Pathways Dance

2021 Ambassadors Pathways Dance Co

Jessie Nowak: (00:03)

Hello. My name is Jessie Nowak. I’m the development director at Dance Wire. Today is October 28th, 2021. And I’m here with Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Logan, formerly Unsicker, to talk about their career and their life as dance artists for our Artist Stories series, so welcome.

Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Logan: (00:29)

Thank you. Thank you.

Jessie Nowak: (00:30)

Thank you for being here. Let’s start with your current titles as dancers, artists, all of the things.

Amelia Logan: (00:40)

Well, we are Co-Directors and Co-Founders of Pathways Dance Company, which we founded last year, what, it was like February 21ish, right? Am I losing it? [laughter] Yeah. And then, I currently also direct the dance program at Ida B. Wells High School, and I teach and sub throughout the Portland Metro area at studios.

Kelly Koltiska: (01:12)

I’m also a freelance teacher and I teach through Portland Parks and Rec, and I teach at Multnomah Athletic Club and at Center for Movement Arts; kind of all over the place. Yeah. All the things.

Jessie Nowak: (01:28)

Yeah, we know how that goes. [laughter] All of the places, all of the things.

Kelly Koltiska: (01:32)

All of the places. Yeah.

Jessie Nowak: (01:34)

Can you both give a brief overview of how you got started in dance?

Kelly Koltiska: (01:40)

I was thinking about this. I think I actually started in gymnastics because the dance studio that I took at had a gymnastics class. So I started doing that because I was one of those kids that was constantly doing cartwheels. And then through that, got into dance and did that all as a child. I took ballet and jazz primarily and just loved it. 

Amelia Logan: (02:15)

My mom is a dancer and so she kind of got me hooked into the dance world and I started, I don’t know, when I was like two or three, and she taught me a little bit and then I started training here in Portland actually. Portland native, surprisingly.

Jessie Nowak: (02:36)

You’re a unicorn.

Amelia Logan: (02:40)

Yeah! And I trained at Pacific Festival Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater. Primarily ballet, but also jazz, tap, contemporary, modern, all the stuff.

Jessie Nowak: (02:57)

Awesome. All right, let’s get right into it. What does dance mean to you, or what has it meant to you in your life?

Amelia Logan: (03:04)

Ooh, that’s a big question. You know, I think my entire life there have been ups and downs with dance, and I think probably a lot of people have gone through that. But ultimately, dance, even as a kid, was a moment for me to escape everything else in my life, and let out my emotions in the dance studio, and be present in my body and in the space and having the energy of everybody else in the space and yeah, it’s just a really good feeling. You know, it’s like therapy a little bit to an extent for me personally.

Jessie Nowak: (03:50)

Totally, totally.

Kelly Koltiska: (03:51)

I was a really painfully shy child, and I think I’m still a socially awkward adult. And so, I think a lot of it for me was just, and still is, this way of being in community with people without having to talk. And without having to talk to each other and also being able to express myself, and express how I’m feeling, and express all of these things without having to put words into it. I’ve noticed as an adult, when I pull away from it, I feel really lost and sort of like I don’t know how to function. I’ve realized that it’s just necessary. It’s really for me anyway. It’s huge.

Jessie Nowak: (04:37)

I always tell people, I’m like, can we skip the small talk? I want to dance with you, or I want a deep conversation with you, but the small talk is, it’s painful.

Kelly Koltiska: (04:47)

That’s partially why I got into contact improvisation in college, and I love that because you can have this whole conversation with somebody without talking to them, and you can really feel like you know somebody from an energetic movement place without knowing anything about them. And I think that’s amazing.

Jessie Nowak: (05:07)

It’s incredible. Yeah. I mean I’m really interested by this research of how humans affect humans on a biological level. Like if somebody were to walk the space, our bodies would have a reaction to it. And how much more intense is that, like you said, when you have a movement conversation with someone. You have this encounter with them that our culture doesn’t understand that that’s a thing, but we as dancers, we know that’s true.

Kelly Koltiska: (05:38)

My gosh. Yeah.

