Dance and Cultural Studies Alum Brianna Heath '17 On the Importance of Listening to Your Genuine Self

Jun 19

Originally posted on Columbia College Chicago's Website / Written by Campus Communications Staff / March 20, 2023

“I began dancing in the church,” Brianna Heath remembers. “The Black, Pentecostal church was where I was first introduced to improvisation, community care, and love as practice. I began as a liturgical dancer and was subsequently brought up by other Atlanta-based dancers and community organizers, many of whom were Black women. They were very intentional about using their art to tell stories for their own sakes (and disrupting the gaze of others). Before I left ATL for Chicago, they armed me with the tools to do the same.” That rich beginning contributed to Heath's longtime passion for collaboration, community-based performance, and storytelling.

When it was time to choose an institution for college, Heath had the opportunity to experience something new: “One of my good sister friends, she's about a year older than me, she decided she was going to Columbia. And so that's how I found out about it and decided to look into it,” Heath says. Plus, one of her mentors made the same recommendation. “One of my ATL mentors, choreographer, T. Lang, encouraged me to pursue dance at Columbia…she knew some of the professors in the dance department and encouraged me to go. She said that Chicago could be the place where I could come into my own artistically.” After learning a little more about the college's offerings, Heath felt, as she says like “I just needed to go.” For Heath, that internal certainty was born of, as she phrases it in honor of theologian Howard Thurman, listening to the sound of her genuine being…