Featured Artist: Rachel Närhi » Uncategorized » Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington

Featured Artist: Rachel Närhi

by on February 27, 2013 » Add the first comment.
Dancer and Teaching Artist Rachel Närhi.

Dancer and Teaching Artist Rachel Närhi.

Dancer, choreographer, Teaching Artist, and fire performer Rachel Närhi may be new to Oregon, but she is no stranger to bringing the joy and discovery of movement to students. Over the last 15 years, Rachel has taught at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Western Washington University, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Gage Academy, and Arts Impact and is a 2012 graduate of the Washington State Teaching Artists Training Lab. We are lucky she made the move south from Bellingham and landed with us here in Portland.

Rachel with some very small ballerinas.

Rachel with some very small ballerinas.

What is your art practice outside of teaching? When left to my own devices, I am drawn to dancing in contemporary ballet and modern dance styles. I have been a professional fire performer for over 12 years, and get a kick out of melding my passion for dance and fire into performances that push the boundaries of both art forms. I try to take class as much as possible as well as practice yoga. For fun, I go swing and blues dancing, write, and do fabric arts.

How does Oregon inspire your art making? As a new resident to Oregon, I’m in a constant state of exploration and discovery. I love the bridges in Portland and have turned crossing over, under, and through them in different ways into a playful game. I’m tempted to find a way to do a site specific dance piece by rigging up some ropes and lights, grabbing some dancers, and seeing how we could swing, sway, and dance across one. I am also inspired by all the outdoor places Oregon has to offer. I love exploring the landscapes: from forests to prairies and rivers to coasts. It’s very beautiful.

Rachel Närhi dancing in action.

Rachel Närhi dancing in action.

What fuels your creative practice? I am inspired by so much. I believe diversity in interests and living leads to rich experiences that feed creativity. I am often moved by music, nature, dancers, unique choreography, my students, visual arts, experiences that have shaped my life, where I live, relationships, traveling, and the craft of dancing. I am driven by curiosity. As an artist, I’m constantly balancing using and honing my craft while bravely exploring new territories both in and out of myself.

If you could be any animal, what would you be? A house cat for a very nice family.

What is one of your earliest art memories? Turning circles in my family’s living room. I must have been about three and I would do it for hours. I remember my brother asking me what I was doing and I said “Dancing!” He said, “That’s not dancing.” We must have started arguing about it because our Mom stepped in to say it was dancing if I thought it was. I think shortly after that my Mom enrolled me in dance classes.

A young student of Rachel's rehearses at the Maple Valley School of Ballet.

A young student of Rachel’s rehearses at the Maple Valley School of Ballet.

Why is art important to kids? Kids are natural creative beings, but more and more, they are less able to express their creativity. Art not only allows kids to explore their own creative voice, it feels good, and allows them to make their own choices. It is a great vehicle for learning because it’s so much fun. And for many kids, art becomes an outlet for their emotions and dealing with the difficult situations in their lives.

In her not-so-secret other life, Rachel is also a professional fire performer. Photo credit: Tim Summers

In her not-so-secret other life, Rachel is also a professional fire performer. Photo credit: Tim Summers

What teacher or artist was inspirational to you as a kid? I don’t think I had just one teacher or artist who I admired. I was inspired by many and no one specifically. I loved watching the professional dancers at Pacific Northwest Ballet. I was equally inspired by the gymnasts and ice skaters in the Olympics. And many of my heroes were characters in books.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? Maybe work in the medicine. I like working with people and helping them understand how their bodies work and how to reach their best potential.

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