May 14, 2024

NYC: Meet Your New Teachers!

Introducing Sienna Blaw & Cam Arnold

In March, we sent out a call for new teachers in New York. It was thrilling and humbling to speak with the incredible array of artists who applied for the job. We’ve got new classes on the horizon, summer pop-ups and exciting partnerships, and a growing community in NYC. Coming in to uplift it all with new playfulness and joy are two incredible new teachers: Sienna Blaw (they/them) and Cam Arnold (he/him)

Sienna was born and raised a curious, independent, barefoot-adventurous kid in Austin, TX. For Sienna, dance is a practice that can hold explosion and chaos, aliveness, thrash, liberation and a fullness of self. They have danced in worlds evocative of Shakespeare and of Swan Lake Now, they’re gearing up to hold space for us all to thrash and play alongside them.

⭐️We know (and love) that every Dance Church Teacher is a working artist. Tell us about your history in the performing arts.

Sienna: As a kid, I was primarily a musician. I played steel drums and drum kit and got to open for indie-rock band Arcade Fire with my high school band in Texas. It was hard for me to focus on any one thing when I was younger, but choosing to focus on dance over music was easier because dance has always felt to me to be a way to play and respond to music with my whole self.

⭐️Where and how are you dancing now?

Sienna: Most recently, I wrapped up a year-long contract performing in Punchdrunk's award winning production of Sleep No More. I still guest with them sometimes. I wanted to move to New York City to be in a place where I could be a sort of lifelong student of dance. I wanted to live in a place that would challenge me to learn and grow, both independently and within a larger community. Although she’s been hard on me, I am absolutely obsessed with this city and everyone else who’s committed to making a beautiful life here. After I graduated from Purchase in 2017 some classmates and I co-founded and co-directed a repertory dance company in the Hudson Valley. That was an immensely challenging and rewarding experience, until it was time to shift out of that role. More recently in New York City, I have worked extensively with the Merce Cunningham Trust, and am an authorized teacher of the technique. I also collaborate with freelance dancers and choreographers to make new works. 

⭐️Dang, that’s an impressive NYC dance resume! Do you dance for fun these days? Like, outside of rehearsals and performances?

Sienna: I absolutely love to go line dancing with my partner. It’s brought both of us so much joy, so many new friends, and several new pairs of boots.  

⭐️Sounds like you’ve really dedicated your self and your life to the arts, and to the cultural scene in New York. How do you share this incredible wealth of knowledge and experience with folks who love the arts, but who might not themselves be dancers or performers?

Sienna: It hasn't always been easy for me to talk about myself, to even see myself or understand what other people see in me, but I am actually so proud to talk about myself in this context. I know that I'm a kind person with really good intentions, I'm a really good friend, and I'm diligent to take accountability for my mistakes or shortcomings whenever I'm aware of them. I have built communities around me through communication, the care and intention of that, and by being a kind person. 

As a new Dance Church teacher, I intend to connect with communities in New York who crave to dance and sweat and show up in and for their bodies. As a queer person, I also really hope to create a safe space for other queer people to dance and release without fear of judgment.

⭐️You touched on a really tender thing just now: the beauty and the vulnerability of being seen and seeing others. A lot of people are afraid to be seen when they dance or when they try something new. How have you learned to be okay with (or even excited about) being seen in community?

Sienna: I experienced some low lows during the COVID-19 lockdown, which is not an uncommon story. Feeling isolated from my community and unable to chug along in my career the way I had intended to made me feel like I lost some sense of who I was. I did a lot of work to figure it out again, and through all of that work I think I gained some sweet tender juicy new forms of love for myself. I feel now that I’m comfortable being seen in community because I’ve really questioned myself about who I am, alone and in community, where I am, and why I’m doing the things that I’m doing. I’m lucky to be able to show up authentically these days and that’s in large part due to the fact that I’m almost exclusively doing things that I love to do with people that I admire and love to do things with.

⭐️Wow, gorgeous. It seems safe to assume that some of these values and experiences will show up in how you guide class, yeah? 

Sienna: That is certainly my intention! Of course, even with the best intentions, sometimes things don’t always go the way we thought they would 😜One thing I love about teaching is messing up! I think class can offer us many opportunities to be vulnerable, improvise, and collaborate, especially when a teacher "messes up". And now I'm using quotes because I think the thing I'm trying to get at here is that nothing is exactly "wrong" when you make a mistake. Dance is a big complicated art form rooted in endless sources, and as it's being embodied by every different human, it shifts and changes. I would love to bring the value of being open to "messing up", changing the step, doing what you think it is, doing whatever you like that feels better instead, into my classes.

