[WE Talk] Claudia Anata Hubiak – Choreographing a Creative Life of Meaning and Mindfulness

Claudia Anata Hubiak

Choreographing a Creative Life of Meaning and Mindfulness

On this episode:

  • infusing mindfulness into the creative process of dance and choreography
  • connecting spirit and creativity
  • navigating from life as a gymnast into the life of a dancer
  • how a Waldorf community provided the rich ground of support and belief in one’s gifts

Episode Transcript:

Nita June: Hello, and welcome to WE Talk. A podcast that explores the role of Waldorf education in helping children, parents, and families thrive in an ever-changing world. WE Talk is brought to you by Shining Mountain Waldorf School, and this is your host, Nita June Davanzo.

Hello, and welcome my dearest and most wonderful WE Talk listeners. Thank you for joining me today on another episode. On today’s show, I bring Claudia Anata Hubiak. Claudia graduated from Shining Mountain Waldorf High School in 1999, and went on to study dance and choreography at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Claudia is a choreographer, dance educator, and currently the executive director of Boulder Ballet. She holds an MFA in dance performance and choreography from NYU at Tish, and she was the founder and artistic director of the Anata Project from 2011 through 2019.

While she was living in San Francisco for many, many years, she taught choreography at the San Francisco School of the Arts, and was a teaching artist at Lines Ballet in San Francisco, as well. She currently lives in Boulder with her husband and her two sons, and we are honored and delighted to have her with us today on the show.

Welcome, dear Claudia. Thank you so much for being on WE Talk today.

Claudia Hubiak: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m really happy to be here.

Nita June: Absolutely. So, my friend, you attended Shining Mountain from fourth grade all the way up through 12th grade.

Claudia Hubiak: Yes.

Nita June: And after which, you launched into dance studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara upon graduating.

Claudia Hubiak: Yes.

Nita June: When did your love of dance and movement begin?

Claudia Hubiak: You know, I started out as a gymnast growing up. And, my favorite part of gymnastics was always the dance element. That’s where I excelled. And so, it started young, really. I started doing that when I was about seven. And then through Waldorf education, there was just a lot of emphasis and support around the arts and that element, so my senior year I sort of decided I was going to be a dance and not continue on with the gymnastics route.

And I had finished gymnastics, probably when I was late 17 or so. And had been coaching, but I started choreographing floor routines for people that were competing on my team, and started moving in that direction. My senior project was a dance project, and then I took off a year, actually, before I went to UCSB to teach myself how to be a dancer. So, to train, and I started taking ballet and some jazz, and just took a year off to kind of figure out what that would look like, and to see if I could get into a university program dance department without any previous experience.

So yeah, it started early, but it really kind of took off in high school.

Nita June: Yeah, yeah. I remember that. I remember your senior project, and you dancing. And I remember just being so impressed. One, with just with your talent. But also just, I remember thinking how bold and brave of you, to begin with in gymnastics, and then to just see you evolve with such focus and self-discipline to do that.

Claudia Hubiak: Hmm, hmm.

Nita June: And, I assume that is one of the key factors, and that brings you to where you are today in your success, is that focus and that discipline. We spoke about this a little bit, just in terms of how you feel like your Waldorf education supported you as a dancer or as a mover growing up. Do you feel like there’s any pieces of your Waldorf education that also supported you in taking that bold move and kind of clearly defining your future steps certainly into college at UCSB?

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, I really do. I mean, the parent body and stage, and all of our teachers for our student plays and everything that we did that had any kind of a movement emphasis, I always had such positive feedback and reinforcement. There was just a tremendous amount of support. I remember after plays, you know, we did The Tempest, and I remember hearing that I was a mover and having that sort of reinforced. Having what people saw in me explained and reinforced and celebrated. So, I do have a lot of memories of people sort of seeing that in the early on and sharing it with me. And, I remember that in a really positive way.

Nita June: Yeah, I vividly remember you as Ariel in The Tempest moving around, flying around in that play.

Claudia Hubiak: I loved that part.

Nita June: Yeah, and you were so good at it, too. And why did you turn to choreography in addition to dancing yourself?

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, that’s a good question. You know, I loved dancing. It always felt like something that I was supposed to be doing myself physically. But there was always a tremendous amount of fear that accompanied it. And I think that that’s part of the reason that I kept doing it, because there was a drive to sort of overcome that. But, it was always really hard, honestly. I mean, I started late, and I was always a little bit behind or there was a little bit of training that I hadn’t had, and I was training myself. And my body understood gymnastics muscles and not dance muscles. And so, there was always a lot of kind of fear and struggle that accompanied all of my training. And, I got to a point where I was good, you know. I was good, but I was never going to get to the point where I was going to be able to fully relax at my age as a performer inside my art form without it being a struggle.

