An Interview with Jaicee Partridge

“In resonance all fluid systems are united. I say that no matter where in the galaxy they may be, all fluid systems function as basically one body or organ of intelligence.”  – Emilie Conrad


BTCF: At a young age as a dancer, you questioned yourself where you fit in.  Why did you feel this way and do you still?

JAICEE: There are so many reasons for this. I didn’t fit the image that the studio/competitive industry-valued, there was almost always a focus on being “fit” which at the time typically meant being thinner. Even at my thinnest, there was a difference in my build to those around me. I was told time and time again that my “lines” would look better if I lost weight. There was praise when I did appear thinner and that encouraged this questioning of myself. This left an impression; one I’m still healing from. Combine that with being a person of color and a male presenting human… the expectations of how you are supposed to move your body and carry yourself were/are extremely specific. There are aspects of this in which I still feel, but things have changed immensely both socially in the world and internally within myself. One grows and starts the discovery/healing processes.

BTCF: There are so many forms of dance, but finding how movement works for our own bodies can be a journey and ever-changing. Can you share your experience with this and how you incorporate this concept within your teaching?

JAICEE: This is an excellent question. Yes, there are so many forms of dance/movement. Many of which aren’t even widely known and are very specific to cultures. There’s a tendency, especially in the studio level/competition worlds, that everything needs to fit into a category. It becomes excessively compartmentalized and the need for change is massive. If something isn’t done the way that is familiar or challenges the norm it’s sometimes seen as having less value or legitimacy. However, change is happening…always. Taking higher education dance courses/lectures really enlightened me about many different ways of thinking and moving. There are even more options than one can think of. We limit ourselves when we stay close-minded or fixed in value systems. I try my hardest to stay a student, asking myself why A-LOT and dive into research as often as possible. Also, education/research can become dated… the learning is a forever job. This is incorporated directly into my personal dancing and teaching, it changes. I try to bring in all that I can to broaden the horizon and encourage questioning/change.

BTCF: Your love and passion for dance and movement are apparent.  Can you talk about the times in your life when it was difficult to get to a place where you could embody your craft and express what you loved so much?  Why? And what circumstances stood in your way?

JAICEE: Socioeconomic status played a huge for me. I didn’t have a lot of the consistency/support that many of my peers appeared to have. The privilege was/is so real and in ways that others wouldn’t even think about. So often having to support myself at a young age proved to be a bit difficult at times. I had to pick and choose (on my own) what classes I could afford, competitions I could maybe budget in, and additional expenses. I also experienced some bullying on various levels (both adult and peer level). I went from wildly/passionately loving dance to fearing it in certain ways. But with educating myself and learning I was able to continue on. My senior year of high school was spent as an independent dance student. I’d take classes/conventions on my own, branch out, and meet/mingle with different studios and dance teams. I did not compete. I did my own thing and would take all of the teachings I’d be given and work on them/write them down. There is/was a hunger and strive for knowledge and growth. MUCH of this had to do with also deconstructing and unlearning everything I was taught.

BTCF: Being a student of dance, someone who embraces the research and history of dance, how as a creator has that impacted your choreography?

JAICEE: This is an in-progress type of situation. I am learning more and more about myself each year. As a human, as a mover, as a teacher and I’m still navigating where exactly my passion(s) are. This directly impacts my choreography because it’s always under “construction”. Evolving and sometimes regressing. It’s all a part of the process and discovery of oneself as a human and as an artist.

BTCF: Can you share all the various styles of art that you have trained in?  Do you have a favorite?

JAICEE: In the traditional, western studio setting I have trained in Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Jazz-Funk, Lyrical, Hip-Hop, and Tap. In college, I took Modern, African, Ballet, composition, and a few dance theory/lecture-styled classes. In the beginning of my education/career, my favorite was easily contemporary and at times still is. I do also love a good jazz piece. My current favorite is anything well-researched and possibly more scientific.

BTCF: BTCF uses all forms of art as healing tools when it comes to body image and mental health struggles.  How do you use your form of art to tap into healing for yourself and for others you work with or create for?

JAICEE: Somatics has been a huge part of my healing. As I continue my training and career it has become central to my being. Cathartic movement is huge- recognizing and releasing emotions and understanding physiological sensations. I’ve really boiled dance down to movement… many movements (even smaller than wiggling your wrist/shaking your head) can be investigative, rejuvenating, and healing. My time and work with Dr. Molly Shanahan has truly been a huge influence and encouragement in understanding my body and trauma.

