Presenting Denver would like to shine a community spotlight on Hannah Michal Santistevan!
Artist: Hannah Michal Santistevan
Education: Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance
Presenting Denver: If you are not a native, why did you choose Denver?
Hannah Michal Santistevan: I am a Colorado native who lived and worked in Chicago, Illinois from 2012-2019. I just transplanted back to Denver to reground myself and become acquainted with multidisciplinary artists in Denver.
PD: Do you split your time between dance/arts and another vocation? If you split your time, what is your other vocation?
HMS: My time is relatively centered around the arts and exploring a multifaceted approach to dancemaking. Though I’ve explored other vocations outside of art, nothing resonates with the soul as much as being an artist in various mediums. Outside of dance, I am a songwriter and music producer. My inclination towards music production has been ongoing for me, but I didn’t pursue education in it until I moved to Chicago. I have learned to compose original sound scores for the dance work I produce and as a long term goal, I will produce dance-or-camera work for the songs I have written.
PD: Share some information about your friends/family and the role they play in your life.
HMS: My family means everything to me. They give me purpose, passion, and encourage me to grow. I moved back to Denver in June after living in Chicago for seven years. Though I fell in love with Chicago and its history, soul, and liveliness, I felt a void in my life. Back home in Colorado, my three siblings were getting married, having children, and building a beautiful path for themselves and I truly hated missing out on their growth. While I was in Chicago, my family encouraged me to keep pushing on and I felt that I needed to come home to provide the same encouragement and presence for them. I am happy to be back in Denver with the people I love and their support feels *alive*, more than ever.
PD: What most excites you about the dance community right now? What most excites you about the future of the Colorado dance community?
HMS: Dancemakers and movers are naturally empathetic artists, but it seems that right now the dance community is fueled by empathy and power in numbers in response to the current sociopolitical climate. Related to this, the most exciting part of the Colorado dance community is the diversity within it. Dancemakers and movers in Colorado, from a spread of different backgrounds and training types, are clever because they are willing to engage in events that are outside of their realm of comfort. I believe that is solely inspired by the general hunger for genuine human connection in this city and the *inclusive* community that continues to blossom here in Denver.
PD: What have you learned about life through dance?
HMS: Dance has been a constant in my life and it seems that there is an endless supply of lessons to be learned as a dancer and choreographer. To date, there have been the anticipated lessons in: discipline, physical health/stamina, artistry, and bonding with others through dance. All of these accumulated lessons are a recipe for the phase I am in right now as a dance artist: bonding with myself through movement by recognizing the growth and resilience that my body is capable of. I have learned that ‘how’ and ‘what’ you create is harmonious with how you live your life. Dance has shown me peace, while simultaneously recognizing the privilege I have to express beyond the form of words.
PD: How do you turn your breakdowns into breakthroughs?
HMS: My breakdowns and breakthroughs are synonymous as a dance artist. Most of my work stems from whatever lesson I’m growing from at that time, resulting in somewhat of an unraveling in terms of my spirit and the environment I’m thriving in. I go through intense phases of journaling when I am in the midst of breakdown/breakthrough. Poetry, songwriting, stream of consciousness, and more ensue and all of that writing gets molded into a large web for a concept. Sometimes I’ll produce music during this time frame as well. That typically ends up being an original sound score for the final product. My process winds up being incredibly idiosyncratic and things seem to fall nicely into place from concept, to sound design, to movement invention, to the incorporation of outside media. As a result, the chaos of my breakdowns begin to make more sense and crystallize into a breakthrough…most times. 😉
PD: What about this art form drives you?
HMS: Dance was my first love. I didn’t realize the depth of this love until I began the grimy, behind-the-scenes work required to thrive in the dance world as a professional. There was a lot of self-loathing leading up to this realization, but now I am at a place of duality where “nothing matters” and “everything matters” as an artist and no matter what you create, solid work is put out for people (or a person) to connect to. Communicating through movement performance is universal and that is what drives me to pursue dance as a career. How can we connect with one another? How can we reach a place of understanding and unity? The heightening of our skin, muscle, bones and the capacity to support one another (and ourselves) is a miraculous and beautiful thing.