Claudia Hubiak: And, you know, I don’t think that’s the reason I turned to choreography. I just found that choreography wasn’t hard, and it wasn’t scary, and it wasn’t … It just felt natural. It felt exciting. It felt joyful. It felt like there wasn’t as much pressure for me, for whatever reason. And so, it just was something that I was really drawn towards in a way that has always … It’s always felt like that when I’m in the studio making dance, it feels like I get to use both my brain and my body in a way that feels very centering and connecting and, grounding for me. So, I’m using all aspects of my person, and it just has always felt even more natural than being a dancer and a mover, yeah.

Nita June: Nice, yeah. But you know, the compass pointing north, too, like that’s what you’re meant to do. That…center and power, and peace, really.

Claudia Hubiak: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right, right, and I couldn’t have gotten there without all of that struggle.

Nita June: Yeah. Claudia, can you share with our listeners a bit about the history of your dance company, The Anata Project? When you established the company, possibly some of your highlights, and struggles too, and challenges as a founder and director?

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, of course. I founded The Anata Project in 2011 actually, while I was in grad school in New York. And my second year of grad school, I just had found that I was choreographing more and more and more, and that was where my focus was.

Claudia Hubiak: I had been part of a project called Vispo Dance in San Francisco where I was one of five women who founded this company. And, we ran it collectively, and that was an excellent experience and taught me a ton about how to self-produce, and how to create work, and how to start from the ground up. And so, I had done it before. And so, I just decided I wanted to make my own work and run my own company, and have my own voice. So that started in grad school where I had some assistance from professors. And we were taking courses on these kinds of things, so I sort of implemented while I was there at NYU. And then, I actually tried to run it bi-coastally, both in New York and San Francisco for a year after I graduated, which just, the model is too expensive and didn’t really work. But, it was fun going back and forth for a year.

Claudia Hubiak: And then, we landed in San Francisco permanently in 2012, and did a lot of years of really great work in the city and presenting one to two original works each year, and doing some outreach for schools. And the company is based on the concept of Anata, which is my middle name. And I was born into a Buddhist family. And so, mindfulness has always been a really big part of my upbringing. Meditation has been a big part of my upbringing, and so I wanted to reinforce that in the dance world as well, connecting mind and body.

Claudia Hubiak: We would sit at the beginning of every rehearsal for about 10 minutes and start each rehearsal with a really grounded quiet centered practice. And I found that this really changed how we worked in the studio, and it changed the work that we created. So, we were never really producing anything that had Buddhist content, per se. Occasionally, but we used Buddhism as a grounding factor in a principal that affected every part of the work.

Nita June: Yeah, yeah, using that base of mindfulness and what comes from it, the balance, the centering, the deep peace, to then launch into creativity from there.

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, that moment to moment experience, which is so vital to dance, you know? As artists, we have to learn to be present in our bodies and in the moment, for other people to be able to experience that, as well. So, we have to practice.

Nita June: Yeah, yeah, indeed. So Claudia, you spoke of just your dance company being in San Francisco. And I know now, you are currently in Boulder. You are currently the executive director of the Boulder Ballet. Congratulations.

Claudia Hubiak: Thank you.

Nita June: And yeah, what prompted your move?

Claudia Hubiak: Well, I have two boys. One is five, Marco, and one is almost two next week, Nicolo. And kindergarten in a big city is challenging. You do a school lottery, and you get what you get, and you hope your kid gets a good education. So we decided to preemptively avoid the lottery and moved to Boulder. Back home, where we have some support, and where we know the education is really strong. And so, my boy’s in kindergarten this year. And so, we were planning to move anyway, and I got a call from Boulder Ballet saying that they were in a transition period, and would I step in as an interim. And it sounded like an exciting role for me.

Claudia Hubiak: It’s now something that I had been doing with my own work, all the administrative work, plus marketing and fundraising and you know, producing dance. And so, this is on kind of a grander scale, and I’m not actually creating work for the ballet at this time. I hope to. But, one step at a time.

Nita June: Nice.

Claudia Hubiak: But, I do feel like I’m in a creative space in terms of being able to curate performances that are coming and artists that are really relevant right now, and being able to bring diversity to the ballet and really bring female choreographers and choreographers of color, and really bring some really incredible elevated art to Boulder that, perhaps, we wouldn’t have seen before.