⭐️We love Dance Church as a space to always say “yes,” and to keep making choices throughout the journey. As a former musician, you’ll probably bring some delicious sound into your classes. Can you give us one “weird” Sienna music pick, and one “know it, love it!”?

Sienna: Weird: Cicatriz Esp by The Mars Volta (strap in, it’s 12 minutes long) // Know It Love It: Into You by Ariana Grande

⭐️Amazing. When’s your first class? 

Sienna: June!

Cam Arnold (he/him) is a multi-talented mover and more. Originally from Michigan, he honed his love of dance, video games and community-building in Metro Detroit and elsewhere around the Midwest. Based in Brooklyn since 2021, Cam brings a new facet of dance research and community to our team. He trains in house, hip hop, and vogue, and performs in the commercial and street dance scenes. A “brainy kid” and a “cool kid,” Cam brings an intersection of worlds into the studio.

⭐️When did you first fall in love with dance?

Cam: As a kid in Michigan, my parents would take me to my sister’s dance performances. They put me in dance class as a 5 year old because I couldn’t stop copying my sister from the audience. Now I am a Brooklyn-based movement artist trying to get as much dance in my life as possible. 

⭐️Okay! An unstoppable artist! What has kept you so deeply embedded in the field?

Cam: For me, dance is the ultimate form of expression. And it’s really fun. Half the pleasure of dance, at least for me, comes from whom I am surrounded by. Peers turn to friends turn to collaborators and authentic connections. A lot of the projects I curate and participate in are value-forward and community-based. 

⭐️Tell us more about what community means to you.

Cam: I have been fortunate enough to create a space here in New York, as well as when I was living in Michigan, where conversations can flow as easily as our bodies; my enrichment and development with these relationships happens both inside and outside of the space. Getting to know someone as a person as well as a dancer greatly benefits my practice by providing me with new information and feelings. I am constantly learning from peers and students around me to better myself as a person, artist, and teacher.

The community that I strive to build is one rooted in mutual love and respect. I love connecting with students before, during, and after class. I want to reach those that are interested in release, sweating, and having fun. My class is an open exchange of energy, providing a space for all to feel seen, comfortable in their skin, and blissful. Dancing together >>> Dancing alone

⭐️We’ve heard a rumor that you have a college degree in something entirely divergent from dance. Tell us about your other worlds and interests (and do the co-inform)?

Cam: The rumors are true! I am also a science nerd at heart, specifically in biochemistry & environmental science. I love learning about how our insides work as well as our outside 🌎. Dancing is so important for releasing feel-good chemicals in our bodies. It’s really cool to see aspects of my science passion mesh with my dance passion. Some of my friends like to compare me to Martha from High School Musical.

I also love the simple stuff: watching video game streams, making dinner with friends, taking a nap in the park, checking out books from the library, laughing really hard…. These are the things that bring me a similar joy whenever I need a break from grooving. Although, my dancing does live on through my Fortnite avatar when my personal dance day concludes.


⭐️Haha, okay Fortnite dancer! Love the silliness and the sincerity here. How does this intersection show up in your classes?

Cam: My favorite part about teaching is seeing everyone smile. I am looking forward to the moments when I see everyone get lost in themselves during class.

⭐️You’re a multifaceted artist and human! But back to dance: tell us about who you’re working with these days (when you’re not making dinner or watching video games).

Cam: As a forever-evolving student/teacher/performer/choreographer, I feel a deep connection and commitment with movement and music. I spend most of my time in street dance and commercial dance circles with a dabble in concert dance. Currently, I am a Principal Dancer with Candace Brown’s Soul Project Dance Company and freelance around the city as well. I have also held contracts with Eryc Taylor Dance Company and the McKittrick Hotel.

⭐️Okay, final question: a lot of our NYC Teachers are currently working in the concert dance scene. You’re coming from the street dance scene. What makes you most excited to blend worlds at Dance Church?

Cam: I am excited to introduce both communities together and expose others to new ideas. In my class, you will find a wide variety of music and movement choices influenced by all the different sectors of my life. I am ready to sweat with friends, old and new. 

⭐️We lied - one more: when can we take class with you in NYC?

Cam: June! Check back in just a few weeks for the live schedule 😉

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