Jessie Nowak: (05:39)

Yeah. And then it’s easier to talk to them.

Jessie Nowak: (05:42)

So, what challenges have you faced as dance artists?

Kelly Koltiska: (05:53)

Oh man, there’s a lot because I think especially, as I get older, just balancing making money, and family, and dance, and balancing all of the things is hard. I think society approaches being an artist too, or it’s like a hobby, you know? I think those two are really it that makes it challenging, but I’m just trying to pay attention to what my gut is telling me to do and keep following that. But there’s all these real world things that make it hard.

Amelia Logan: (06:36)

Similarly, I feel the balance of mental health and wellbeing and being financially stable and following your passion is big, you’re trying to piece it all together and figure out what works for you, and going off of what Kelly said, society has this idea of what it means to dance. Not to say that everybody feels this way, but I feel generally speaking, a lot of people do see it as a hobby. Then you feel like you have to prove yourself. I know people who have said, well, what exactly do you do? Like, they just don’t get it. You know? I’m like, well, I spend several hours lesson planning all the time, not necessarily getting paid for that time. And then I go in and teach and choreograph and I’m doing what I love, you know? And hopefully sharing that passion with the students I’m with, or the colleagues I’m with.

Jessie Nowak: (07:48)

Yeah. When are you gonna get a real job?

Kelly Koltiska: (07:54)

Oh my gosh. Yes. Or it’s the thing where people think it’s something you do when you’re young and then you get older and you grow up and you, you know.

Jessie Nowak: (08:01)

Yes, and that makes a ton of money. When the reality is, if you just went to do something where you could make a ton of money, you wouldn’t have the mental health aspects. You would be unhappy.

Kelly Koltiska: (08:12)

Yeah. We both talked about it, I branched off for a little bit and wasn’t really teaching. I was a coordinator at a community center for a few years and did the whole office job thing. I love certain aspects of it, but it was like part of my soul was just missing. And so I was like, no, we’re gonna go back.

Jessie Nowak: (08:31)

For sure. You know, to go off what you’re saying, like societally, how artists are viewed and particularly dance artists. And I think it’s regional to some extent, because I think in some place like New York it is viewed as a profession, right? But I think there’s this paradigm shift that needs to happen in terms of your class planning is work. And that is time that you’re doing it because it needs to be done, because you want to teach a quality class, where the paradigm shift needs to happen in that all of the work that an artist does needs to be compensated work. And we think about, oh you’re putting on a show and you get paid for the show. What about the hours and hours and hours of rehearsal time and the hours and hours and hours of administrative work. And you know, these are the things that we’re trying to shift. No, all of the work that an artist does is part of the thing.

Kelly Koltiska: (09:35)

Not just the product.

Jessie Nowak: (09:36)

It’s not just the product. And I think that needs to happen, across the arts, but particularly for dance, which takes so much time. You know, you don’t just pop into the studio for a day and have something. Absolutely not.

Kelly Koltiska: (09:50)

Yeah, totally.

Amelia Logan: (09:53)

At least not anything thoughtful, you know? 

Jessie Nowak: (9:55)

I mean you spend a day in the studio and you’re like, okay, maybe I have a concept now. Maybe. I came up with this one move that I like, that maybe I’ll do something with.

What resources and opportunities have helped you the most?

Amelia Logan: (10:22)

I feel like there’s a lot actually. First of all, let’s say a shout out to Dance Wire. Because this is really cool that we’re here right now and chatting with you, Jessie. It’s allowing us to share what we have to offer and how we’re feeling about the arts scene in Portland right now. 

Kelly Koltiska:

And shout out to the 1:1s that we’ve been doing with you too.

Amelia Logan: (10:50)

Oh my gosh. Yeah. So helpful, helpful. So helpful. Especially with us starting a company. But throughout life in general I would say I have felt support from the Portland dance community throughout my life. There have been innumerable people who have told me keep going, keep doing this. You can do it. The list is endless really. I do, I do feel supported within this community.

