Full Bio on Tessa
Tessa Priem majored in Theater and Dance with an emphasis in Dance Performance from Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville and minored in Religious Studies. While in undergrad, she was privileged to perform in numerous faculty shows, student productions and was trained by various guest artists each year. She also studied a variety of dance forms, including Release Technique, Contact Improv, Bartenieff Fundamentals, Laban, and Cecchetti Ballet. Spending a year at home substitute teaching to discern her next move, she then received practical training in Deaconess Studies with an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. During this time of intense theological study, she continued dancing with the St. Louis company, Atrek (which is now Leverage Dance Theater). Throughout her five years with Atrek, Tessa had the opportunity to perform in choreographic works by Kim Epifano, Lisa Race, Germaul Barnes & Matthew Janczewski, while also receiving training from Janis Brenner and John Lehr. Her last performance with Atrek was when her oldest son was in the womb (2009). She then went on a lengthy hiatus and suffered a severe bout with depression, recovering only to head into the toughest crisis of her life: her health collapse, which left her intensely weak and de-conditioned, unable to walk at times, losing a little over 20% of her body mass (with a little bambino in her body to boot!). After three years of intensely focusing on her diet to restore her health, she then shifted her focus to something that she had once loved but sadly grew to hate: dance. She sought to share her life story with her children through movement by setting a 2-year goal: For one year, I will work on a dance project, 12 dances (choreographing one dance per month); the 2nd year I will show it. Underestimating the need for perfecting such a lengthy work of art, she ended up choreographing for nearly two years. Her work, "Inner Reformation: An Autobiography Danced," debuted July 2018 at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. While this work is classified as "Dance Theater," Tessa is also playing around with the terms, story dance and movement storytelling. "Hello, Everybody! My name's Tessa. I'm a movement storyteller." Sounds kind of fun, huh.
Photo credit: Roshan Paiva