Interview: Meri Bobber
Edited by: 

Q: What have been some challenges in your pre-professional or professional dance career?

I think primarily because I chose to move to NYC, one of the biggest challenges was breaking into the scene. Mainly I'm doing freelance musical theater gigs and it's a fairly oversaturated market with a lot of people here and getting to know the right people and getting the jobs. A part of that takes time and a part of that is luck. Networking at first is hard, the opportunities you want by no means fall into your lap. You find some resources but you never truly know everything that is going on out there. Meeting the people and building relationships is really  important. Also finding balance — that you know yourself well enough to know what else you need and staying healthy to not overwork yourself. It took me three years in NYC to feel like I finally get it, I know what I need and what I want.

Q: Do you believe dance can be a platform for social justice topics? If so, how? and/or Have you used your art form to make a difference?

I do, I believe that visual art is poignant. Dance can bring people of different abilities, colors , backgrounds, sizes, gender identities, etc., together and show audiences different interactions and emotions through these people. There is nothing more vulnerable or exposing than that. I think these images can relate to the audience. I think it is an emotional and educational art form. I think if the choreography is trying to go for a social justice statement they can do it. That kind of work is super important. The beautiful thing is people are interested in seeing social justice works right now. It is really a good time for social justice in the arts.

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

A couple of things. At this point in my career the other artists drive me. Working with others and seeing what they create, that inspires me to make my own work. Other people fuel me. It's also definitely intrinsic — I don't know if I was born with it, but nothing is as engaging or fulfilling to me than making art, even if all it means is making a creative meal for dinner that is fine. I don't know how it will manifest in the rest of my life. I just know that it is intrinsic and I know it will always be there. The arts drive me everyday and the need to create.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist?

I live in New York City. I audition for musical theater jobs mostly. I am freelance in that realm. COVID-19 has destroyed regional theater. Some auditions are accepting video submissions. It is mainly the uncertainty of it that has affected the theaters and then my life because all of these plans are being changed and rearranged. It has halted all of the summer season. I also assist Alejandro Cerrudo, who used to be the resident choreographer for Hubbard Street. He is self-producing now for the first time and has some residencies on the schedule with various presenters around the country and all of that is now postponed or maybe even cancelled. We just don’t know. Everything is on hold. As a performing artist you just sit in your apartment and wonder, “How can I still create so that I am still personally fulfilled?” and then, “How can I help so that the industry has a future?”

The last project I was working on was with Alejandro Cerrudo’s self production. He is developing an evening length work independently from any company and I was helping him build that. We were going to have residencies in May and June. We were in the middle of coordinating all of that. He called me yesterday and told me it was cancelled. He said to stop working, that there is nothing to be done as of right now. I expected that but it was still hard to hear.

Q: How do you think we can continue to create and share art during this time?

I have never been more grateful for social media. The people who have access to it and have the space to move and teach class are doing it. It is an interesting creative challenge; it reminds me of an assignment from school. You have to create something in an 8x10ft room in NYC. But people are doing it. I see people building blogs and websites that they would never have had the time to before. I see it everyday people are posting things they write or create in their apartment and it is beautiful. It drives you. You don't need lights and costumes to create art. I think it will give opportunities for more innovative methods of creation.

Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic?

It is very interesting to live in New York right now. I am right next to Central Park so I go for a walk sometimes. You see some people really listening to the six feet social distancing rules and some people not. I see people less frequently. You are more likely to see people keep distance and have that awareness, to respect each other's space. That never happens in New York. People never do that. They don't even look up, they just barrel past and run into you. You expect people to be anxious in public. But you also see smiles. You see people smile at the grocery store or when you pass them on the street and that is really nice. People still have to interact in a way that is not anxiety producing. New York has been, every night at 7 p.m., applauding healthcare workers. People go on to their balconies and roofs and scream and cheer for five minutes and that is really cool. I see people doing it and everyone is smiling and cheering and applauding the beautiful efforts of the healthcare workers.

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

I do. At least temporarily. I wonder if after a couple years things will go back to the way they were before. I hope in general people will remember personal hygiene and if they are sick, stay home from work. I hope employers in all industries will change their sick pay. I hope the government will be more prepared for something like this in the future. I think people will be happy to go back to hugging and hanging out as long, as we keep in mind being thoughtful when we are sick.

Q: Using the idea of “worldmaking” how do you imagine the performing arts world after the pandemic? (Worldmaking: How you can re-imagine the world in your own terms, the way you want it to be. Using this tool one can construct new worlds and write themselves into narratives that have excluded them and systems that have disabled them.)

I would hope that the greater world recognizes even more so how much art and entertainment is essential to their happiness and well being. Everyone is home right now watching movies and listening to music. If we didn't have art right now, people would feel that absence in a hugely negative way. So I hope that we have support from the world going forward, in many ways. I hope there are organizations and grants that support artists and that we feel the value of our worth and run with that after this. I’d love to see a world where no one hesitates to make the art they dream of making. I think we’ve all realized that life is short, anything can happen, and your world can change overnight. So I hope I see artists not holding back and just putting their art out there because it’s going to benefit the world. I hope people really relish in the joy of sharing art, or going out to see it in the world after this. I would like to see a world in our industry, and greater than our industry, that actively acknowledges the value of the arts and artists and fuels their work.

Transcription courtesy of