Kelly Koltiska: (11:21)

I feel that way too. I was also thinking back too, I feel really lucky. I majored in dance in college and the dance experience I had there, I felt like was really special. I went to the University of Montana, and it was this small dance program. There were only like 30 majors. I graduated with a handful of people, and all my professors were really supportive, it just felt like this family environment. I feel like they raised us to be humans. Which, I’ve learned, doesn’t always happen, and not all college environments are like that. I feel like I didn’t necessarily get as much rigorous physical training as I maybe would’ve gotten at some other colleges, but I got this really safe, nice environment where I got to grow as a human. I’m really, really thankful for that. And I remember one of my professors being like bellies are beautiful. Having a dance teacher say bellies are beautiful, was so profound for me as a dancer. So I’m super thankful for that environment. Just all the support I’ve gotten in Portland too has been awesome.

Jessie Nowak: (12:41)

Well, and I can see that in the philosophy that you’re taking into your work. With your ballet for all and your commitment to inclusivity and that that’s not just lip service, but you believe that, you feel that in your bones. I would add to this question, what resources have you made for yourselves, or support systems have you pulled together on your own? If that makes sense?

Kelly Koltiska: (13:12)


Jessie Nowak: (13:14)

Because you know, we’re making, we’re makers. You’re making stuff on your own, and I’m so happy to hear that you both feel held and supported by the community. That’s fantastic. But, and if there’s not an answer, maybe it’s more of an existential question.

Kelly Koltiska: (13:29)

I’m thinking about when I was researching starting the ballet for all class it was a hodgepodge of reading different books and articles and talking to people and then even, I mean nowadays Instagram accounts and TikTok accounts, there’s so much resources and information that people put out that we all can learn from, which is so cool. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what you mean, but just trying to gather information.

Jessie Nowak: (13:58)

I think that’s a great example. That is what I was asking. And I know I didn’t ask it super articulately. There’s resources that you can go find and then there’s, I guess, how you compile them, how you make them your own, and how you take them into your work. I need that resource, but not that one. And with this, you create your own library of resources.

Amelia Logan: (14:22)

I literally do have a little library of dance related books too, that, if all of a sudden I’m like, hmm, I need some help with this one thing, you know where to go. I think off of what Kelly was saying also social media has actually, I think a lot of us have a love, hate relationship with social media.

Amelia Logan: (14:49)

But there’s a lot of really useful information out there too. A lot of really good positive information too. I mean, I know that there’s a lot of negativity, but body positivity, mental health, you know, just there’s good stuff.

Jessie Nowak: (15:10)

Yes, and a really democratic platform for these movements, right? I mean, it turns out, I want to love my body, and now there’s all these people that I can follow and look at who are actively loving their bodies. It’s revolutionary, right? Particularly in dance. Society wide, but also in dance, we live in this super concentrated pressure cooker of like, your body is not good enough.

Kelly Koltiska: (15:44)

Oh my gosh. I know.

Jessie Nowak: (15:46)

What stage do you feel… Take your time with this one. What stage do you feel like you’re at in your career? How do you wanna move forward, and what goals do you have around that?

Amelia Logan: (16:00)

I really want to commit to Pathways Dance Company and I want to see that grow. I went to University of California Irvine for my MFA in dance. And ever since then, I’ve just wanted to create so much, I want to create movement on professional dancers and there are so many here in Portland, and I just want to create space for dancers to come and perform and create and share their work with each other. So that’s really where my heart and soul is right now.

Kelly Koltiska: (16:53)

It feels like we’re at this really cool launching point for the two of us together with Pathways, because we put on a show together, what was it, 2019. And then this year we officially formed the company as a business. And I think we’re both at points in our lives where we’ve gathered these different tools and resources and knowledge and experiences, and even just confidence, I feel like it’s taken me to this point to feel confident, to be like, yes, I can do this thing. 

Amelia Logan: (17:27)

And we do know this.

Kelly Koltiska: (17:29)

Yeah. We do. We do know this, feels like we had to learn that we do know things, that’s like a whole learning. You had to learn the thing, and then you had to learn that you learned things. 

Jessie Nowak: (17:44)

I love that. That’s so real.

