Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 2. Lisa R. Chow.
There's no such thing as an average day in the life of Lisa R. Chow.
The Mesa-based 54-year-old dancer and choreographer is always juggling a few projects for contemporary company Desert Dance Theatre, where she's artistic director and choreographer, Crossroads Performance Group, which she co-founded with her husband, and the Arizona Dance Coalition, which she serves as the president of and founded.
Needless to say, Chow's to-do list is a little daunting.
"Three days a week, I teach company class and rehearse approximately 10 to 15 hours each week," she says. "I assist teaching creative ballet classes with Frances Cohen at Dance Theater West. And on occasion, I am teaching master classes or performing at various venues with my husband, Step Raptis, and members of my dance company."
Chow has worked with Arizona Commission on the Arts, Phoenix Arts Commission, Nevada Arts Council, Kentucky Arts Council, National Society for Arts and Letters, Maricopa Community Colleges Dance Competitions, and Arizona High School Dance Festivals.
One of the biggest projects she's currently working on is the coordination of this year's Arizona Dance Festival, which will take place on October 10 and 11 at Tempe Center for the Arts. "The showcase will feature 24 pre-professional, emerging and professional dance artists and groups of diverse genre and styles," Chow says of the event, which she's coordinated for the past 14 years. "Each night will be a different line-up. I am currently creating a new dance piece which will premiere at the Arizona Dance Festival, inspired by past life events and my ongoing journey or discovery of new encounters."
And that's not all she has on the schedule. Chow has been invited to perform with the cast of South of Gold Mountain, choreographed by H.T. Chen, in New York. "The theme of the production is about the Chinese who immigrated to the southern states at the turn of the century in the region around Mississippi where I was born and raised," Chow says. "After the première/preview in New York, we will also perform in Mississippi in February 2015 for the Chinese Lunar New Year, and here in Arizona at the Tempe Center for the Arts in March 2015, then in Alabama in April 2015."
I am originally from Greenville, Mississippi, where I was born and raised for the first 18 years of my life. I came to Phoenix right out of high school in 1978, on a cross-country drive without a clue what I was going to do. I thought was on my way to California to possibly live. But I chose to live in Tempe because my cousin lived there and I had decided to take some classes at Arizona State University. I immediately fell in love with the Phoenix area with all of its beautiful landscapes and colorful skies. And, of course, there were lots of colorful people. I came to Phoenix with youthful raw talent and a great passion to dance. I was a late starter in the field of dance so I had a lot of catching up to do. I never knew that I would end up staying here in Arizona for 30-plus years and creating a life for myself as an artistic director, creator, performer, administrator for so many of my artistic endeavors. Your life and career are only as good as you make it.
I have always loved art in its many forms as a child and all through my life. It was so much a part of my being to draw, paint, dance, sing, write, play music, to create, etc. I don't know if I could ever live without any of these without sacrificing my sanity or well being. Art is my life. It is my church. It's where I live, eat, sleep, and drink. I make art because that's what I do. And I will continue to make art in as many forms as possible for the rest of my life.
I am most productive when I'm under a lot of pressure. Although, I seem to be a very quiet and calm person on the outside, I function on a very high level of stress. I am productive when I work with other creative people on projects. I am productive when I have dancers to work with who inspire me to create new works. I create projects and opportunities to be creative as an incentive to be productive. I am productive when I am inspired by other artists and can collaborate with them. I enjoy collaborating with other artists of different art forms, whether it's visual arts, music, etc. I have collaborated the most with my husband, Step Raptis who is a very talented and creative musician, dancer, and educator. He inspires me everyday. I have also collaborated with Arizona legend and bronze sculptor, John Henry Waddell, whose sculptures of dancers reside at the Herberger Theater Center. Another one of my favorite collaborators is long-time friend, Chieli Minucci, who is an amazing virtuoso guitarist and has an extensive list of credits in the contemporary jazz music world as a solo artist and with his music group, Special EFX. One of my favorite collaborations was a dance called "Fall to the Sky" inspired by John Waddell's sculptures called "Rising" with music by Chieli Minucci called "Jewel in the Desert Sky." The dance was a secret dedication to my Dad who had passed away, but overall the piece was dedicated to the victims of 9/11. Another favorite collaboration was with Step Raptis and Chieli Minucci in a piece called "Shadow."