Nita June: What a gift you are to Boulder, and certainly to the Boulder Ballet. So, is your current work with The Anata Project on hold, then, for the time being?

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, I guess we could say that The Anata Project’s on vacation. But, you know …

Nita June: It’s on a beach somewhere, hanging out.

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, on a beach. Exactly, in Santa Barbara, next to you.

Nita June: I love it.

Claudia Hubiak: But yeah, I mean, I am currently making more … I just got back from San Francisco. I was making a piece of dance for the San Francisco School of the Arts, which is amazing. I spent a week with those students. And, I’m interested in continuing to create work. That feels like a real priority for me. So, I will say that I am Anata. You know, I’m The Anata Project, and I’m still making work, and I will be as long as I’m around. So, yeah.

Nita June: Yep, love that. So, you mentioned you have your two sons. And you spoke a little bit about education.

Claudia Hubiak: Yes.

Nita June: As you moved back to Boulder, are you looking at the public schools? Are you looking at Shining Mountain? What are your thoughts as you move towards a future for your sons?

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, great questions. We think about this, and we talk about this all the time. We are currently in a charter school. It’s called High Peaks, and it’s partially, it’s primarily because of financial choices that we’re in that situation. There is a school called BCSIS that has a lot of Waldorf based influence that is of interest to us. But right now, High Peaks has been a nice fit for my son. He is enjoying sort of the rigor of it, and you know, it’s pretty academic for him. He’s in kindergarten, and he’s got homework.

You know, we have a lot of conversations about it. I mean, he’s really artistic, and he loves stories, and you know, there are a lot of days where I wish that he could be in such a sweet Waldorf environment, surrounded by that kind of lovely culture.

Nita June: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Claudia Hubiak: But, it’s just not really an option for us at this point.

Nita June: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Claudia Hubiak: And so, yeah, we’re making choices.

Nita June: Nice.

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah.

Nita June: I will put it out there for listeners too, and other alums, Shining Mountain is very, very generous with its financial aid to alumni. So just letting you know.

Claudia Hubiak: Good to know. I’ll do some research.

Nita June: The last question today, sweetheart, if you were to go back to your high school self and share some words of insight, what might they be?

Claudia Hubiak: Hmm, yeah. Well, I would say maybe do all of your reading. And, you know, I would say that you’re really lucky, actually. I would say, you’re surrounded by an incredible, supportive community, and an environment that sees who you are specifically, and just know that. Because I think that high school is hard for everybody everywhere. And, just taking a moment to say, hey, where I am is good. And I’m okay, and I’m really in a place where I’m not just supported, but celebrated, is tremendous. I mean, the people that I look at from our graduating class, it’s incredible the things that people are doing.

Claudia Hubiak: We just have such entrepreneurs and artists and people that are so grounded in their communities and really making an impact. And, I think that the education that we got is a huge part of that. So, and the groups of people that we met through there, our tight-knit community is just tremendous. That level of support and friendship is …

Nita June: Yeah.

Claudia Hubiak: But, we are really lucky.

Nita June: I agree and fully [inaudible 00:18:01] with that, absolutely.

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah.

Nita June: I love when you come back to Boulder and look into the Boulder lifestyle magazine. It seems like every single issue, there’s a Shining Mountain graduate featured.

Claudia Hubiak: Right, right.

Nita June: Leaders in the Boulder community, there’s another one. 

Claudia Hubiak: Right, right. Oh, that’s funny, I’m going to have to look through more closely.

Nita June: Well, thank you, Claudia. Thank you so much for your time, sweetheart. I appreciate all that you’re doing. And as a fellow creator, your work and what you’ve done and moved it around, and all your projects and productions, it’s an inspiration to me, and I’m sure to many, many other creators. So, thank you.

Claudia Hubiak: Thank you. Oh, it’s so nice chatting with you and so nice to see your face.

Nita June: You, too, okay.

Claudia Hubiak: Yeah, thank you, you too.

Nita June: Bye-bye.

Claudia Hubiak: Bye.

Nita June: Thank you for listening to WE Talk, brought to you by Shining Mountain Waldorf School, and hosted by Nita June Davanzo. WE Talk is made possible because of listeners like you who invest in the production of the show. Share your appreciation for what you’ve heard today. Help us explore the value of Waldorf education and preparing our children for the future by going to Patreon.com/wetalkpodcast.

If you’d like to be interviewed, have a suggestion for an episode ahead, or simply wish to share feedback, please email us at wetalk@smwaldorf.org.