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About Olivia Corson

Olivia Corson is a spirited and inspiring San Francisco Bay Area movement theater artist, noted for her powerful and transformative teaching and performance work. She skillfully interweaves movement and story, feeling and thought, the sacred and the ordinary, with humor and compassion.

Corson has performed hundreds of evenings of improvised narrative dance pieces and been a much-loved teacher for over 30 years. She has also created — written, choreographed and directed — many movement theater pieces over many years, (including her pivotal one woman eco-theater show, "Third Stone From the Sun." Corson continues to be a pioneering force using intelligence, artistry and heart to enliven, engage and renew us. Her fascination with body wisdom, and with the healing and communicative powers of moving our stories, guides her work.

"I grew up in a cross-cultural family. Body Tales began as my survival lifeline. I love the way this art form opens a wealth of resources. We are touched and inspired by our commonalities and our differences. We humans have such a tremendous need to share our artistry and our passions. Sometimes it is not enough to write in a journal forever and have no one read it — not enough to dance alone to the gods. There is something about being seen, heard and appreciated — in community — that is tremendously affirming. My joy in this work is tapping into the miracle of the body — making way for our fierce and tender stories — our lunacy as well as our wisdom. We dance for relatedness and for freedom, for autonomy and for belonging."
— Olivia Corson

From Olivia

I grew up between cultures. My father, Samuel Abraham Corson, (born in the Ukraine Smuel Abrahim Korsunski in 1909) was a Russian Jewish immigrant from an orthodox, rabbinical family, who came to this country when he was 15 in 1925. My mother, Elizabeth O'Leary Corson, was from a mixed marriage — Scottish Protestant Mother and Irish Catholic Father — her family emigrating from Canada to the U.S. just before her birth. Navigating and translating between worlds was basic — like breathing — for me. And this navigating and translating, like my breathing, was shaped in cross-tides of well-being and distress.

Not long after I was born, in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1953, my family moved to Arkansas. My first 6 years growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, deeply affected me. The insanity and injustice of legalized segregation, and the tumult of integration, were woven into my young body, along with the close bond I treasured and depended on with the African American woman, Gertrude Brooks, who helped raise me in these years.

There was "never a dull moment" in my family. Mixing imagination and passion, upset and caring; the personal and the political — adding in tons of different kinds of learning and communication, with generous portions of music from all over the world, lots of singing, dancing and made up games...with no television and our feet on the ground outdoors much of the time — this was the recipe for my childhood.

I learned up close about questioning and speaking out, and about silencing...what happens when privilege and fear blind themselves to their effects..what happens when mistrust, hierarchy and anger separate us — from places in ourselves, from one another — inside our families and in our communities.

And what happens when these broken places get legitimized, defended, hidden and held in our bodies, our culture and our laws. Words that grow out of — but don't quite reveal — the place where my small child self, in love with all water, is inside the whites-only swimming pool, watching the black children outside the whites-only swimming pool's tall chain link fence, playing off in the distance, or close in looking at the cool water, all of us hearing the legally mandated whites-only splashing, banter and laughter, temperatures in the 90's..Up close and personal with being entitled and with being marginalized — and the losses sustained by all parties...early on needing and beginning to follow ways to reconcile and to mend inside my own body and family, and in my world. >>More...

"Corson is a poetic writer and performer with a finely nuanced approach to shifting voices and moods. She comes across with a gentle and integrated view of the dilemma of modern living."
— San Francisco Bay Guardian

Olivia Corson's Body Tales blog

Olivia Corson resume