Arizona native transfers to ASU, discovers passion for dance scholarship

April 28, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Audi Miller, who is graduating this May with a degree in dance from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, came to Arizona State University after completing her freshman year of college in California. A native of Arizona, she wanted to be closer to home.  Photography by Ashley Baker

“I chose ASU because it has a strong dance program that’s very established,” Miller said.

Coming into college, she had her heart set on being a performer. But she said a dance history class with faculty member Naomi Jackson completely changed her perspective. 

“I totally fell in love with dance scholarship,” she said, “which is something that I didn't even know was an option — to be able to study the origins of dance and really getting an understanding of why we do what we do and how that relates to the people that came before us.”

Miller first started dancing at the age of 11.

“Immediately I was hooked,” she said.

From that moment on, she took every class she could.

“I took it very seriously,” Miller said. 

But it wasn't until she was a freshman in high school that she decided to pursue dance in college. Her dance studio, Artistic Motion Dance in Gilbert, Arizona, invited Alex Blitstein to come in as a guest choreographer.

“That was the moment I realized, ‘I really love dance, and this is something that I actually want to pursue,’” Miller said. “I would definitely credit that inspiration to him for showing me why it's worth it to put in all of this work.”

Question: What was it like to study dance during a pandemic?

Answer: Dancing during the pandemic was interesting as much as it was challenging. We were able to almost expand on the art form. We had to think about how we could work with others through video and how we could collaborate. I don't think that would have ever happened without COVID.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I totally fell in love with dance scholarship after my class with Naomi Jackson. After that course I took multiple others with Naomi, and I've worked with her personally on different projects. It was a nice surprise that's been one of my more fruitful experiences during my time at ASU, for sure. I've never had a professor or a teacher who goes so above and beyond to cater to students’ interests. It’s just something so special that I’ll always be appreciative of.

Q: What advice would you give to students who are in the dance program?

A: As you're making your way through the program, be very careful of how you define yourself as a dancer. Don't put yourself in a little box labeling yourself as just one thing, but rather let yourself be malleable, and just try out different movement and different parts of the dance world, such as dance scholarship and dance production. With dance scholarship, that's not really something I saw myself doing, but I just dove into it and found I really, really loved it. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn’t had an open mind.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: Currently I teach at Artistic Motion Dance in Gilbert, where I trained. I plan to continue doing that. I love teaching. It’s fun to get to see the next generation of kids have those moments when something clicks, because I remember it happening myself. It’s so exciting when it’s sinking into their brain and then showing up on their body. I really love the kids. 

In the long run, I would love to become an entrepreneur and start my own business. I have lots of ideas. I feel like I've always been a problem-solver who looks at things and thinks, "How can we do this more efficiently?" I love the idea of creating something from the ground up. I get a lot of satisfaction from taking on a big project and dedicating my whole being to it. In the meantime, I'm looking to work with as many small businesses as I can, so I can really get a feel for what I like. In the meantime, grad school could happen! I would love to go to grad school, but I don’t think going right after graduation is the path I want to take. 

Q: What is one of your favorite memories of your time at ASU?

A: During new student orientation — it was my first time on campus, and I didn't know a single soul in the dance program — I was walking around and ran into this girl, and we both said "hi." It ended up being Faith Markovitz, who is now one of my best friends. She was a transfer student as well, so we automatically clicked. Just having a person that was going through the exact same experience as me, at the same time, resulted in such a beautiful, enriching relationship. I just couldn't be more thankful for that little moment. It was perfect timing, and truly made all of the difference, especially that first year.

Q: What’s your favorite spot on campus?

A: Oh, I know exactly. I love the two studios in Sun Devil Hall, rooms 239 and 240. I love when the sun's going down and it shines onto the white-gray marley (dance) floor. The whole room just turns orange, and it's just a beautiful little time – like 30 to 45 minutes of bliss. It happened by accident the first time I was there. Normally our technique classes are in the morning, but I shot a dance film in there, and we were thinking, "Oh, no, the sun's going down!" We were sad that our lighting was going away. Then I said, "Wait. This is really cool and magical."