BTCF: Can you please share how it came about when you joined Anita’s Theatre of Dance and Performing Arts in Sterling Heights, Michigan?  And how did that grow into other opportunities in your life?

JAICEE: Absolutely! So as a child, I was always dancing, acting, singing, and storytelling. I was quite creative. My family valued that and encouraged it so when it stayed consistent and I was able to express my interests they enrolled me in lessons and classes in various forms of art. Around 12, I truly wanted to continue and deepen my passion for acting. My mom found out about Anita’s by doing some research and they had been around for a long time. I tried out a class (which actually was rehearsal for their fall production that year) and fell in love. Acting was my huge interest. Dance, while I always loved it, formally came into play right after because I was required to take 3 dance classes as a theatre student. A wonderful, happy accident. I excelled quickly and was able to mirror/pick up choreography quite fast, the ballet-based technique that is deeply valued in the studio/competition world was more of a challenge. Through this studio and competing I met Jayson Michaels, owner of JMESDA, Angela Harris and Deena Bryan. This association was pivotal in the rest of my education and career.

BTCF: Psychology and Dance are intertwined for you.  Why is that and how do you think you apply that in your choreography and teaching?

JAICEE: My major in university was psychology. I’ve always had a very analytical and observational side. Humans and why we do the things we do was a huge question for me growing up. I knew I’d either focus on psychology or dance or…both. In a roundabout way, I kind of did that. The mind is fascinating and complex but also can be a contradiction and simple. Also, because dance was a huge escape for me as a child/teen, it was already linked to my well-being/psyche. There really was no other way. I try my hardest to embody that into my work with students. I try to encourage safe investigation of feelings and questions.

BTCF: What does having a diverse palette mean to you?

JAICEE: Having a diverse palette can mean several different things, even in the context of dance/movement. For me, it means constantly expanding your horizons and stepping out of the box. Wipe away the lines drawn in the sand and be open to all forms of art, expression, and movement. Especially the “non-traditional”. Try new things as much as you can, challenge and question your values and history. Seek enlightenment.

BTCF: You are a teacher at IlluminaTe Dance and Arts Center (IDAC) in Tecumseh, MI, how much has that changed your life and why?

JAICEE: IDAC has changed my life in various ways. I am lucky because as a person and creative I am encouraged to create and question. It has given me another layer of foundation and security I may not have gotten before. Deena Bryan, the owner, and director has believed in me and encouraged me in so many ways. She put her everything into illuminaTe. The opportunity came at a monumental time in my life, and I believe was the start of many much needed changes/decisions for the journey of my life’s purpose. It will always be my home. I have a long, beautiful history with it in many ways. Before it was even a physical place.

BTCF: Coming from low-income circumstances and being where you are now, what would say to a young person who has this same struggle but has dreams and goals that they want to accomplish?

JAICEE: I would say that there’s always a way. If you pursue what you love, even when it seems impossible or scary, there’s always a way. It may not always be the way you want but somehow someway it will work out. Stay humble, stay a student, and this is cliche but try to remember why you love/dream of whatever the thing is. Be sure that feelings change, as do circumstances. Work hard and stay the course as best you can. It will be alright.

BTCF: What are three things that you hope to share and provide for fellow creatives and your students?

JAICEE: I hope to share aspects of my story, it’s specific but also quite broad. I feel people can relate to it in various ways. I want to share what I’ve learned and am learning, and hopefully aid in the dialog shift in the many different communities I occupy space in. I hope to provide fellow creatives and students with a sense of being seen, heard, and supported while also challenging them to expand and grow.

BTCF: What are you currently working on now?

JAICEE: I am currently a member of Molly Shanahan/MadShak. A small but mighty dance company based in Chicago. I will be doing workshops and a teacher certification in her technique Spiral Body this summer. We also are in rehearsal mode for the premier of our next evening length piece “ExBody: Strike, Vibrate, Shatter” in Chicago this October. I just finished a dance residency at the Wexner Center of Arts in Columbus and will be returning this January for another. Summer classes are about to begin at IDAC and I’ll be teaching as well as traveling to set choreography in Texas!