Vermont Arts Council

The People’s Choice Award: Joy Madden

49: Joy Madden

Create an original dance theater piece combining dance and spoken word

Joy Madden is a choreographer, dancer, and storyteller. She has performed throughout the US and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2001 she co-founded The Moving Laboratory, an innovative performing arts incubator in Boston, MA. She served as the Managing Director of Boston Dance Alliance from 2000-2003. Since moving to Vermont in 2007, her work has been presented by The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington Dances, Arts Riot, The Burlington Fringe Festival, UVM, Juddertone Boston, and The Philly Fringe, among many others. Joy is the current President of the Vermont Dance Alliance Board of Directors.

Project description

I am developing an evening-length dance theater piece combining dance and spoken word. It is a movement memoir focusing on the current mental health crisis in our country, its causes, and its effect on my family.

I look at the challenges we’re facing: pandemic, political turmoil, social media, etc. through the lens of my family. Nothing is ever just depressing, just enraging. In everyday life we find much to laugh about and we love each other dearly. Because of the difficulties we’ve had, we’ve learned to be open and curious and compassionate. We listen. I have made a habit of listening very intently.

I will explore deeply personal themes like suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety and my struggle as a mother to remain present and hopeful. In the most difficult circumstances we can still find light and joy. I seek to find the freedom and beauty within the turmoil.

As I develop this piece, I will perform the work in sections for various audiences. I began this invaluable process in February 2023. From the feedback I’ve gotten so far, it resonates. The work offers a release and a communal place to feel, explore, and express all of this.

A sample of work in progress audience feedback:

The whole piece felt meaningful and evocative.

Raw and powerful

I don’t have kids but I felt that in my bones.

I love the combination of strength and vulnerability. I love the sheer humanity.

I wanted to sit with you for a very long time and hear so many more stories.

Very strong beginning, immediately drops the audience into your experience.

Deeply engaged. Don’t quite know what’s going on but here for the ride.

The self judgment you talked about feels so relatable to me, even as someone who does not understand having children. But that inability to show up can be universal.

Media Sample 1

The Pause. “I made this piece in January 2021. It is a reflection on living through the 2020 shutdown with my family.”

Media Sample 2

Excerpt from The Storytellers. “This is part of an evening length work about my second generation Irish American family.”

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Acadia Klepeis August 23, 2023