Q: Did you receive any financial assistance while in school?

A: I received a talent scholarship, and that was extremely helpful. Obviously, school can be very expensive, but any amount is so helpful. I am super proud to be graduating with a very small amount of debt, and I feel like I have more options to really take my life where I would like to take it and not be tied down by that financial burden. I’m incredibly thankful for that aid just because having options is freedom, and I love that.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a world problem, what would you tackle?

A: My family, including myself, suffers from multiple autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune is just such a giant puzzle. There's so much that they don't know about these diseases, and how they're linked to other things, especially how they're linked to things in the brain. I see my own issues as well as my family’s, and I would love to see $40 million go to more research, because I think it would greatly improve the quality of so many people's lives.  A lot of people don't know how much it affects. It’s not just the gut — it’s the brain, the muscles, the joints. I would love to see $40 million go in that direction.

Lacy Chaffee

Media and communications coordinator, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


ASU dance professor recognized for artistry, collaboration

April 28, 2022

Carley Conder, clinical assistant professor of dance in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, was recently recognized as a 2022 Tempe Arts and Culture Award recipient for her work as an Artistic Trailblazer by the Tempe Arts and Culture Commission and Tempe City Council.

She was honored at a Neighborhood Award celebration on March 26. Carley Conder, clinical assistant professor of dance in ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, photographed at Taliesin West. Carley Conder, clinical assistant professor of dance in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, photographed at Taliesin West. Photo by Rick Meinecke

Conder is the founder and artistic director of CONDER|dance, resident arts organization of the Tempe Center for the Arts. According to the website, it is “committed to enhancing the cultural vibrancy of its home community in Arizona.” 

In addition to the award, Conder was also recently featured in Southwest Contemporary Magazine for her work with Taliesin West, the winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, located in Scottsdale. 

Conder said being able to work with Taliesin West was an honor and also a fulfillment of a childhood goal. Her mother was a huge fan of Wright, and every time they visited the Valley from her hometown of Yuma, they would travel to Taliesin West.

“I would see the photos of the dance dramas that they would produce there,” Conder said. “I always had this fascination and great love of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. It was really special to dive into the whole history and make this bridge between the past and the present.”

She has produced four dance programs at Taliesin West. 

Conder recently shared her thoughts on collaboration, the recognition of her work, the challenges she faces as an artist and where she sees the future of dance in Arizona. 

Question: How does collaboration influence your work?

A: In dance, the traditional model is that the choreographer is very much a god-like figure who has all the answers and doesn’t ask for outside input. That model has been breaking down over the last 25 years. I really enjoy collaboration. It starts with the dancers. We went to Taliesin West and I would say, “I want you to reference the angles and textures here,” and they would create movement phrases. Then we would go to the desert and I would ask, “What movement would you make with these rocks under your feet?” I enjoy not being the only mind or voice in the room. It’s a way to access many different ideas. 

Q: What does this recognition mean to you?

A: I am a dedicated, loyal Tempe resident and have been doing what I can to contribute to the community. It’s always nice to have other people recognize you and say thank you for what you’re doing. It’s important to have your students know that you’re connected to projects outside the university. It’s also a way of connecting and showing how dance relates to a public value and a community service. My students are always part of my projects in all different capacities. It’s such a great conduit to allow students to be involved.

Q: What has been the greatest challenge for you as an artist?

A: The hardest part is the balancing act of everything. I have three children. The university position has been wonderful; I’ve been at ASU full time for six years. I have owned my company for 15 years. The hardest part is balancing all the roles of mother, wife, educator, creator, producer. I just have so many different things that are important to me.

Q: Where do you see the future of dance in this area?

A: In Tempe, I’ve seen opportunities grow to create platforms for other artists. "Breaking Ground" is a festival I’ve produced for 15 years at Tempe Center for the Arts. It’s a way to provide opportunities for other artists in a great theater with great audiences and funding from the community. I feel really lucky to have been able to gather the community together and present dance in lots of different ways over the years. I think these types of community-building opportunities will continue to grow.

Lacy Chaffee

Media and communications coordinator, School of Music, Dance and Theatre