Amelia Logan: (17:46)

It’s so real. I don’t know why there’s always so much doubt, and I don’t know if that’s a dance thing, but I don’t know. I feel like there have been so many things where I’m like, wait, do I actually know what I’m doing? Yes. Yes.

Kelly Koltiska: (18:01)

I feel like it’s a dance thing. I feel like it’s a woman thing. Like I feel like there’s levels.

Jessie Nowak: (18:07)

It’s a generational thing. There’s a lot of layers there. So many layers.

Kelly Koltiska: (18:11)

It feels like we’re at this launching point where I feel like we’re sort of on this precipice of, and we both decided to really dedicate to this, and we want Pathways to be like another major dance company in Portland. Because I think that’s partially what we both feel like is missing a little bit is there’s a few big dance companies mostly run by men, and then there’s all these little dance companies struggling to make stuff, to have a dance show once every couple years or something. And we would love to break out of that and have a season and have a place for dancers to perform and get paid.

Kelly Koltiska: (18:53)

We have lots of goals. Get paid, get paid [singing].

Amelia Logan: (19:00)

Profound. [laughter]

Jessie Nowak: (19:02)

Know you both are revolutionaries.

Kelly Koltiska: (19:07)

What a concept. I don’t know. Did we answer that question?

Jessie Nowak: (19:14)

You did and it’s an exciting place to be, to know that you know what you know. And your vision is so clearly articulated, so I’m excited to see what you both do. So, how hard is it balancing administrative work with your own artistic pursuits and or training?

Amelia Logan: (19:45)

Well, first of all, I feel like Kelly and I work really stinking well together, and it’s awesome. [Sound of a smack] We just gave each other a high five.

Jessie Nowak: (19:58)

Game recognizes game. [laughter]

Amelia Logan: (20:01)

If one of us is really overwhelmed with work at a certain point, oftentimes the other person will step up and be like, okay, I can tackle this thing for the company or vice versa. We’ve also discovered which aspects of administrative work we prefer tackling. For instance, Kelly tends to do a lot of the financial stuff and I’m like, oh, thank you. And I tend to do a lot of website related stuff and design related stuff. And I love doing all of that. So I’m like, this works out really nicely. 

Kelly Koltiska: (20:15)

I don’t think either of us could do this on our own, which that was a huge thing to be able to connect and start working together. We’ve been getting a lot of help from other people too, which has been helpful, but yes, it’s insanely hard. I’ve had moments where I have to put boundaries and be like, you can only do one hour of unpaid computer work everyday, and then you gotta shut it down. Because it’s like, you’ll just get lost in it. It’s a lot, but we’re trying to make it work.

Amelia Logan: (21:28)

And there’s a lot of random research, like things that we would’ve never anticipated that we needed to know. Like tax stuff, like, wait what? Oh my gosh. I kept getting stuck in this loop of reading it, something business related. Because neither of us know very much about business, which is why we’re trying to build that skill, but reading this article about this business-y thing, and then not understanding half the words in the article, and then having to read other articles to understand this other thing. It’s a whole thing.

Jessie Nowak: (22:03)

That’s real. You’ve got your dictionary open. Yeah, that’s real. Yeah. But there’s such power in teamwork.

Amelia Logan: (22:11)

There is!

Jessie Nowak: (22:12)

I mean that’s amazing, you balance each other out and bring different skills to the table. That’s awesome.

Kelly Koltiska: (22:22)

It is awesome.

Jessie Nowak: (22:23)

Talk about the Portland dance scene a little bit, and how you would describe the current scene of dance in Portland, and what’s fabulous and what you would change.

Kelly Koltiska: (22:38)

I feel like it’s changed a lot since I’ve lived here. I remember when I first moved here, everyone felt sort of isolated. It felt sort of cliquey, and I feel it took me a while to get in and actually get into a community and get to know people and I think there’s been a lot that’s happened the past 10 years that’s been really cool. I think things are continuing to move in a really cool direction where things are continuing to grow and communities are building. Like I said before, I would love to see another major dance company. I think that would be really great for people.

