Go Deeper

Artist Profile: Olive Prince

Posted June 23rd, 2009

Olive Prince’s story begins in Idaho. “My parents were hippies and they traveled often,” Prince recalls. “I was born in a log cabin.”

When she was ten years old she begged her family to take dance lessons because her friends did. But as a young adult, she was reminded of her passion for the art in a roundabout way.

“It took a while for me to realize what I was supposed to be doing. When I was in college, I [found something I wrote in the] 6th grade asking what I wanted to be and I said a dancer and dance teacher.” Prince realized that her heart was always with her desire to dance, and she decided to fully commit.

“These are my early years as a dancer. I’m coming into my own choreographically,” says Prince. “I hope I never totally figure it all out though. I hope I’m always in the pursuit of trying to find what I want to know and learn.”

The artistic director of Olive Prince Dance, her work has been featured at many festivals, including at the most recent nEW Festival where she premiered her piece OUT. Prince finds inspiration from people who think visually and deeply investigate the forms and movement of the body. As an artist, she enjoys going beyond the expected and physically exploring new concepts.

“Sometimes I try to trick myself,” she says, laughing. “I usually give myself one or two things to play with, like the duet in [my nEW Festival piece] Serenade: love and intimacy, violence and displacement of time. I played with them until the work came together and made sense to me.”

Each time Prince choreographs, she imagines how her ideas can develop into a fully realized, condensed body of work. She begins with many unwoven ideas and strips them away until she achieves a final work.

“I like to look at image. I examine things that I question in my own life and they come out in my work.” Reflection, imagination, and conception create only the first step of the process; a choreographed work is incomplete without performers. Prince explains, “I choose people that I know work hard and are open to being a part of the process.”

Prince says that Philadelphia’s adventurous arts scene helps motivate her. “I hope people continue to create great work because when they create better work I [do too]. I love that I’m in a city that is challenging the boundaries of art.”

In 2002, Prince attended Temple University for graduate school and began working professionally in the Philadelphia area in 2005. She’s currently in rehearsal with Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers for next season, and she’s involved in Group Motion‘s Fringe Festival show this year as a both a performer and choreographer.

Prince has taught dance as a professor at Drexel University for the past year. “[My students] respond to enthusiasm and persistence and dedication . . . and to something that’s a little different than what they’re used to seeing.” Prince challenges them with creative problems and enjoys watching their different approaches and twists emerge. “Drexel has a great group of students,” boasts Prince. “Teaching is a part of who I am.”

She’s also preparing for her performance in Merián Soto’s Postcards from the Woods which debuts at this fall’s Live Arts Festival.

“I’m very excited for this project. Merián was one of my teachers at Temple. She’s like a part of my movement history,” says Prince.

Prince promises Postcards from the Woods will be “a really deep investigation of the body.” The performers will be working with 18- to 22-foot long branches.

“It’s all about balancing points and finding ways to connect with these branches . . . it’s meditative, visual. It’s an improvisational structure and is different every time. Trusting your body and being fully present in the moment are two themes of the piece. As a performer what better can you ask for?”

–Jennifer Burrini

Photo by Lindsay Browning