected to these people for two years.

Another person that really inspired me was Alonzo King, who was a guest artist at Jacksonville University while I was in graduate school. He has an interesting connection between technicality and form. Often, in Ballet, these two don’t seem like they go together. He has this spiritual take on his work and that was a big inspiration to me.

Q: Do you believe art can be a platform for social justice topics? If so, how?

Yes. Art always reflects what the human is dealing with. People have experiences in their lives that are related and connected to social justice issues, and these people are speaking from their experiences and their understanding. I believe in making work that is real to you. I believe in using art as a platform to say that something is important and personal.

Q: What inspires you and drives you forward as an artist and a person?

I would say my experiences. I feel a lot, and there is a lot of contrast and complexity to the way I feel—even within the same hour. I had to learn from those experiences and from my feelings, and uncover what is underneath. The main motivator for my work [are these questions]: “What is happening with me? Is this happening with other people? If so, how? What are we not talking about? How can I encourage others to talk about these emotions and experiences?”

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as an artist and the arts around you?

I have two things going on: I am a freelance artist, and I have my own company. As a freelance artist, my income is gone. All my shows were cancelled, and impacted my income. For the company, we are operating off of our reserves. I think we can make it for the next couple of months, but if we have to shut down fundraising events in the future, that will be very hard. The fundraising piece is the hard part. I reached out to professional companies in Michigan and started a fund for all the professional companies on Facebook. Dancers who are not on payroll are suffering. There are no performances or classes, and there is no money coming in unless it’s from an online fundraiser.

Q: What were you in the process of when the pandemic started to shut down the US?

When everything was cancelled, it was dance competitions season and, as part of my freelance work, I judged on the side. They all got cancelled. I also teach at a dance school and that got shut down. I teach open classes with companies, and those stopped running. We had auditions scheduled for youth companies, and a few other projects, all of which were cancelled. Even our community outreach events got cancelled.

Q: Do you think the pandemic will make us a more socially conscious society? If so, how?

I hope so. I’ve talked to my friends, students, and employees, and for the most part it seems that there is a positive outlook—that this has changed and shifted peoples focus inward. We are asking ourselves: what do I want to do with my life? [The pandemic] has reminded us that we are all connected. Most of us are going through a similar experience, and the whole world is dealing with this. There is a real sense of unity in that. There is potential for people to come out of this more socially conscious.

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