Register Store Support Us Contact Us Sign Up

Olivia Corson statement


My parents, both scientists, lost their jobs at the University of Arkansas in 1959 (as they had lost their jobs in Missouri in 1953) — blacklisted in the McCarthy Era — this time rumored to be tied up somehow with their having contributed to the NAACP. My parents were devoted to our small family and to their work, passionate about everything — including politics and the arts, deeply caring about the disenfranchised, and heavily impacted by being blacklisted in the 1950s, and by marrying way across their own huge cultural divide, and their own particular brokenness and blessedness.

In 1960, after a year in Connecticut living on the shore of Long Island Sound, my family moved inland again to settle in Columbus, Ohio, where education at that time ranked as low as in the deep South. I remember friends, warmth, fireflies, thunderstorms, snow and slush, lots of physical freedom, simple neighborly kindness. The day-to-day love of particular land, river, air, seasons — still full of life and spirit — were everyday realities, as were religious, political, ethnic and class divides and intolerance. We continued to be a family so different that no one could easily slot us into the usual separations. I always had buoyant, generous friendships and places of comfort and of distress that seemed to flow right across the usual boundaries.

I dropped out of public high school in the fall of 1970 — lost in the lack of real learning and caring, and broken-hearted over the war on Vietnam and over just what the conquering/hording end of the American Dream meant to the world — both inner and outer. I finished at Columbus Evening High School along with classmates struggling to stay awake and to function at reading and writing while they tried to raise kids, work full-time, minimum wage jobs and get their high school diplomas.

Going from that to entering Yale University — in the third class of women to be admitted as undergrads and with the peace movement and the war still at high pitch — was quite an education. I studied American Indian cultures, myth and ritual, theater, writing, and Russian at Yale. I had wonderful friends, amazing teachers — my first taste of a passionate learning community — alive and thriving in the midst of a long-standing, over-arching (well at that time almost underground) culture of elite privilege, power and alcohol.

But academia could not help me actually weave a culture that could hold me, or help me mend the broken and lost places in my body and my soul, or give me the means not only to communicate, but to commune. I turned to dance as my main focus in 1972. In dedicating myself to movement (early on realizing this had to be not to movement imposed from the outside, but to my own, inner-discovered and inner-directed movement) I found life-saving creative expression and a pathway for my lifelong personal and cultural journey of coming home to the complexity, and sanctity, of body and Earth.

"Corson dances in-between the factual and the mythological, creating modern-day mythology for the Earth — it's great stuff!" — Luisah Teish, author & teacher

This lifelong devotion to movement and dance unfolded in various ways. I finished my undergraduate degree in Dance Performance back in my hometown in the Ohio State University Dance department. This was not a great match for me — I was steadily confounding the faculty, the narrow discipline of modern dance, and myself with my insistence on including content and context; spoken words, images, politics, personal and cultural concerns, story and emotion into my dance. I left Columbus immediately after graduating in 1975 and, after living and working on one of the first fruit farms in Michigan to transition from pesticide farming to organic farming — headed for California to seek a climate of artistic exploration, freedom and diversity.

After working for two intensely over-challenging years in locked wards, day treatment centers and psychiatric halfway houses, I went back to dance with an entirely different approach, and devoted myself to exploring the integration of movement and emotion, dance and theater, the healing and communicative arts.

"Corson has developed an astonishingly creative, intelligent and integrative approach to the arts."
—Sy Kleinman, founder, Somatic Studies Department, Ohio State University

For years I taught movement, dance technique, choreography, improvisation, theater and performance courses in settings ranging from colleges and studios to remote tropical beaches. I have performed, presented, taught, and learned with others at conferences, workshops and celebrations with focuses ranging from the arts to environmental, health, spirituality, psychology, and women's issues.

My work has always had a strong somatic and ecological focus. Body Tales® is an outgrowth of years of cross-pollinating — integrating decades of experience as a dance and theater artist and teacher, with my life journey in loving this earth and in healing — body, spirit, family and culture.

Body Tales, an interweaving of intuitive movement and personal story for creative expression, communication and healing, continues to grow and deepen — as a practice — and now as a community of certified teachers and a lively, vital network of Body Talers that goes well beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. I am deeply grateful for this sacred life journey, for this life-saving work — and for my community of artists, healers, friends and family.

Olivia Corson's Body Tales blog

"Corson is a powerful, engaging storyteller whose physical movements are a joy to watch."
— Oakland Tribune

"Corson's text is explicit and powerful; her delivery strong, her movement appropriate to the text and beautiful to watch. Corson uses theater to transform reality and consciousness."
— SF Bay Times

"Corson is a natural storyteller, who often uses her dance training in fresh, alert ways...responding to the music with a lithe physique, superior rhythmic articulation and an appealing musical flow."
— San Francisco Examiner

"Corson's dance narratives look at our relationship with our environment... Her one-woman performance piece has more sincerity than many of the big budget Earth Day events."
— S.F. State Synapse