Amelia Logan: (23:23)

I think that Portland has a lot to offer in the dance scene and in the arts in general. Going off of what Kelly said, we discuss this all the time, but we do mutually feel that we just wish that there was more for dancers, especially to perform and to get paid. We do kind of feel like that is missing, and I’ve honestly felt that way for a long time. I have been thinking about this probably, gosh, ever since I graduated from undergrad. I came back to Portland and I was like, there’s something missing. I want dancers to have more places to go. I think with Pathways, we just want to make sure that that’s a very welcoming environment as that grows. I think that it’s all there. We have a lot of really amazing artists and people who are passionate in the community.

Jessie Nowak: (24:40)

I mean, I’m so interested in your perspective as a Portland native, I mean I came to Portland right after undergrad as well, and I’m an Oregon native. But, you’ve been here, you trained here, so you’ve seen. Portland was pretty small when you were younger and first started dancing and it’s grown a lot since then.

Amelia Logan: (25:03)

I think about it and it’s hard for me to describe because I don’t, I don’t think I’ve reflected all the way back through my childhood in the sense of the entire dance community. I don’t know if I would actually have that knowledge from when I was like a kid. But it’s so interesting, because I know so many different communities from my past within the dance community here. I love running into people from my past. Yeah, it’s really cool to see where people are going and how they’re shifting and like the new voices are moving into town. I will also add, there was a really long time going off of what Kelly was saying, where I felt like there was this separation between the modern dance scene and the ballet scene in Portland. And that was when I was, probably in high school and I remember coming out of undergrad and being like, oh, I want to like amalgamate, ballet and modern dance in Portland. Like, this needs to happen. I want there to be a school where ballet and modern dance and all the other genres are together. You know, everything needs to be upheld. Especially now like moving forward, like I think amalgamating all of that together is really important.

Jessie Nowak: (26:40)

I love that.

Kelly Koltiska: (26:40)

That’s why the last Dance Wire show that we did in the summer, that was so cool. So many different styles, and people talking to each other and it was just, it was really cool.

Jessie Nowak: (26:51)

That crossed genre, like you said, like, oh, now I’m talking to Anjali who does Bollywood and Rob, who does Casino. I mean, that’s what makes a community really strong.

Amelia Logan: (27:04)

Meshing all of it together. That’s so important. Oh my gosh. So important.

Jessie Nowak: (27:11)

Before we wrap up, can you both paint a really idealistic picture of the dance scene in Portland in 10 years?

Kelly Koltiska: (27:24)

Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d love to just see more of what I’m already seeing. I feel like I see this big difference from when I first moved here. I mean, people show up for shows, and I would love to see more shows and people showing up more for shows, just more. When I first moved here, I would go to a class and I would be the only one there sometimes. People weren’t going to class. Now you go take a class at Steps and it’s packed, packed. It’s amazing. So I’d love to just continue to see more and more of that stuff. And some of the way funding has been going with Portland for more BIPOC artists. I think that’s really cool too. I would just more of what’s already happening, I think would be really cool.

Amelia Logan: (28:22)

More inclusivity in general. I see that happening everywhere. You know, and it’s so cool. Keeping it growing.

Jessie Nowak: (28:35)

That’s awesome. Yeah, Portland audiences show up don’t they, it’s amazing.

Kelly Koltiska: (28:42)

Somehow, I’m shocked every time. I don’t know. I’m always like, well, look at all these people that showed up for this show! You think I’d be used to it, but I’m still constantly like, cool.

Jessie Nowak: (28:55)

Well, and I’d love to see that, you know. Like you said, just more of the same, more audiences, more donors, more funding dollars into dance. Just more of all of those things.

Kelly Koltiska: (29:09)

All of those things.

Jessie Nowak: (29:13)

Well, thank you so much for coming and talking to me today and for sharing your experience.

Amelia Logan: (29:18)

Thanks, Jessie. Thanks so much.

Jessie Nowak: (29:19)

You are both awesome.

Kelly Koltiska: (29:21)

You’re awesome.