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Art & Life with Aurora Vaughan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aurora Vaughan.

Aurora, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in Redwood City, California to two public school teachers and an older sister who was an avid dancer. I grew up backstage because of her and my parents being part of community theater their whole lives; I became a performer before I even knew what was happening. I started dancing at age three and became ‘serious’ about it when I was about seven, which then lead me to continue dancing for seventeen years! My training began at Menlo Park Academy of Dance and then continued at Bay Area Dance School under my teacher and mentor, Leyla Boissonnade, along with other teachers such as Sharon Kung, Daniel Gwatkins, Elizabeth Lemberger, and Kai Davis. Their knowledge and guidance helped me discover my creative spirit and artistry, which molded me into the person and artist I am today.

I also danced at many intensive summer programs, ranging from all over to the United States to around the globe. They include Ballet West, American Ballet Theater, Alonzo King LINES, Hubbard Street, Ponderosa P.O.R.C.H., and Orsolina28. Training at all of these different places allowed me to expand my knowledge of dance and the world. I feel that dance has allowed me to become a global citizen because of the doors that it has opened for me regarding traveling and, consequently, meeting new people and experiencing cultures outside of my own.

Now, I study at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, under Vice Dean Jodie Gates and my many amazing professors. I am scheduled to graduate in 2021, with a BFA in Dance and a minor in Performance Science through the USC Marshall School of Business. At Kaufman, I study Ballet, Hip Hop, Jazz, Contemporary, partnering, and repertory. I am also completing all of the general education requirements mandated for all students at the university. It’s a pretty busy schedule! Through Kaufman, I am fortunate enough to work with world-renowned artists such as William Forsythe, Aszure Barton, Jermaine Spivey, Andrew Winghart, Victor Quijada, Barak Marshall, Sonya Tayeh, and Bret Easterling, to name a few.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My primary creative medium is dance, but I am also interested in multi-media approaches to performative art. I have declared a concentration within my dance major called Dance & Music, focusing on the interdisciplinary possibilities between the two forms. I played classical violin for ten years and sang in musicals and choirs for all of grade school, so I have always seen the connections between the two. I want to further explore those connections through collaborations with live musicians and instrumentalists, in hopes that more potential and ideas are realized by combining movement with music in real-time.

Something to know about me is that, much like most artists, my identity affects everything I create. Being a queer female in dance has recently become less taboo in the community and the world, but I have experienced the less inclusive sides as well. This transfers into my artwork and specifically my creative processes. Due to my experiences, I actively make efforts to foster inclusive and equitable environments around me, both inside and outside of the studio. I love partner work that does not subscribe to gender binaries and portraying scenarios and experiences onstage that cause audience members and dancers alike to question themselves and their actions.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
I have always known that dance is not the most lucrative career choice I could make, but my love for the form has obviously taken precedence over that. Although some people try not to work other jobs, I think it is a perfectly acceptable way to create opportunities for yourself and also pay rent. That being said, finding jobs that add to your artistry is definitely the most beneficial way to go about that. In my case, teaching dance is a great way to make extra money and learn more about myself as a mover and teacher, which can help as a choreographer and collaborator.

Advice for other artists would be to support each other, and don’t be afraid to charge people for your work! Go to exhibitions, shows, premieres, open mics, anything that allows artists to share their talents and hard work. The art community is small and we need to be each other’s’ support systems. A way to do this, if you can, is to add discounts for other artists. However, never work for free! Unless you are super passionate about the project and are 100% sure that it will feed your soul and you can feed your own stomach, don’t do it without payment. Your time and creativity are worth more; exposure doesn’t pay rent.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
You can see me perform through Kaufman’s Spring Performances at the Broad Theater in Santa Monica! The dates are April 17-19, with four shows throughout the duration of those days. We also have shows every fall at the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, which are free to the public! I also will be submitting work this semester to a dance collective that was founded by my peers a year ago, called Southern California Choreographic Collective. Its mission is to “give emerging artists a platform to showcase their art and give back to the community”. I am excited to potentially be a part of their process in the coming spring. I have a few films that I have been a part of, choreographed, and collaborated on; these can be found on my Instagram: aurora_vaughan. I am also working on a website, which will be completed and uploaded soon!

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 6503467943
  • Email: alvaugha@usc.edu
  • Instagram: aurora_vaughan
  • Facebook: Aurora Vaughan


Image Credit:
Dylan Spitler, Eddo Photography, Ben Peralta Photography, Ludger Storcks, Amy Drake Photography, Rachel Neville Photography

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