An Interview with Paulette Brockington – A Multidisciplinary Local Dance Artist
For this next post, I caught up with dancer and choreographer Paulette Brockington. Paulette is an accomplished artist who directs the Detroit-based ensemble, A Company of Dancers.
Paulette began teaching through a position as a teaching assistant at The University of Michigan; later going on to teach at Marygrove College, Wayne County Community College District, and several companies. She is credited with establishing and maintaining the annual American Lindy Hop Championships in addition to playing major roles in other prominent swing festivals. Diverse in her interests, Paulette is also a member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity—taking on multiple acting roles as well. Paulette began by explaining her dance career, saying:
“I don’t believe there was ever a time I didn’t think of myself as a dancer. Even as a child at 8 years old when I was ill and in the hospital I thought of myself as a dancer. As I grew into an adult I would watch dance numbers in musicals and thoroughly enjoy them. Maybe it was then that I decided I wanted to be a choreographer. It wasn’t until other choreographers started asking me to dance for them that I considered anything more.”
How have your diverse artistic experiences shaped your style?
“I think of myself more as a performing artist at this point because I am addicted to all kinds of movement- ballet, modern, contemporary, tap, ballroom. I’ve even tried breaking. I think exposure to all those styles has made me a dancer who gleans technique and aesthetics and style into a mover with a unique voice.”
What is your dance background and how did you come to focus in the area you did?
“I studied with Bella Lewitzky and many other noted masters, but I came to focus on contemporary “ballet” movement because of outside factors. Modern dance technique has really for the most part fallen out of favor into a mishmash of styles and a trend toward the avant-garde, randomness without a theme, for its own sake. I find structure in my form of ballet – which I’m sure to ballet dancers looks like crazy modern and looks like ballet to the contemporary sect.”
Ha! I like that! I’m excited to see your “brand” of contemporary ballet. I see you’re an extremely accomplished swing dancer, so I want to ask you about that. What draws you to swing specifically?
So you want to know what draws me to swing dance?? I was initially drawn to it as a contemporary choreographer wanting to infuse my choreography with some of its flavor. I stuck with it because of Frankie Maning. He mentored me, taught me. I loved his dance because I loved him.”
Tell me about your interest in other stagecraft and acting?
“People tend to pigeon hole you into one area. When I was actively auditioning I would go to a play audition and be asked if I knew there was no singing or dancing in the play. Of course I knew. I would go to a musical theater audition and be asked if i knew that there was singing and dancing in the show. And, of course, I knew. Once people have a mental picture–an image– of you it doesn’t really matter to them what you say you’re interested in doing.”
wow –That is interesting. Lastly, what current projects/classes are you currently working on?
The Third Side, my piece that People Dancing and DiTM are presenting on Saturday August 8th, has elements of all the things that lure me to keep dancing and creating. You’ll certainly see elements of ballet, modern, social dance and pedestrian movement. One thing I learned is that you can’t be a good social dancer unless you understand relationships. I tap into that as much as I can.
After “The Third Side” premieres in Michigan, @ Thrive! –that’s THIS coming Saturday– I’ll start working on a new concept for 6-8 dancers. I’ll work on that (with a Company of Dancers)–while prepping for the American Lindy Hop Championships.
Tell me about that…
I’m presenting the Lindy Hop Championships in Detroit for the first time after a long run on the east coast. It (Lindy Hop) too, is all about relationships. And then I have swing workshops that I do from time to time. And, I currently teach ballet at studios in the metro area.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me, Paulette. Dance artists Jessica Thomas and Brandon Burton will join Paulette on stage at Arthur Miller Theatre in Ann Arbor on Saturday August 8th at 8:00 pm