BTS SPECTRA: Chelsea Zeffiro

An interview with SPECTRA choreographer Chelsea Zeffiro

DISCO RIOT artist, Chelsea Zeffiro will be sharing a new piece at SPECTRA! Chelsea Zeffiro is a dance artist and performer who integrates dance with digital media, theater, and writing. She is currently a company member with DISCO RIOT, and has performed works locally and internationally at festivals such as Dance Camera West and WoW Festival. She is a teaching artist at Coronado School of the Arts. Her piece, Girldream (1996), is a series of danced vignettes that explore wish, play, and dream. The dance reflects a task-based process with DISCO RIOT company dancers. She also created a digital mixtape which serves as a dedication to the performers.

In her interview, Chelsea reflects on her use of different mediums, other than dance, that create an atmosphere for her choreography. She also explains her process of creation.

What role will sound play in your piece?

I am making a mixtape for this piece which is something I do often. It is important for me to use sound to help construct the scene and atmosphere of the performance. I typically mix familiar songs, ambient sounds or tones, and sound/music attributed to specific experiences to shape the sonic environment, giving context to the dance. For me, this sound mixing practice correlates to my backgrounds in film and theater – it’s a DIY or experimental approach to usher the audience into the world of the piece. It also helps me understand and clarify the timing of each section as well as the ebb and flow of the work itself. 

What was your creative process for this piece?

I entered into our process wanting to make a DISCO RIOT-specific work. I knew I wanted to generate the movement for this piece with the company. I prepared for our rehearsals by coming up with some physical tasks and visualizations that I thought would generate play and interesting movement ideas.

A day or two into the process, I began to see a series of vignettes taking shape as well as some relatable images. By the end of our process, I hope to carve out some characters and devise a work around ideas of wish, dream, and play to make a dance which has some theater to it.

At our first rehearsal I talked about obsessively watching The Great British Bake Off and Winter Olympic figure skating – I identify with the love, repetition, and focus required to execute something epic. I am interested in the transformation from mundane to epic that happens in these competitive moments… traces of these ideas may show up in the final piece or they may have just been a starting point.

As of right now, I can see themes of ‘sacred play’ showing up, which has the tone of the piece drifting between earnest and whimsy, imaginative and prayerful.  

Other than choreography/dance, what other mediums (if any) are you utilizing to showcase the message or purpose behind your piece?

I want the visual field of the work to evoke the idea of a kaleidoscope, stained glass windows and light shimmering on water. Costume and lighting design will be key to conjuring those ideas or images.

Chelsea’s vignette-style piece will be performed at the City Heights Annex as a part of DISCO RIOT’s spring show, SPECTRA. Artists Zaquia Mahler Salinas, Anna Brown Massey, and Marty Dorado will also be sharing their works. Interviews with SPECTRA artists are on the blog, be sure to check out what the other artists have to say about their pieces!

SPECTRA will be held at San Diego’s City Heights Annex on April 21-23 at 7pm. Admission to this show is by donation ($12 for artists/students and $25 for the general public is suggested). Please reserve your seat in advance; tickets will not be available at the door. Masks are required upon entry.