dance: gretchen alterowitz

Collaboration at Work


I started dancing at age eight and almost immediately directed my focus at ballet. The clarity of the form appealed to me, and the discipline it required made sense to my driven personality. Taking class became a steadying ritual in my progress through childhood and adolescence that gave me a sense of purpose. 

Although my undergraduate degrees are in History and French, I continued to study dance in college and, to make a little money, started teaching ballet. Through teaching, I became more aware of the perspectives on the world that ballet communicates, and how those beliefs are wrapped up in its traditions, movement vocabulary, and aesthetics. As I articulated to students why we do what we do in ballet, I grappled with the implications of ballet’s beauty standards for my students’ bodies, and for my own. Over time, I have developed ways to use ballet to speak back to those standards.

My life in dance now involves more than ballet. I’m most interested in non-hierarchical approaches to teaching and making, and am a member of a collaborative dance trio.

AGA Collaborative investigates and creates ways to choreograph and perform that put aside a traditional valuing of sole authorship. In our collaboration, we find ways of working that honor all contributions, and we make dances that work against hierarchy by layering meaning and perspective. 

The collaborative process has been eye-opening because of the ways our working methods in the studio affect my life and practices outside of our trio. I hold up the respect the three of us have for each other, and the ways that respect is demonstrated, as a model for how I’d like my other relationships (in dance and work) to be. This collaboration has a great impact on my work with students as I strive to teach in a way that engages honestly and respectfully with the other lives and experiences in the room.

Gretchen Alterowitz, Associate Professor of Dance, UNC Charlotte

Gretchen Alterowitz, Associate Professor of Dance, UNC Charlotte