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dancer feature – Justin Reiter

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Justin Reiter is friendly, energetic and highly motivated, as adroit and flexible of mind as he is of body. Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he didn’t start dance training until relatively late (16), then left home to pursue a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota and a life in dance, despite the doubts of those closest to him and, as with so many dancers, serious financial uncertainty.

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But in Seattle, and with Whim W’Him, Justin appears to have found his true center. “Whim has the structure of formal company,” he notes, “but the possibilities and nuances of a project-based one. A balance of formal and grass roots.” Both supportive and cohesive, “It lights an artistic fire beneath my ass and makes a family security blanket.”     He pauses, and smiles. “It’s home, that’s for sure.”

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Justin reckons his own best characteristics to be “loving, giving and connecting—I try to practice those every day.” He delights in “giving things to people—back massages, holiday gifts,” whatever… He seems to have an innate talent, with a job, a teacher, a colleague, “to seeing connections and making them happen for people.”

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Not surprisingly, Justin’s biggest challenge is “saying no, to others and myself, whether that means not spreading myself too thin or not eating an extra bedtime snack.”

“What motivates me,” Justin reports, “is love for the people surrounding me, who I work with.” Also: “A daily green smoothy [lime green is his favorite color, ‘hands down’] and 2 shots of espresso after I’ve been up too late.”

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In a friend or any close person, Justin looks for and appreciates “Curiosity and imagination, idiosyncrasy, beauty, quirky, loyalty, honesty—I’m most attracted to people who are uniquely true to themselves and unapologetic. People who have curated their own existence on the planet.”

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When asked what appeals to him most along the journey from studio to stage, he says, “The creative process itself is the meat of what I like. It’s easy to get wrapped up in performance. I fall deeply and madly in love with the process. I treat rehearsal like my lab—studio as lab. Each run-through is a new test of a hypothesis.”

When I remark, “You sound like a cook, trying out new ingredients and methods,” he agrees. (It’s no accident that he also has a great enthusiasm for cooking.) “I honor every part, beginning to end—that keeps it alive, so it never settles. I love the continual renewal and rethinking. Learning to experience the world from others’ points of view.”

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That combination of fierce self-discipline, letting himself fly artistically, and never just getting comfortable seems to inform Justin’s whole life. On the one hand, he is adamant about the importance of practice, in yoga (which he practices fervently) as well as dance.

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On the other, he says “I’d feel like a robot if not wildly improvising.” He seems to see each instant as an exercise in improvisation, in “discovering, creating on my own or in symbiotic partnering.” And on a good day, all the endless striving for improvement (if not perfection) produces “firework moments—where I get close to understanding essence.”

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For an earlier Whim W’Him Behind the Scenes post on Justin, click on: http://www.whimwhim.org/blog/joining-whim-whim-justin-reiter/

See Justin and the other 6 Whim W’Him dancers at Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center on May 29-31. For tickets, go to  X-POSED.