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Cecly Placenti, Artistic Director

  • Writer's pictureCecly Placenti

Spotlight Session: Morgan Griffin

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

What are the Spotlight Sessions?

I was the child who asked “why” 150 times in a row, to the dismay and occasional annoyance of the adults around me. That curiosity and need for discovery grew with me and became a guide on my artistic path. Determination, inquisitiveness, and the drive to connect with others led me to write, dance, choreograph, produce, and educate.

I started my company, Six Degrees Dance, with the mission of creating community. Embodying the theory that all people are connected through a social network of 6 or fewer degrees, we collaborate in an environment where the exchange of ideas is the building block for innovation and growth. We approach dance-making with the belief that the contribution of the individual benefits the group, and results in a body of work reflective of the sum of its parts.

To that end, we have developed several initiatives that connect artists with audiences and with each other, maintaining the idea of six degrees of separation as the foundation for those connections. Our annual showcase brings together national and international choreographers, most of whom have never met. Our Choreographic Commission series allows the dancers of Six Degrees to work with a variety of choreographers in different styles. In The Spotlight Sessions, I will present a different artist each cycle, and through interviews, short feature articles, previews, and capsule reviews, offer a behind-the-scenes look into their work and their process. I hope you enjoy getting to know these unique, talented individuals as much as I have, and continue to follow them on their creative paths.

Morgan Griffin received her BA in dance from Connecticut College (2012), her MA from NYU Steinhardt (2022) in Dance Education and her MFA from NYU Tisch Dance (2022). She has danced with Adele Myers and bandPortier, as well as presented her own work across New York and Connecticut. She is the dance series co-curator as well as artist in residence at Art Cake NYC. She has recently performed at La MaMa Moves Dance festival, the Art Cake 2022 Dance Series, The Jewish Museum, at Vans CH66 with Daisies NYC and in a reconstruction of Robert Whitman’s American Moon at Pace Gallery. In 2022, she created a solo program at the West End Theater, where she performed works by Stephen Petronio, Andrea Miller, Raja Feather Kelly, and Daniel Nagrin. She has choreographed work for Paco Rabanne and Noah NYC campaigns and teaches at Figure Skating in Harlem and the Steps Youth Program.

1. How did your artistic journey begin?

I’ve been an amateur performer from as far back as I remember. I was an extremely shy child in public, but at home I was constantly singing, dancing, acting and generally being ridiculous. A lot of this was sparked in me by my sister who endlessly had us putting on performances of all sorts and pushing our imaginations to worlds beyond. I thought I might be destined for Annie, or Cosette in Les Miserables….but I ended up as a dancer, and very happy as such.

2. What drives you as an individual artist? What do you hope to express/convey to the world through your work?

I danced for many years of my life and then stopped completely for about five years before returning to it again. I think what drives my work now is just a pure love of dance. I think dance is the best thing in the world. I love using my body, pushing it, training it and crafting it to express myself. It’s so magical. My work isn’t super autobiographical, or political…..I’m inspired by imagery, stories from my childhood, film, and materials. I’m an old soul and a bit of a romantic; I love mixing the old with the new. There is a constant push and pull between my childhood imaginations and my dreams and visions for the future that is forever present and driving in my life and work. In terms of what I hope to express...more than anything I hope to put something in the world that is interesting. I’d like to create something that makes people pause and consider and think and question and feel excited or even perplexed….hopefully they keep wanting more.

3. When do you feel most powerful?

I feel most powerful when I trust myself and my vision, and see it all the way through; not letting anyone else cause me to doubt myself. There’s no feeling more powerful than being on stage, and performing something that you fully believe in.

4. What has been your biggest challenge and your proudest moment during your artistic growth?

Not to be overly dramatic, but just the simple act of being a dancer is probably the greatest challenge I’ve ever endured. Having to maintain your physicality and health while also finding space, mentally and physically, for creativity and exploration, while hustling to just live and pay rent and get health care is a daunting task every single day. In addition, you’re constantly fighting for anyone to notice you exist, believe in you, support you. The thing that I’m most proud of is that I do not give up.

5. Can you describe your creative process?

I constantly have visions and ideas for dance pieces whether it’s sets, costumes, movement, or general concepts. I write down as many of these as I can- albeit often scattered willy-nilly across several notebooks and phone notes. I sometimes become overwhelmed by them, so I try to take ideas one, or a few, at a time. I often create a collection of references and ideas and do a bit of research to flesh out my concept before I begin creating. I create my movement almost separately from the concept. I love going to the studio and just playing around ...I like studios that are quite isolated so I feel very alone and free from outside eyes and ears. I create almost all of my movements with pop music in the background. I love it. It always makes me want to move; gives me a little spark to kick off with. I usually create short sequences and then slowly connect them, building the work bit by bit and slowly understanding what it's about and what elements make sense or not. I’ve always compared the way I make work to a collection of short stories. I like creating several separate ideas and chapters and then stitching them together. I typically add music and costumes at the end of my process. I try to listen to my body first and then add the remaining elements when they make sense. They are both very important to me. The original concepts, as well as the movement, often shift and evolve a lot throughout the process, so its always exciting to see where the work ends up going.

6. What do you do when you are not creating? What things outside of the dance industry inspire you and fuel your creativity?

I’m always on the go which is something that I both love and hate about myself. I work all the time so that I can make ends meet and put money back into my practice and dreams. I spend a lot of time and thought taking care of my body and health. I teach. I like to try and see as many shows as I can, whether that be dance, music, art, etc. I love going to and watching movies. I like to try and make time for my friends! I love an old New York establishment and a dirty martini. I have two cats who I’m obsessed with, so I spend time making sure they are fed and entertained and hugged. I love my family, and I try to find time to spend with them. I love Connecticut which is where I’m from, so I visit every now and then. I love Facebook marketplace…I spend some time on there every day. I truly believe that every single one of these aspects inspires me in both who I am and how I approach my craft.

7. What is next for you?

I am performing in Madeline Hollander’s “Hydro Parade” at the Met Museum in June. I will also be performing in Merce Cunningham’s “Beach Birds” as a part of the Rockaway Beach Sessions this summer, along with co-producing the series. I hope to present an evening length work of my own some time this year as well. I want to continue to collaborate with people and build a community with artists who inspire me. I still feel pretty young in terms of my career and I know that I have so much to learn in choreography, performance, and navigating life as a dancer. I’m desperately excited for it all.


A look at Morgan's work-

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