Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

MEET THE ARTIST: Sydney Skov January 22, 2013

Welcome to the 5th Annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Work!  Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling various participant artists on the blog in an interview series where you can get a sneak peek at the origins of their projects and get to know them as artists. 


Choreographed by Sydney Skov

Photo by Chris PeddecordPhoto by Chris Peddecord

“Akash” by Sydney Skov
Part of Groovin’ Greenhouse at Polaris Dance Theatre
Dates & Times: January 31 at 7:30, February 1 at 7:30, February 2 at 7:00
Tickets: $15 adults, $10 students/seniors (click here to buy)

Polaris Dance Theatre and the Fertile Ground Festival are pleased to once again collaborate on THE GROOVIN’ GREENHOUSE.  During the Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre will host a special space for new dance works to grow!  Dance lovers will take in a spectrum of styles and choreographers all under one roof.  The exciting performers participating in the 2013 Groovin’ Greenhouse are: NW Fusion, Bridge City Dance Project, SubRosa Dance Collective, Wobbly Dance, Jennifer Camp, Jocelyn Edelstein, and Sydney Skov.  (Sydney performs on January 31 along with NW Fusion and Jocelyn Edelstein.)  Click here for more information!


 Sydney Skov grew up dancing in Portland, Oregon. While performing as a member of the Jefferson Dancers, she trained in contemporary ballet with Northwest Dance Project’s Sarah Slipper and danced in shows commissioned by Portland’s White Bird Dance. Sydney continued her training in modern and contemporary dance in New York while pursuing a degree focused on language and culture at New York University. Since graduating in 2009, Sydney has pursued a passion for grassroots social change which has taken her to live and work in Senegal, West Africa and Kolkata, India. In both places, Sydney experienced the power of dance to raise awareness of human rights issues, strengthen communities, and build peace. Most recently she worked with a non-profit organization in India, Kolkata Sanved, using dance movement therapy as rehabilitation for survivors of human trafficking. Back in Portland, Sydney is an avid teacher as well as a company member with Polaris Dance Theatre. Sydney is currently producing a dance film to raise awareness of human trafficking here in Oregon. Follow the progress and learn more at www.freebodyproject.org.


1. An Artist in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On Is . . . 

Nora Chipaumire. She is a brilliant and powerful choreographer, using her African roots and the theme of human rights as starting points for much of her choreography. Seeing the film Nora three years ago is one of the reasons why I left my wonderful internship with Dance Magazine to find a way to live and work (and eventually dance) in Africa. I wrote a little about her on my blog focused on dance and social change.

2.  A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . .

While living in Senegal, I was lucky to attend a month-long contemporary African dance workshop. During the workshop, we played with improvisation – utilizing everyday gestures to create dance – for hours and it has shaped how I approach my own choreography. I am so interested in dance that springs from the inside. For this piece, fellow dancer Lindsey Matheis and I started with one word, “nervous,” and by moving until the feeling had overtaken us, we began putting together the gestures and phrases we created that were the most real.

3. When I’m Not Creating Art You Can Often Find Me . . .

. . . creating the Free Body Project, a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking here in Portland through site-specific works and a dance film. When I’m not brainstorming ways to use my passion to change the world, I am dreaming of new countries to live in and finding the best local spots to drink chocolate stout.

4. Five Songs On My Writing/Painting/Creating Playlist Are . . . 

It depends on the kind of movement I’m trying to create. My fall back is anything by Bon Iver. I love Lump Sum.  In the car on the way to the studio I usually listen to poppy Top 40 music that gives me energy. “Trouble” by Taylor Swift would be one example. “Hold My Hand” by Michael Jackson and Akon are warm-up favorites. I have also started listening to a lot of The Tallest Man on Earth. I love the song “The Wild Hunt.”

5. A Portland Artist/Creative/Arts Organization I’d Love To Work With Is . . .

Street Yoga. Movement can be such a powerful tool to help marginalized individuals cultivate mind-body connection and confidence. Everyone should have access to movement-based healing arts. I would love to see a similar organization, working with similar populations, which utilizes dance for healing and expression.

6. I Am Terrified Of . . .

Swimming in a large, dark body of water in which I can easily imagine the most horrendous of undersea creatures swimming up, unseen, to bite my legs off.

7. I Am Obsessed With . . .

Chocolate. Adventure. The sound of rain on a skylight.

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . 

Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion by Naomi Jackson and Toni Shapiro-Phim; The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Work Are . . .

Conscious, anxious, connected.

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . .

A lot of people tell me I look like Sarah Bareilles, so perhaps my biographical film would be a musical of soul-pouring proportions starring Sarah.


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work. 

This work is a beginning.

See the short story below.

This particular piece is an exploration of dance simultaneously expressing external impression and internal emotion. While we are composed, or only semi-composed, on the outside, a storm of thoughts, emotions, and desires is filling us, perhaps altering us at the same time.

2) How did this work come about?  What inspired it?

 Last year I traveled to India to work with Kolkata Sanved, an amazing non-profit organization using dance movement therapy as rehabilitation for survivors of human trafficking and violence. I realized the power of dance to save lives. It has become my mission to discover how I can use my passion for dance to generate positive change. A fellow artist I met in India had created interesting pieces of music from the voices of dancers/ survivors we worked alongside. An idea developed to choreograph to the pieces of music and then to create a dance film using the ‘music’ as narration. What has evolved from this original idea is the Free Body Project, a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking in Oregon and to connect dancers here and across the globe in the name of moving against sexual slavery. The centerpiece of the Project will be the dance film. This piece marks the beginning of our creative process in establishing choreography for the film. We will see how it develops from here!

3) Talk about your creative process.  (How do you work?  When do you work?  What gets you inspired?)

Choreography is still a new, exciting, and daunting process for me. I turn on music I like and start moving, playing with space and rhythm. As I mentioned above, I love to work from everyday gestures, starting with a gesture and transforming it into a phrase. I also like to meditate on the emotion I’m hoping to portray, letting it organically fuel movement. It has helped me immensely to work with inspired dancers and choreographers here in Portland, learning from their movement and methods. I work when I have space (which is often late at night). What inspires me? The amazing movement quality of fellow dancers and wanting to emulate it. The incredible power of dance and dancers to say something profound and touch hearts without words. The thought that creating dance is also creating a a space of personalized freedom.

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