Peter Kyle Reflects On His Career as a Modern Dancer and the Intersections of Movement and Identity   

6 min read

By Hannah Lorenzo ’24

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Trinity College’s Theater and Dance Department contributes to the visibility of dancers in the local arts community, especially through the faculty’s leadership and diverse representation of artists. Associate Professor of Theater and Dance and head of his department Peter Kyle reflects on his personal journey toward becoming what he calls a “modern dancer,” spanning across countries, cultures and identities.

Kyle’s foray into dance began at Kenyon College in Ohio, where an introductory course to dance transitioned from a fine arts requirement to his desire to pursue a career in the arts. Since coming to work at Trinity in 2018, he shares key lessons he learned while developing as an artist.

“It became a life passion, and while I realize it may not be that for everybody, I think we do offer, certainly in theater and dance and the arts more broadly, many beautiful ways for students to come into what it is to live in the world where change is constant,” Kyle said. “In many ways, what we are training for in our discipline is for understanding how to live with humility, pride, openness and profound joy in the face of all of that change.”

As a modern dancer, Kyle embraces the individuality of movement and encourages his students to delve deeper into what it means to traverse the world with their bodies. “I think [modern dance] celebrates every person’s birthright as a body that moves and can make creative choices about the things we do in time and space with that body,” Kyle said. “I think in that way, it underlies everything in my approach to teaching, whether it is teaching a modern dance technique class or a class in improvisation.”

Kyle looks forward to working with students on works that expand the presence of the performing arts in their lives. One of his courses that aims to achieve this goal is “Principles of Movement.” Kyle said, “That is an introduction to what I would call functional anatomy, where we are learning a little bit about our structure and how it is designed and how it works, then asking questions about how we can expand and refine our usage of this instrument with that knowledge.”

From developing choreography in New York City to visiting the Paris Opera House, Kyle’s career is cultivated by cross-disciplinary collaborations with artists and cultures on an international scale. Kyle emphasized, “I think collaboration is such an endlessly nourishing thing, and I have found great inspiration from the kinds of questions people ask in other disciplines and how they might inspire me to think differently about my own discipline.”

Kyle’s vast repertoire of dance projects include the “Tiny Dance Film Series” that enabled him to learn about the art and culture of China as well as “Dancing Through Translation,” which stems from a collaboration with artist Anton Ovchinnikov in 2017 in Ukraine. 

“And all things hushed” is a multimedia installation project inspired by “Sonnets to Orpheus” that Kyle showcased in 2022 at Real Art Ways, a non-profit arts organization in Hartford. He highlights Hartford’s global connections at Real Art Ways through the collaborations he made with local and professional artist communities. 

“I think one of the things I was so proud of with that project in addition to just doing it and having and providing a rich opportunity for my collaborators and me to come together, was just the way Real Art Ways embraced the project and the way audiences in Hartford came out,” Kyle said. “Somehow, in my mind, I did not realize how diverse Hartford was before I moved here, and I was so delighted by the diversity I have found here.”

In recognition of Pride Month this June, Kyle also considers how the arts world continues to be shaped by diverse representations of identity. Kyle explained, “Because I found my way to this world as a profession, I think I have found tremendous freedom and comfort in what it means to be an artist. I think it expects us to be very open and welcoming. At the same time, I recognize the incredible value of owning our identity and celebrating it without apology.” 

Kyle offers his insight into how Trinity contributes to a supportive environment for faculty and students in the arts. He added, “In the short time that I have been at Trinity, I think I see a level of community-wide acceptance and initiative that is encouraging, and I certainly see students owning who they are and discovering and celebrating all that they know of this moment, and I think that is a beautiful thing.” 

Kyle notes that the complexity of articulating one’s identity, especially in the arts, can be challenging. He holds onto a message from his former director “to merge with the world around you” as he contemplates how artists can find safe spaces to navigate who they are. 

“I do not make any assumptions about any other person and what their readiness is to do that, but I like to think that I try to cultivate an environment where people feel supported and encouraged and challenged to meet themselves merging with the world, having the confidence of their convictions and recognizing that we should not underestimate what is possible in ourselves.”

Now in his sixth year at Trinity, Kyle shares that he witnessed students have the opportunity to honor their identity through a multitude of projects such as theater productions, student choreography and senior thesis presentations. Kyle hopes to enrich both the inclusivity and visibility of artists and the values they hold.

“To come into a space that emphasizes creativity and emphasizes an integrated exploration of what it is to be human. What it is to embrace the fullness of my capacity as a living, breathing entity and the ways that movement interacts with thought, spoken language and sensed expression,” Kyle said. “I think the performing arts offer a place for this kind of deep exploration that certainly celebrates excellence just like any discipline, but I like to think that beyond excellence, what we are celebrating is curiosity and an openness to remind ourselves of these many faculties that we have..”

The department’s next dance showcase is coming up this week. “What’s Your Move?
An Evening of Student Choreography” will be held on April 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m.
at the Goodwin Theater in the Austin Arts Center.

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