Carley Conder of Tempe's CONDER/dance: 100 Creatives

Categories: 100 Creatives

Anna Jones
Meet the dancer.
Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 32. Carley Conder.

Carley Conder's wheels are turning.

"I know I want a live harpist playing against a techno score," she says. "Hyper-physical for the dancers. Exploring the idea of co-existing in two opposing environments."

The 41-year-old founder of her namesake modern dance company, CONDER/dance, is already at work on her annual performance showcase Breaking Ground, slated for March of 2015 at Tempe Center for the Arts. That's when the longtime Tempe resident isn't spending time with her three kids, practicing Bikram, or teaching contemporary ballet at Arizona State University and modern dance at Scottsdale Community College.

See also: Nathan Blackwell of Phoenix's Squishy Studios: 100 Creatives

Andrew Pielage
Conder's piece Subtidal was performed at Breaking Ground 2014.
Conder grew up dancing in Yuma, where, she says, teachers prepared her for a career as a professional dancer. But it wasn't until after she completed her bachelor's of fine arts in ballet that she became interested in modern dance. "I wish it would have happened sooner," she says.

Now that Breaking Ground is entering its eighth year, it's evident that Conder's more than made up for any time not dedicated to modern dance. "We now are hosting local, national and international dance artists of the highest caliber for a weekend of performances, master classes and school residencies. I feel good about the fact that we can provide these opportunities for Arizona students, artists and audiences," she says.

And we feel that way, too.

I came to Phoenix with the intention to live with my parents for the summer following my MFA and then move to NYC to dance and create. I'm still here 15 years later. It's been the right choice to invest in this place, develop as an artist, and bring what I have to offer to Arizona dancers and audiences.

I make art because it keeps me balanced, keeps me sane, keeps me constantly asking questions and seeing the world through the lens of someone who wants to capture and crystallize the human experience. I love diving into the process and discovering things about myself and the beautiful dancers I get to work with along the way.

Dan Perrine
Carley Conder's already at work on the next Breaking Ground festival.
I'm most productive when I'm working under a deadline. Whether that be the next rehearsal with the dancers or an upcoming premiere of a new dance... there's nothing like focusing the creative process when you have a roomful of dancers waiting for you to give them something juicy to sink their teeth into. And without a show date looming, I end up spinning creatively and the dancers want to kill me because I'm constantly changing major sections of the work. That being said, I always give myself a lot of time to explore new ideas and allow myself the freedom to throw out a lot of material. It takes about six months for me to create a dance I'm happy with and has any sort of integrity.

My inspiration wall/desk/Pinterest is full of:

- quotes from Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac and Walt Whitman
- drawings and origami that my kids have made for me that I'll keep forever
- All available Batsheva images and videos (dance company in Tel Aviv)
- Rocks and shells from almost every beach I've been to
- images from Miro, Klimt, and Pollock
- photographs of Sufi Whirling Dervishes

I've learned most from other art forms. I seek out visual art, writing, architecture and film that I know can teach me something new about how to communicate to a viewer. My last piece was based on a huge metal sculpture by Phoenix artist Pete Deise. A work before that was inspired by a passage from Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence about how women use fashion as armor. It's too easy for me to fall into a formula that I know is going to work and then I'm making the same piece over and over again. Studying other art forms helps me to keep challenging myself to expand on what I know.

Good work should always be process driven. There's a mantra that my friend Ashleigh Leite uses in the studio, Process not Product. It takes time to understand what it is you are saying and how to say it clearly. I think the best work has gone through a process that allows for a bit of a wrestling match between creator, performers and what is eventually given to an audience.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more dance writers! I would love to see each Arizona media outlet have a qualified person on staff that can write with authority on the major dance events in town. A good dance critic would give good work a wider audience as well as a way to document this ephemeral art in the written form. A bad review would help make us conscious of the fact that we need to be taking our work seriously and only putting our best stuff out for audiences.

Location Info


Tempe Center for the Arts

700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ

Category: General

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault