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Dance artist, educator joins faculty at ASU

'Teaching is my primary passion,' says Nicole Bradley Browning

A dancer performs in a desert landscape

Artist, educator and performer Nicole Bradley Browning is joining the faculty of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. Her creative research focuses on the complexity of relationships and the connection between people and place. Photo courtesy Nicole Bradley Browning

May 23, 2023

Artist, educator and performer Nicole Bradley Browning is joining the faculty of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. Prior to this position, Bradley Browning served as a professor and the head of dance at the University of Montana for 20 years.

“We are thrilled to have attracted Nicole Bradley Browning to our dance program,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and breadth of experience to our program. Her passion for teaching and ethics of care for students aligns well with our program’s values and vision.”

Bradley Browning received her MFA from ASU, then danced professionally in Washington, D.C., before making her way into academia, first at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and then at the University of Montana. She said she has been following the dance program at ASU and is thrilled about her move.

“ASU’s dance program has been a leader in dance in higher education, especially in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Bradley Browning said. “This program has always been at the forefront of really dynamic change in dance education. It was always a model for me.”

Another thing that sets ASU apart, she said, is the engagement with the local community. 

“House (Magana) and David (Olarte) have these incredible programs that bring the community into dance at ASU and bridge some gaps that happen between institutions and the local dance community,” she said. “That’s something that I really tried to implement in my previous position and aspire to achieve here.”

Bradley Browning’s creative research focuses on the complexity of relationships and the connection between people and place. She specializes in teaching contemporary modern dance, improvisation, contact improvisation, contemporary ballet and dance-making practices.

“Contact improvisation is a unique American dance form,” she said. “It’s a social dance form that functions in a different way than social partnership dances. There are contact improvisation communities throughout the world, and that is something I think we can cultivate here.”

After moving back to Arizona, Bradley Browning began teaching at ASU as a faculty associate. She said she has really enjoyed teaching again after working in education administration.

“Teaching is my primary passion. That’s why I came back into this,” she said. “To be able to come back to ASU was really inspiring for me. I was grateful for the opportunity to come in as a (faculty associate), to know for sure this is my life’s work.”

She said she looks forward to mentoring students again.

“I hope I can provide a space where each student has the opportunity to feel free and supported to develop into an artist, dancer, educator and human being,” she said. “I also hope to be able to mentor the graduate students through their teaching practices and pedagogy.”

Bradley Browning shared what she’s excited about at ASU, her creative research, what she wants students to know about her and what she hopes to nurture in students.

Question: What’s something you’re really excited about at ASU?

Answer: I feel really excited to be a part of the path that ASU has taken in celebrating many different kinds of art forms. I’ve never seen social dance celebrated in the way ASU does. There’s something for everyone. ASU has a home for people who are planning to pursue dance professionally; it also provides a home for people who have never had access to dance before and have only seen dance function in one way. I appreciate that the door is open for many people of different backgrounds and to experience dance in different capacities. I hope that’s something I can help continue.

Q: Tell us more about your work on the connection between people and place?

A: My interest in place and weaving ecofeminist values in art began to take shape with a project called Sound of Rivers, a multimedia work that artistically translated how the sounds of rivers influenced waterway ecosystems in the Glacier National Park region of northwest Montana. The writings and research of interdisciplinary educator and artist Andrea Olsen have influenced continued creative work exploring our connection to self, others, place, climate, the Earth and wellness. I look forward to continuing this research here, honoring Arizona.

Q: What is something you want students to know about you?

A: For me, I aspire for there to be a holistic approach to all of my work with dance, whether it be teaching, dance making, research, service (or) community engagement. Important pillars for me are the people with whom I’m engaged, the place, the community we create together and active, respectful collaboration. 

Q: What is something you try to nurture in your students?

A: Their unique individual, distinctive voice. As a technique teacher, I grew up in a model of do as the teacher does, replicate and do it better. I don’t believe in that philosophy. I try to offer a movement framework and then encourage the students to incorporate their own identity so when we come into a classroom with different bodies, there are several different embodiments of that framework. That’s really important to me: how each person brings their own distinctive identity into dance, and how dancers and artists are considering where these traditions have come from. What do we want to uphold? What do we want to deconstruct? And what do we hope to create anew?

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