Kristin Deiss grew up in Philadelphia, PA where she first received her dance training at the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet before attending both the School of American Ballet as well as the Miami City Ballet School. After a year-long struggle with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, she started studying modern dance with mentor Cheryl Clark while earning a B.A. in History from Drew University and later continued to train under Marion Hopkins as she pursued a Masters in History from UNC Chapel Hill. In 2012, Kristin received an M.F.A. in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where she performed original works by Pamela Pietro, Sydney Skybetter, and John-Mark Owen. Upon graduating, she performed with Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance and Ensemble Dance in NYC while presenting choreographic work throughout festivals in NYC and Massachusetts. A certified yoga teacher through the Mind Body Dancer® 200 Yoga Teacher Training, as well as a Reiki Master and an Integrated Energy Therapy Practitioner, Kristin continues to investigate the body in a myriad of ways, most recently holding Healing Movement Workshops for children suffering from Juvenile Arthritis. She is currently enjoying the California sun on faculty at AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Santa Monica College, and Relativity School. Always a Philadelphian at heart, Kristin enjoys a good soft pretzel, anytime the Eagles win, and people's confusion whenever she says "wooder."
Spending fourteen years of your life studying ballet teaches you a few things. It taught me how to use hair spray (albeit never sparingly). It taught me how to tolerate aches and pains. It even taught me how to properly apply eyeliner. But perhaps the most important thing I learned about during those fourteen years was myself. I learned to listen to what made me tick. Somewhere along the way I also found the courage to follow those passions, even when they seemed to stray off course. I say this because although my experiences may seem disjointed, to me they simply form the web of my being.
I studied ballet professionally at schools such as The Rock School of the PA Ballet, The School of American Ballet, and The Miami City Ballet School until the age of seventeen. After being diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of thirteen and having to spend a year recovering from the illness, my body had changed. When I returned to ballet, I started sustaining many injuries, too many injuries to continue considering becoming a professional ballet dancer a viable career. So, with a heavy heart, I quit, and started the next chapter in my life.
Six years later, as a doctoral student in the History Department at UNC Chapel Hill, I realized that I wanted, nay, needed to return to dance. I loved history. I majored in it at Drew University, wrote my Thesis about Free African Americans in the Antebellum North and their appropriations of the Declaration of Independence, and was currently working on my Master’s Thesis concerning the narrative of slavery being told at Historic Stagville in Durham, NC. But all the while I had continued taking dance classes, making work, and performing. In undergrad I studied with Cheryl Clark and found movement vocabulary that was easier on my body, as well as ways of storytelling through choreographing with that vocabulary that fulfilled a desire I never knew I had. In grad school I studied under Marion Hopkins and danced with Modern Extensions, somehow continuing to convince myself that I no longer could consider dance a viable career. Then one day, it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. Quarter-life crisis a few years early? Perhaps. But I just knew. I knew I should be dancing. I knew it wasn’t going to be classical ballet anymore, and I knew it would be on a different trajectory than I had been on before, but I also knew that is where I needed to re-direct my energies. But the problem was, I still didn’t know very much about the dance world outside of ballet. Since I clearly loved school, the next step was obvious: time to get an M.F.A. in Dance.
Spending time at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU felt like returning home after years away on a long journey. While it’s all very familiar, you have immensely changed. I learned a lot about myself during that period, and was able to cultivate an artistry that I continue to feed. An artistry much more interested in approaching storytelling, performing, the body, even wellness through various means. That broadened awareness has led me to study Yoga, Reiki, and Integrated Energy Therapy. My passion to share with others has also led me to teach not just dance, but also the additional techniques I have explored for my own growth and well being.
The chapter of my life that I am currently living involves an even broader reach. As I continue to grapple with the physical, mental, and in some ways spiritual injuries incurred from my struggle with JRA, I learn more about what it means to heal, and what that healing encompasses. Working with the Arthritis Foundation to bring healing movement workshops to children who are battling that disease is the next step in my own healing journey, and one that I look forward to keeping you updated on.
Through of all of this, what exactly have I learned that makes me tick? My favorite choreographer, Bill T. Jones, said it best:
“Faith is a big issue for me. But it’s never been a religious sense of faith. It’s a sense of connection with something that is a constant in an inconstant universe. It’s a belief in an outcome worth pursuing. In other words, a life has meaning. That’s a statement of belief. My life has meaning.”