MAGNIFYING No. 23: Molly Heller

December 17 2019
Photo | Marissa Mooney Photo | Marissa Mooney

MAGNIFYING is a series dedicated to showcasing the talent of our students, faculty, and staff to help you learn more about the remarkable individuals within our creative community here at the College of Fine Arts. 

Molly Heller is an assistant professor in the School of Dance and the director of Heartland, a Salt Lake City collective combining dance, visual art, and music composition/performance. She is also an alumni, earning her MFA in the School of Dance. Her research investigates performance as a healing practice and the relationship between physical expression and emotion. This coming Saturday, Heartland will present “Cosmos {{ Performance + Dance Party }}” at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.

Molly’s choreographic work is an extension of her interest in health and wellbeing, as well as an interweaving of theater practices and dance. Her work has been presented nationwide in venues such as: Urban Lounge (SLC), Beehive Concert Venue (SLC), Shawl Anderson Dance Center (Berkeley), Eccles Regent Street Blackbox Theater (SLC), Kingsbury Hall for TEDx SaltLakeCity, Gowanus Art + Production (NYC), Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church (NYC), Movement Research at the Judson Church (NYC), Green Space (NYC), DUMBO Dance Festival (Brooklyn, NY), The Mahaney Center for the Arts (Middlebury, VT), Balance Dance Company (Boise, ID), Boise State University, Westminster College (SLC), Sugar Space Studio for the Arts (SLC), and the Ladies’ Literary Club (SLC).  molly4Molly Heller and Marissa Mooney mid dance-party | Photo Tori Duhaime

Your work for Heartland Collective is truly multidisciplinary. Why are you inspired to work with artists from different mediums? 

Heartland was born from the desire to invest in this group of people that reciprocally believe in commitment, a love-centered approach to art making, and intense focus. The relationships fostered within Heartland have been primary, and the multidisciplinary nature of the collective is a result of opening up space for our artistic interests to manifest. As the director, my role is to listen to the desires of each individual and to support their evolution. By supporting and nurturing the individual, the collective also expands (and the direction of our work continues to reveal itself along the way). 

What is your most recent fascination or surprising discovery?  

I am fascinated by the things that stretch me the most in life. My most recent fascination revolves around closure - how I crave and desire for events in my life to have punctuated endings (I imagine I'm not alone in this). The vulnerability within letting go and in allowing closure to be non-linear and self actualized is what we're exposing within "Cosmos." I am discovering on a personal level that healing/release can happen with strangers and if we can't choose our endings in life, we can practice curating beginnings.

Do you have any habitual practices or rituals that ground your movement and choreography practice? How do you set up your process for success?  

I am deeply invested in improvisational practices that both locate me and present impossibilities. The trying, doing, and showing up for the work becomes the focus, rather than prioritizing physical outcomes/movement invention. Before beginning rehearsals, I offer structured practices for the collective to investigate that influence the direction of the choreography. These movement rituals are designed to activate one's whole self within the whole space. They intentionally challenge sight, balance, facial expressivity, and the antennas of the body (hands/feet). We have been naming these practices, FINDING. 

What is one unexpected place you wish dance would occur?  

I am interested in roaming performances - where the location and perimeters move and change throughout a period of time (and inevitably where performers have to adapt). Heartland has been experimenting with roaming/pop-up performances over the last year. Our last performance of this nature, traveled north to south on Main St. (beginning at the AT&T parking lot and finished at Tinwell). The idea of a moving performance is not necessarily unexpected, but what occurs within this approach will always be unexpected and unpredictable. It also allows us to work in public spaces where people find our work who might not typically engage with dance. There is an inverse relationality to this type of engagement - instead of waiting for an audience to join us, we are going to them. What presents itself in those moments feels magical, it is exactly what it needs to be. And we embrace this. 


Heartland Collective Presents: Cosmos {{Performance + DANCE PARTY}}

The Winter Solstice
Saturday, December 21st, 8-10pm
Time: Doors open at 7:30pm, performance begins at 8pm
Where: Utah Museum of Contemporary ArtCost: $12, Cash or Venmo
Performers: Nick Blaylock, Brian Gerke, Molly Heller, Marissa Mooney, Melissa Younker, PLUS a surprise guest.
Music: Nick Foster and Mike Wall