Five Questions for Michael Rioux

Photo by Kevin Kauer.

Name: Michael Rioux

Occupation: dancer/choreographer


1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. St. Charles, it’s about an hour and fifteen minutes west of the city. In junior high I had to do a report on a career choice in my English class, and I picked choreographer because there was a lot of dance in music videos at that time. Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, and somehow I got it in my head that I wanted to choreograph for music videos. So I did a report on a choreographer, and I read somewhere that most boys didn’t start dancing until later in life at around age 13. And I said, “Hey, I’m 13!,” and I went home and said, “Mom, I want to take dance classes.”

From that point on, I danced. I was offered a job at River North in Chicago right out of high school, and took that, and danced in Chicago for years. Then about five years ago I got really bored doing the same thing with the same people, and just needed to leave. So I picked Seattle because I had some friends there.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I have this vague recollection of seeing a Jackson Pollock painting when I was four, and it just blowing my mind apart. For some reason, it just made sense, and I think that was my first exposure to anything artistic.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

I wish I could sing. I wish I could play a musical instrument.

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

At the moment I work for a small construction firm. Now we’re adding a second story to a house. Before that I was working at an art gallery. I’ve done any number of things. I taught dance for a while. Worked in some warehouses.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

It’s never really ever been a choice, it’s always been art. I’ve been lucky enough that its only been very recently, since moving to Seattle, that I haven’t been able to support myself just through doing art, including the teaching. Through a combination of my performing and my teaching, I was always able to support myself. It’s only since moving to Seattle that I’ve had to supplement it with a job.

As a dancer, Michael Rioux has performed with most of Seattle’s top dance companies over the past year, including Salt Horse Performance, Scott/Powell, and lingo dance. At Portland, Oregon’s TBA Festival this year, he and collaborator Monica Mata Gilliam were invited to perform in the 22nd edition of Ten Tiny Dances.

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