The Long Bio

PAULA JOSA-JONES is a dance artist, choreographer, author, visual artist and movement educator and therapist known for her visually rich, emotionally charged dance theater. Her work includes choreography for humans, inter-species work with horses, dancers and riders, film and video. Josa-Jones has been called "one of the country's leading choreographic conceptualists" by the Boston Globe and the Village Voice describes her work as "powerful, eccentric, and surreal". Much of Josa-Jones's solo work in particular arises from her own experience of being gender non-conforming, and movement explorations of the deeply complex architecture of identity and expression.

Her background includes deep research into theater, somatics, improvisation, film, Deep Listening, Laban Movement Analysis, Body-Mind CenteringⒸ, interspecies relationships, equine studies, Authentic Movement, embodied psychology, and eco-performance.

Josa-Jones's dances have been produced in Russia, Europe, Mexico and throughout the United States. She has taught in the dance programs at Tufts University, Boston University and at universities, colleges and dance festivals nationally and internationally. She is a Certified Laban Movement Analyst and a Master Somatic Movement Educator and Therapist (MSME/T) accredited by ISMETA, the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association. She is also a Guild-Certified Tellington TTouch practitioner and a Somatic Experiencing ® practitioner. Her writings on movement and dance have been published in Contact Quarterly. Her book, Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering the Common Body, was published in 2017 by Trafalgar Square Books.

Josa-Jones is a 2019 recipient of a grant from the HUFOH Foundation, and a 2017 recipient of grants from the Martha Boschen Porter Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, and Housatonic Heritage in support of RIVER/BODY. She is also the 2014 recipient of a Connecticut Artist's Fellowship, and a 2014 Bogliasco Fellow. She has received four Choreography Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an NEA US/Mexico Cultural Exchange Fellowship and an Artist's Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She is the recipient of two New Forms grants from the New England Foundation for the Arts, an Artist's Foundation Fellowship in Interarts for her video dance collaborations with Vin Grabill, and two finalist awards in choreography from the Massachusetts Council for the Arts. She has been in residence at Yaddo (1995, 1996, 2015) and the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California. Paula Josa-Jones/Performance Works has received support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Arts Lottery, Creative Time, the Dakota Foundation, LEF Foundation, the Claneil Foundation, and the Polaroid Foundation. The company's work in Mexico was supported by the US/Mexico Fund for Culture, and they received two grants from the Trust for Mutual Understanding for choreographic projects in Russia. Josa-Jones has received commissions from DANCE/NOW, the Joyce Theater, Jacob's Pillow, Dance Umbrella, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, nuArts at Northeastern University, and Lorraine Chapman/The Company, among others.

In 1998 Paula created an inter-species company with horses, dancers and riders. In 2001 she premiered RIDE, a groundbreaking work of equestrian dance theater. Her work with dance and horses includes live performance, film and humanitarian work with rescued and abused horses. As the creator of The Embodied Equine Experience and Embodied Horsemanship, she teaches an intuitive, improvisational approach to the human-horse bond through movement and touch, as well as riding and performing with her horses, the Friesian Blue and the Mustang mare Izarra.
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From the International Dictionary of Modern Dance
Paula Josa-Jones's work grows out of a strong interest in dramatic form combined with a choreographic process, which combines improvisational, and Authentic Movement practices. She earned degrees in English and Drama from Lawrence University and Drama from Tufts University and received Certified Movement Analyst certification from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute. Her work includes numerous collaborations with poets, musicians, video and visual artists, including the seminal work Ghostdance, commissioned by the US/Mexico Fund for Culture and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors in 1995 with composer, Pauline Oliveros. The work takes place in a wooded area, with masked dancers moving through the trees and areas occupied by audience members. The performers exist as specters, playing off of the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead, constantly appearing and disappearing depending on one's vantage point.

Josa-Jones work has similarities to the deeply psychological and often dark world presented by the Tanztheater of Pina Bausch. However, Josa-Jones does not concern herself exclusively with the male/female relationships always at the center of Bausch's work. The non-linear, dramatic vignettes presented by Josa-Jones are deeply personal, while charged with the archetypal energy of a Jungian shadow world. A movement vocabulary at once consistent with Josa-Jones's choreographic vision and with each of her dancers' personal eccentricities marks her collaborative process as especially curious. "The dancers, actors and I enter the world of each piece through deep-diving vocal and movement improvisation. Bodies, habits and expectations are slowly broken down, decomposed, to reach the point where the performer is 'naked,' working from a place of emptiness and receptivity. Often work that is exhilarating one day may be discarded the next, or reappear as a fragmentary root of another scene or movement later. Images cluster, shifting their shapes and relationships during the rehearsal process. In this way the layers of the dance grow. It is like wandering in a dark cave: harrowing and breathtaking.

Josa-Jones is able to preserve the odd moments that evolve through improvisation--the occasional awkwardness of a fine dancer revealing the most human and poignant qualities within--woven into an integrated triangle of dancer/choreographer/dance. As a result, her dances have a spontaneous quality--as though the dancers were making them up as they went along-- even as it is clear that each dance is fully choreographed. Josa-Jones can be credited with enhancing the possibilities of dance video, since her work lends itself to the imagistic world of cross-fades, a kind of supernatural visual exposure, with dancers moving across frames as if entering alternate worlds or states of consciousness. Her work with video artists defies the axiom that dance does not translate into two-dimensional media. "My passion is for work that contains both the fantastic and the mundane. I seek to create dance theater in which all of the elements (visual, aural, emotional) come into a balanced and surprising play, in which images are not simply illustrative or theatrical, but compelling and revealing. I want to make work which is transformative at the deepest level.

Josa-Jones work as a teacher and a choreographer is informed by her integration of Peter Sellars' statement, "Being awake in the theater is good practice for being awake in the world," to which she replies, "I think we also have to dream to awaken fully." Josa-Jones invites her audience, her students, and her dancers to master the skill of being "in the body," which she says means "discover[ing] movement from a place of attention, stillness, and active listening, experiencing fully the web of movement and choreographic choices as they are being performed." There is a deep humanity at the core of Josa-Jones's work that can be at once edifying and terrifying, a "commedia dell'arte troupe from hell . . . that has toppled over the edge into nightmare," according to Deborah Jowitt of The Village Voice, but work that ultimately rescues us as well. Josa-Jones's excavation of the human spirit allows us to emerge on the other side of our own nightmares with images that leave us both stunned and energized.

Paula is featured in these books:
Because Art: Commentary, Critique and Conversation, by John Killacky

Affect, Animals, and Autists: Feeling Around the Edges of the Human in Performance, by Marla Carlson


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