NAME: Syniva Whitney
MVP SINCE: July 2016
BIO: Syniva Whitney makes performance inspired by their non-binary, trans, queer, black + multiracial identity. This on-going movement based research started the project Gender Tender and created the Gender Tender Method for dance and performance. They have shown their dance, acting, visual art and film based work at various venues in Seattle and nationally most recently at Velocity’s Next Fest NW and are currently preparing a new work that will show this summer at the NW New Works festival at On the Boards. They are a teaching artist as well. This past fall they led a series for Velocity’s Investigative Movement Practices and currently they teach a weekly dance improvisation class at Studio Current where they also assist with programming. Their work often features fellow queer trans performer Will Courtney, their real life partner, favorite person in general and frequent collaborator. www.syniva.weebly.com
How did you first get involved with Velocity?
I was drawn to the excellent artists here. Especially because about six years ago I got serious about saying “I want to be a choreographer; I don’t want to just be a dancer, I don’t want to just be a performer– how do I learn about technique and concepts and engaging an audience with experimental work?” Everybody recommended I come here. I talked to Tonya and felt super welcomed. It wasn’t just learning from different dancers and choreographers who come through here, but also having Tonya’s mentorship when she knew I wanted to be more involved in sharing work.
What moved you to become an MVP?
I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I know how important it is to support things that support me. I actually feel like Velocity benefits me way more than I do Velocity as an MVP. But it’s what I can do as an artist, and I love to feel like there’s something I can do beyond performing. It seems like a small exchange for what Velocity gives me, which is support and mentorship and opportunities, and discounts on workshops. I think it’s just a great way to be engaged at that level and support the work that’s made here.
What is something that you’ve accomplished in the last six months that you feel you’re most proud of?
That’s a good one. I think in the last six months my proudest accomplishment is actually in becoming super comfortable with my non-binary gender identity, and vocalizing the pronouns that I use, and feeling very confident in my life. I feel like it’s making my interactions with the world way better– more open, more engaged.
How would you spend the perfect day in Seattle?
Levitating above the space needle! (laughs) I don’t know, I’m really an outside person, so I guess I’d spend the day paddle boarding around Greenlake, or go someplace with ancient redwoods all around, and perfect weather– 71 degrees, blues skies… it doesn’t really get better than that.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about Velocity?
I feel really lucky to be a part of the Velocity family. I’ve felt that way for a long time and it means so much to me. I’m so thankful for all the work Velocity does here because we really need it in this town. Dance definitely needs it– it’s invaluable. I wish I could do more than what I do as an MVP. I think it’s hard to understand sometimes the significance of Velocity. It’s not just the space– Velocity echoes throughout Seattle, and nationally too. Especially since being a part of SFDI, it’s really easy to see how people take what they learn here with them, and it creates a lot of conversation between dancers, and cities, and cultures.