My inspiration wall is full of all my mentors throughout my life, including teachers, family and friends. My biggest inspiration comes from my mother and father who were hard working Chinese immigrants with old world traditional views and strict work ethics. I was raised as an American but was influenced by the Chinese and Southern culture. I especially admire generously compassionate people who are not afraid to be themselves to show their spirituality, humanism and humility. My husband is one of those people that I admire on my inspiration wall. My inspiration wall has a large place for my long time mentor and friend, Marion Kirk Jones, who passed away this past April, almost one month shy of her 93rd birthday. She has probably had the biggest influence on my artistic and choreographic careerl. Other inspirations are the great pioneers of modern dance such as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Jose Limon, Alwin Nikolais, Louis Horton, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Daniel Nagrin, and so many more. The list is endless. I am also inspired by the up and coming emerging dancers who test the limits of what the human body is capable of doing. My father-in-law would say, "Show them greatness!"
I have learned the most of what I know from my mentors and the many experiences that I have encountered all throughout my life. I learn the most through observation and instigation. I have learned most of what I do by just doing what I do. I try to learn from my mistakes by not repeating them. I learn things from my dancers and people that I work with and from people that I meet. I learn from children that I teach and see how they respond to what I have to offer. I learn an awful lot from television, radio, news articles, and social media. I am learning something everyday.
Good work should always stand on its own. Good work should always be remembered. Good work comes from hard work. Good work should always have an impact on the audiences that it serves. Good work should always be created from the heart and soul of its creator. Good work should always inspire you and others to continue to do good work.
The Phoenix creative scene is a wonderful mix of so many different artists with creative and innovative ideas and philosophies. I wish there could be more free time for artists to gather socially to share their art outside of shows and exhibitions. I am a founding member and president of the Arizona Dance Coalition, and one of our goals was to create connection amongst our dance community statewide. We still function on a grassroots level, but we have slowly grown our membership, and hope to continue to reach more dancers, companies, studios, venues, presenters, dance enthusiasts, etc. Our website calendar, monthly e-newsletter and social media postings help to promote awareness about what is happening with the dance scene in Arizona. Sometimes I feel like the Phoenix creative scene could use more exposure through news media and support from the general public. There are a ton of wonderful artists in our Phoenix community, I wish more people would get out to see them and support them, and support each other.
See the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives:
100. Bill Dambrova 99. Niki Blaker 98. Jeff Slim 97. Beth May 96. Doug Bell 95. Daniel Langhans 94. Nanibaa Beck 93. Nicole Royse 92. Ib Andersen 91. Casandra Hernandez 90. Chris Reed 89. Shelby Maticic 88. Olivia Timmons 87. Courtney Price 86. Travis Mills 85. Catrina Kahler 84. Angel Castro 83. Cole Reed 82. Lisa Albinger 81. Larry Madrigal 80. Julieta Felix 79. Lauren Strohacker 78. Levi Christiansen 77. Thomas Porter 76. Carrie Leigh Hobson 75. Cody Carpenter 74. Jon Jenkins 73. Aurelie Flores 72. Michelle Ponce 71. Devin Fleenor 70. Noelle Martinez 69. Bucky Miller 68. Liliana Gomez 67. Jake Friedman 66. Clarita Lulić 65. Randy Murray 64. Mo Neuharth 63. Jeremy Hamman 62. La Muñeca 61. Kevin Goldman 60. Emily Costello 59. Kerstin Dale 58. Vara Ayanna 57. Nathaniel Lewis 56. Ruben Gonzales 55. Lisa Poje 54. Bobby Zokaites 53. Frances Smith Cohen 52. Julie Rada 51. David Miller 50. Xanthia Walker 49. Kyllan Maney 48. Cary Truelick 47. Constance McBride 46. James D. Porter 45. Allyson Boggess 44. Abigail Lynch 43. Ashley Cooper 42. Jaclyn Roessel 41. Brandon Boetto 40. Melissa Dunmore 39. Gavin Sisson 38. Rossitza Todorova 37. Monica Robles 36. Josh Kirby 35. Jesse Perry 34. Yai Cecream 33. Nathan Blackwell 32. Carley Conder 31. Ben Willis 30. Nicole Michieli 29. Brian Cresson 28. Tyson Krank 27. Mikey Estes 26. Anwar Newton 25. Sarah "Saza" Dimmick 24. Tato Caraveo 23. Jorge Torres 22. Laura Spalding Best 21. Shawnte Orion 20. Mike Olbinski 19. Christina You-Sun Park 18. Jon Arvizu 17. Anya Melkozernova 16. J.B. Snyder 15. Damon Dering 14. Rebekah Cancino 13. Liz Warren 12. Timothy Brennan 11. Mimi Jardine 10. Rosalind Shipley 9. Nic Wiesinger 8. Kendra Sollars 7. Dan Hull 6. Elizabeth Maria Naranjo 5. Cody Nathaniel Johnson 4. Amy Radcliffe 3. Plastic Monsters
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