Sitting in her office with issues of “Dance Magazine” dating back to the early 1980s, Amy Yopp Sullivan, the director of the center for dance, movement and somatic learning, prefers to surround herself with constant inspiration. She admits she can’t seem to get rid of any of the dusty magazines, but decided it would be helpful to keep them in stacks in her Stony Brook University office for students to glance through.
Sullivan, with her chin-length brown hair and a black button-up sweater over a grey shirt and black pants, speaks confidently about her dance career at SBU, where she’s been since 1986, but her love for dance goes back years before that.
“The first memory is going out in the backyard and just dancing freestyle at about three-years-old or four-years-old,” she said,
Dancing isn’t about being perfect or being the best for Sullivan. She simply enjoys the act of movement and being able to control and understand her body. She uses dance to, both, really see herself and to truly see the world.
“I started just because I couldn’t help but dance,” Sullivan continued. “It was just who I was. It was how I saw my world.”
Her world since she was a toddler has contained lots of dancing and choreography. Before joining the Stony Brook University faculty 28 years ago, Sullivan earned her dance education degree at the University of North Carolina, close to where she came from.
After her undergraduate career, she went to audition for a dance company in Charlotte, N.C., but after doing so, decided she wanted to receive further education and went on to study theology and philosophy in a graduate program. While some might think her graduate classes and her undergrad have nothing to do with one another, Sullivan thinks otherwise.
“I was really interested in the work of the inner-person when you dance or when you think and what this world is that we have within us,” Sullivan said.
The second grade was when Sullivan’s dancing world really formed. She always loved movement, but it wasn’t until some grand turn of luck when she was younger that she started to dance as a way of life.
“The memory that kind of moved me forward was when I was a young child, in the second grade,” Sullivan said. “I was walking home and found a pair of tap shoes in the garbage can, just at the top of the garbage can, that fit me. I picked them up and started dancing from there.”
Even before she found the tap shoes, she knew she wanted to be active, so she participated in any activity that she could find.
“I was an athlete earlier,” she said. “I raced, swam, ran and varied sports. I played golf when I was in the first grade, bowled, had state championships in bowling when I was just little. But it was always the means of being physical in the world.”
Sullivan believes that being it touch with one’s body and learning all that it can do is extremely important. Having grown up and used her body for many different sports and then going on to make a life out of being a dancer and a dance instructor, she thinks all students should know how to use their body to its fullest potential. This, along with trying to create a dance major at SBU, is one of the goals that Sullivan will continue to work towards.
“I think it’s just as important as reading, just as important as being able to analyze,” Sullivan admits. “It’s this part of education that I’m a real advocate to say it’s necessary for every person. I would love to have a body narratives course for students on this campus. For every single student, like they have to take writing or intro to math.”