Dancing queen

Jeanne Christopherson

PHOTO courtesy of jeanne christopherson

Raised in a Quaker household in Montana, Jeanne Christopherson moved to New York City as a young adult and fell in love with Afro-Caribbean dance. She performed with a Haitian dance company, and studied dance forms from around the world. Christopherson moved to Chico in 1991 and started teaching dance at the Chico Women’s Club in 1993. She started a dance studio, Zocalo Cultural Center, in 1995. Now, along with teaching at the Chico Women’s Club, she teaches dance and yoga at Chico State, where she also facilitates the dance troupe Nefertiti’s Dozen. She can be reached at (530)345-6324 or <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,106,107,114,105,115,116,111,102,102,101,114,50,50,64,104,111,116,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,34,62,106,107,114,105,115,116,111,102,102,101,114,50,50,64,104,111,116,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

What typifies your method of teaching dance?

In everything I do, people are dancing and moving. For me, experiential learning is to be fully engaged. If you’re in a room and you have no books or Internet, what do you know? You are the site of knowledge. That’s what you can impart to another person.

How did you discover Afro-Caribbean dance?

In New York City, I walked into a class of Haitian dance one day, and that was it. I realized it was a date with fate. I’m drawn to it because it is an evolved tradition that still has contemporary value. Tradition is what we choose to repeat—hopefully, what is worth repeating. We dance the warrior, the flirt, the healer, the wind, the ocean, the trickster—encoded in these dances are the complex parts of ourselves that cry out for expression.

What kind of teaching are you doing this summer?

I’m teaching a performance-arts workshop for kids [called] Unplugged Arts, Aug. 2-6.

What do students get out of your classes?

My goal is full-spectrum learning, using yoga, dance, energy, imagery and discussion to expand each person’s concept of the self to become a more complete person, so any future path becomes possible. I’m always learning how to do this better.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done so far this year?

I went to Haiti in February with some Haitian educators who live in New York City but have a school in Haiti. There was a dance troupe still rehearsing amid the aftermath of the earthquake, and I got to perform with them. It was validating for them to see a blanc—white person—participate fully in their Vodou dance tradition, and it was incredible for me personally to be included and recognized as an initiated dancer.