Student Profile: Jillian Armstrong, Dance
What drew you to KU?
I loved the atmosphere at KU. It felt small even though it’s a big school, and I really enjoyed the traditions here.
When did you know you wanted to pursue dance?
I knew I wanted to pursue dance starting my sophomore year of high school. That was the year I knew I didn’t want to do anything else as a career.
Which of your performances has had a profound impact on you or others?
I’ve had two performances that have had a profound impact in my life. The first was “Conversations and Fits,” a piece by Lindsay Hawkins. This piece was the one that made me feel confident about my ability as an artist. I was able to really dive into the work, and I loved every minute of it. The second was the show I co-produced called “Elementum.” "Elementum" was the first time I choreographed and produced on my own peers, and it meant so much to me. I really grew as an artist and person during that time. It was so meaningful and humbling to see how my work affected others.
How do the arts impact your daily life outside of the studio?
I have found that I am able to see and process things differently and appreciate all the little quirks of everyday life.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is my dad. My dad is my hero, and he motivates me to not only be the best artist I can be, but to be the best person I can be. He keeps me humble and reminds me to always continue to do what I love and what makes me happy.
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is kind of crazy. I often will be inspired by things randomly and go days using my free time trying to create a tangible idea. I try to find music, but often times I will choreograph to different music or no music and then fit the movement to the music I want. I sometimes have to take a step back from everything in order to picture my ideas fully and bring myself out of a rut because it can be easy to get stuck and not know how to move on.
What message do you hope to communicate through dance?
I hope to communicate humanity. There is something so raw about conveying a message through one’s body without using words. My only objective is to make people feel something when they watch me dance or watch something I choreographed. As long as I’ve made you feel something - whatever it is - I have communicated what I wanted.
What advice would you give to people thinking about studying dance in college?
Make friends and put yourself out there. You will be with these people 24/7, so talk and build relationships with other dancers and all of your professors. Push yourself. We are adults, and no one is going to hold your hand and motivate you. You have to motivate yourself. Don’t give up. Dance is hard. It is mentally, emotionally and physically tiring. You will have days that you want to quit, go home and cry. Don’t. In the end, it is all worth it, you just have to keep dancing.
How do you take care of your body or unwind after an especially difficult day of rehearsals?
After a long day (which is everyday) I go home, eat, drink lots of water, stretch and massage my muscles, shower, ice any injuries and go to bed. It is important for me to have time to decompress, so I often will spend at least 20 minutes to myself without interaction with anyone else.
Why do you think the arts are important?
The arts are a way for people to express and find themselves. I know art has touched my life in a way I cannot describe. Without art, I feel the world would be a much scarier and uninviting place than it already is. Through art, people can connect and feel things with each other as well as with themselves.
If you could invite five people to a dinner party, living or deceased, who would you invite?
Paul Rudd, Melanie Moore (my dance idol), Robin Williams, James Roday and Lady Gaga
What would be the theme song for your life?
"Thunderstruck" by AC/DC or "Ooh La La" by T