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Posed and Answered with Maurya Kerr of tinypistol

Maurya Kerr founded tinypistol after a twelve year career with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. tinypistol has been honored by a 2011 Hubbard Street National Choreographic Competition award, a 2012 CHIME grant affording her the opportunity to work in mentorship with Alex Ketley, and a University of Minnesota 2014/15 Cowles Visiting Artist grant. Maurya’s work has been commissioned and presented by Ballet Nouveau Colorado, the Aspen Fringe Festival, WestWave Dance Festival, REVERBdance Festival/APAP 2013, and the Black Choreographers Festival. Her work FUR was honored by selection for the 2013 ACDFA Baja Region gala performance. She is most recently a winner of Whim W’Him’s 2015 Choreographic Shindig and will be premiering a work for the company in Fall 2015. Maurya is on faculty with the LINES Ballet educational programs and conducts residencies nationally as a visiting guest artist with (selected) BODYTRAFFIC, Hollins University, University of Minnesota, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and The School at Jacob’s Pillow.


What is your favorite part of each day?

I’m a fan of eating and sleeping, so mealtimes and bedtime!

When was the last time you saw a work of art and were left speechless, in any art medium?

I can’t stop talking to people about Claudia Rankine’s brilliant book ‘Citizen’. Her lyric poem beautifully and painfully details the micro-aggressions of quotidian racism. The very citizenship of African-Americans is in peril.

What do you look for when hiring a dancer?

I adore hard work and am attracted to dancers who have a relentless work ethic motived by curiosity, joy, humility, and gratitude. I love being in process with artists who can access their complexities and animal natures.

When you have an idea for a project how much do you leave open ended for your dancers to shape and how much do you prepare prior to rehearsals?

I do both in equal parts. I generate most of my movement from text so I have to do my homework, but the work is definitely shaped by the investment and artistic intelligence of the dancers.

In your eyes, what is lacking in the dance world?

We are sorely lacking constructive, knowledgable criticism. What happens too often is inferior writing tending towards vendettas or sycophancy by dance critics with questionable qualifications. These ‘reviews’ amount to little more than a description of events and biased, petty opinions. What about queries of artistic antecedents? The cognizant or ignorant appropriations of other forms and cultures? What did watching the work feel like, taste like? It would be so refreshing to have a forum where contextualization, thoughtful appraisal, and intellectual dialogue could interface.

What obscure skill do you wish you possessed?

It’s not an obscure skill, just one I don’t possess – I wish I was at least bilingual, if not wildly multi-lingual!

What are you sick of in the dance world?

I am sick of the nepotistic, self-congratulatory good ol’ white boys club. I recently posted on Facebook about reading Millepied’s announcement of Paris Opera Ballet’s “ambitious” 2015-16 season and my horror at realizing that every single new commission was by a white man. I did a bit of research and discovered that the 2014-15 seasons of San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre feature not one single female choreographer or choreographer of color (and don’t get me started on the tokenism in hiring dancers of color). We live in a world of institutionalized racism and sexism so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the dance world is complicit in engendering white male supremacist pathology. I see exaltation given to average work by white men, while excellent work by people of color and women is marginalized. Think that these decisions by the directors of leading ballet companies are innocuous? We are remiss and ignorant to believe that what amounts to de facto racist and sexist policies in these arts institutions don’t have dire consequences. They allow us to condone rape cultures where 1 in 5 women at college are sexually assaulted. They allow us to continue to criminalize black and brown bodies and view them as other, savage, and unworthy of life. They allow us to pardon the criminal behavior of unearned skin privilege as ‘boys just having fun’ while people of color are demon thugs getting killed on an average of every 28 hours by law enforcement. Imagine how the world would transform if we were accustomed to seeing black people and women directing, conducting, composing, choreographing…

Do you cross train?

Yes. I retired from full-time dancing in 2006 but try to remain very somatically engaged. I take ballet class once a week and have recently discovered yoga – I’m so bad at it, and that fascinates me! After months of trial and error I’ve finally found two yoga teachers in sf that I trust. I’ve also done GYROTONIC© on and off since I was sixteen and have been a certified trainer for ten years.

What kind of body doctor healer do you use for injuries?

I regularly work with an osteopath and a massage therapist. In the past I’ve had amazing results from chiropractic, cranial-sacral work, and acupuncture.

Do you think its important for aspiring dancers to go to college?

I think that more than a codified experience such as college, young dancers need to gain life experience and seek out an expansive artistic education. Go to museums, read, cultivate non-dancer relationships, spend time in nature, watch films, fall in love, see every dance performance you can! I am always disappointed to see so few ballet dancers at modern/contemporary performances and vice versa – there is so much to admire and absorb from one other.

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Post by Kenna Tuski

Kenna Tuski, a Portland Maine native, graduated from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance with honors in the spring of 2013. Kenna was given the opportunity to study abroad at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan in her Junior year at Purchase. In 2013–2014 Kenna worked with pop singer Betty Who as her personal assistant and tour manager. Kenna danced with Nimbus Dance Works and was assistant coordinator of their 2013 Nutcracker Production. She has toured nationally and internationally with Shen Wei Dance Arts and in 2014 became a performer in Punch Drunk’s Sleep No More.

Comments (2)

  1. Sam Irwin April 7, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    This woman is simply an inspiration of life and change that this world is in dire need of!!!! AH! Maurya Kerr thank you for the never-ending brilliance that you contribute to the artistic community and beyond.

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