Riley Watts is an artist in Portland, Maine. His work primarily focuses on the interactions of dance and psychology, specializing in embodied thinking practice and the examination of consciousness through movement. Riley has traveled extensively for teaching, performing, and researching, and is now happily based in his home state of Maine.
He received his early training in Bangor, Maine in competitive gymnastics followed by classical ballet at Thomas School of Dance under Ivy Forrest. He went on to study dance at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and later received a BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School (dir. Lawrence Rhodes), where he won a Princess Grace Award for Excellence in 2006. Since 2010 he has worked primarily with choreographer William Forsythe and The Forsythe Company, having lived and worked in Frankfurt, Germany until the company's closure in 2015. Prior to The Forsythe Company, Riley danced for the Netherlands Dance Theater 2, Bern Ballet, and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.
He has danced in the original casts of numerous world premiere ballets by choreographers William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Alexander Ekman, Marco Goecke, Johan Inger, and Lightfoot Leon, as well as performing repertory from many prolific choreographers, including Ohad Naharin, Hans Van Manen, and Aszure Barton. He was invited to perform alongside Sylvie Guillem on her Life in Progress farewell tour, where danced William Forsythe’s DUO2015 with Brigel Gjoka and earned the Positano Prize for Contemporary Dancers of the Year 2015.
Riley is frequently invited to teach in schools, companies, and research platforms around the world, and most recently in the USA as a Visiting Artist at Duke University, Princeton University, Colby College, University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana, The Hartt School, and The Juilliard School. He has held Dance Thinking research weeks at STRUT Dance (Perth), New Dialect (Nashville), and Gibney Dance (NYC), and Bates Dance Festival (Maine).
In addition to performing across five continents in such theaters as Sydney Opera House, Sadler's Wells (London), and Brooklyn Academy of Music, Riley has performed in fine art spaces such as Philadelphia Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and SPACE (Portland, Maine).
As a maker and choreographer, Riley has created performance works Veil i (Doppelganger Dance Collective), Thinking Space i (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), 2 Thinking Rooms (TempoArt Conference, Portland), Points Beginning (Bangor Ballet), and Tonight’s Pattern i, ii, iii (Bates Dance Festival Gala). His choreographic work focuses on the psychology of improvised movement and the hyper-articulate body.
From 2011-2014, he was a Dance Engaging Science Associate Researcher with Motion Bank (Frankfurt) and collaborated with neuroscientists on experiment design, motion and data capture, and public engagements in the UK, Germany, and Australia. He has co-published research for Frontiers in Human Neuroscience with Dr. Bettina Blaesing (Bielefeld) and dance artist and theorist Elizabeth Waterhouse, and is the coauthor of a children’s book “Where’s Your Creativity?” with Dr. Aaron Rosen for Tate Publishing, London.
Riley is passionate about the arts community in his home state of Maine, where he sits on the Advisory Committee for the Bates Dance Festival, on the board and faculty of Bangor Ballet, and a Dance and Performance Advisor for the SPACE in Portland, Maine.