Talk to just about any dancer in Utah, and they'll tell you Jen Osorio Pendleton is one of the crown jewels of their arts community. As a performer she's riveting. Whether she's dancing professionally (some of her credits include SoulEscape, Odyssey Dance Theatre, High School Musical and Legally Blonde 2) or teaching a room full of eager students at SoulEscape's summer event, at Millennium Dance Complex in Salt Lake City or in studios across the country, she creates an experience through movement that people can relate to on a personal level.
Pendleton says she strives to generate choreography that relates to her students' lives in some way and gives them an outlet for their emotions. "It's really nice to challenge dancers technically and to keep their minds thinking of growth, but it gets empty if it's not related to real-life experiences," Pendleton says. "This way choreography becomes something they're speaking to, rather than something they're executing."
Photo by Jenny Nielson, courtesy of Pendleton
A good example of this is a recent piece by Pendleton inspired by the lyrics to a song about gardening ("Avant Gardner" by Gordi) as a distraction from the stresses of life. "As a coping mechanism, I'll get as busy as possible when life gets hard," Pendleton says. "But it's important to take the time to sit down by yourself and gather your thoughts and process everything." She drew connections between her temptation to overschedule and the urge dancers have to rush through intense movement. "In both life and dance, it's important to find stillness. For the viewer's eye to gather what you're doing and for the next movement to have an impact, you have to stop sometimes. So much can be said and felt in stillness amidst quick, articulate movement."
FAVORITE SNACKS: "I'll eat anything that feels light and energizing. I have a cashew sour-cream dip recipe that I love to dip veggies, crackers or some ruffle chips in, and I love a good healthy drink as well, like Kombucha or the Super Herbs Rebbl Maca Mocha."
BOOKS SHE RECOMMENDS: "The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey, has amazing insights on trust and relationships, and one that I've loved that's dance-based is The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp."
GO-TO WORKOUT: "I do Pilates at least three times a week, yoga once a week, and one of my new goals is to make it to a ballet class once a week."
SHE NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT: "My wallet, my inhaler and a good lipstick or ChapStick with a tint—a good lip color always makes me feel a little more put together than I actually am."
TEACHING APPAREL: "My go-to bottoms right now are American Apparel lightweight-cotton drawstring pants. My favorite top is an Outdoor Voices slash-back crop, and my ultimate cover top is a black, mock-neck long-sleeve sweater that came from a little boutique by my house called Koo De Ker."
MUST-HAVE FITNESS SUPPLIES: "Stott rotational disks and stability cushions both challenge my deep stabilizer muscles in different ways. I use a stability ball behind my upper or lower back to access my deep core muscles or to set my femurs in the hip cavity without much tension. Then, I like to use it to challenge the strength in-between my thighs or ankles to help access the adductor and deep core muscles."