It was like stepping back in time as Nicole Zvarik walked towards Warfield Hall on October 10, 2013. Her purposeful stride resembled that of any other Wilsonite – one who has somewhere to be .
She knew the way to Paula Kellinger’s classroom, she remembered her way around the campus from her days as a student in the Women With Children (WWC) program. As she walked into the classroom where Kellinger’s Feminist Perspectives’ students were expecting her as a guest lecturer, Nicole smiled and remembered all that was familiar to her from her time at Wilson.
Zvarik studied in Wilson’s Fine Arts department and graduated in 2003. She returned to her former home-away-from-home to share with students her experiences as a dance choreographer working in the hub of performance art and cultural dance in San Francisco. Fitting to her role as guest lecturer for a feminism class, Zvarik described the dance scene to which she contributes as smaller than the scene within New York City, but just as diverse.
“San Francisco has everything. There is a huge homosexual population there, so queer and gender representations are a big thing,” said Zvarik. “I run a dance collective that’s called Deep Roots Dance Collective.
Many choreographers and dance companies collaborate on the performances. Each company will have a certain number of pieces to show,” she said.
Zvarik admitted that it was her Wilson education that was the catalyst for her move to San Francisco. “Wilson blew my mind,” said Zvarik. “I came in sheltered and naïve, but I was exposed to many different viewpoints and I learned about the woman’s perspective on issues like sexual freedom,” said Zvarik.
Her ability to translate culture, in all of its lights and bad habits, is the foundation of her career. The dances that her company creates are powerful looking glasses aimed at the social issues that people want to examine.
Nicole credited Paula Kellinger as a mentor who introduced her to feminism and its broad views. “I consider feminism as using any opportunity to promote women’s empowerment. I use my art to open the eyes of the audience to what might not otherwise be seen,” said Zvarik.
“Larry Shillock taught me what queer means,” said Zvarik. “I remember screaming ‘I’m a queer’ after his class one day. I took that with me and wanted to challenge these ideas and push boundaries and comfort zones ,” she said.
Zvarik’s presentation to Kellinger’s class accomplished her goal to provoke her audience. She showed clips of performances that were so unique in their artful representations that they required a guidesheet given before the viewing to prompt the students to think critically about what they were watching.
“I want to expose students to dance as an art form for social change,” said Zvarik.
Zvarik is co-founder of Deep Root Dance Collective in the San Francisco Bay Area―a collective of modern dance choreographers, performers and teachers―and also serves as dance department head at Bayside STEM Academy in San Mateo, Calif.
Zvarik is a former resident artist at California State University Stanislaus and at the Garage, an art space in San Francisco. She is a member of the National Dance Education Organization and recipient of the 2013 Alumnae Association of Wilson College’s Outstanding Young Alumna Award.