In 1981 Scott discovered the pleasure of contact improvisation shortly after becoming obsessed with the struggles of modern dance. He stuck with both and currently directs a company in San Francisco and tours annually to Europe. Wells has created works for skateboarders, boxers and recently choreographed West Side Story. In 2005 Scott received the Izzie for Outstanding Choreography and was selected by Dance Magazine as “one of the 25 To Watch”.
After receiving his MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois, Scott moved to San Francisco and started a dance company with everyone’s favorite dancer, Kathleen Hermesdorf. This first company consisted of fellow graduates form Illinois who decided of make a go of it. The first show had an audience of 15, but hey, Joe Goode came. By that summer the SW&D performed to large houses at Theater Artaud and excited the critics:
“Wells’ movement phrases are uncommonly lush and fluent…His control of the viewer’s eye is masterly beyond his years” David Gere, Oakland Tribune 1992
“We will be hearing alot more from this intelligent choreographer…..Scott wells is a choreographer to watch” Marilyn Tucker, S.F. Chronicle 1992
“Wells has hair split timing and hair raising results. He has been in the Bay Area for barely a year, but judging from the crowd at Theater Artaud, word has gotten around. Scott Wells is a fresh voice and one to be watched” SF BAY GUARDIAN.
“Don’t rent them your house as a rehearsal space. They’re as hard on the furniture as they are on each other.“ SF SENTINEL
Although to some it seemed SW&D was headed straight to the top, the company has hung around San Francisco and made some fine work without becoming world famous or rich (enough). However, Wells has toured to many countries (Turkey, Canada, Germany, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, Holland and Hungary) to teach and perform because of his renown in the world of Contact Improvisation. In 2009 he tought in Germany, Spain and Austria created new works and had a baby in Budapest.
Some of SW&D’s memorable works include:
Rocky vs Baryshnikov
a match not only between two actual boxers and two achingly expressive dancers, but between two visions of masculinity……The extended boxing segments are just as mesmerizing as the liquid dancing,…This is thinking, feeling, sensory-reeling stuff not to be missed.” -Rachel Howard, San Francisco Examiner
“There isn’t a split second when my attention to the action falters or fades…..The rhetorical question is: How can a small, very low budget dance company deliver so much more in terms of choreography and performance than a larger, established, financially stable one? Don’t even bother looking for an answer, just go see Scott Wells and Dancers.” –Aimee Tsao, Dance Insider
“I was born in Long Beach, Long Island, New York but never lived there. My mother was visiting her father who was dying. He (Maury Karp) died in the same hospital a few hours before I was born. (this seems more poetic than sad to me.) I grew up in Florida, Massachusetts, Morocco, Spain, North Dakota, Washington DC before my father retired from the Air Force. My dad’s a Vietnam Vet and the Air Force explains all that moving around. I survived having two older brothers, idolizing the oldest and battling the middle. I went to high school in Orange County and hightailed it out of there as soon as I could. Found my place and my people in Northern California. I’ve been living at the Danceground Keriac studio for 15 years after never living in any house more than 2 years my entire life.
When I was 15 and normally confused I bought a book on yoga and started practicing everyday. I was initiated into transcendental meditation and studied with the Sikhs—that sort of thing. I also got in trouble with the law because of pot and was expelled from school when I was 16. I joined the Liberal religious Youth of the Unitarian Church, lost my virginity the first night at church camp where I also found kindred spirits on the search of self-discovery—hey it was the 70’s. When I was 19 I lived in a monastery for a year. But, there was something lacking. I remember playing basketball one day and felt real joy at the physical play. I moved to Santa Cruz and took classes at the Cabrillo Junior College. One class I took was called Body Awareness. This was a wild (pre-Proposition 13) class where we did gestalt, encountering, catharting moving, bodywork, drawing etc. Roberta also taught a class called Modern Dance. “What’s that” I thought and took it. It was very hard and I loved it. It somehow felt spiritual and brought back the joy I remembered from sports as a child. (When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be a football player.) I started taking 4 and 5 dance classes a day. It was difficult, but I figured anything was possible with practice. When I took my first Contact Improvisation class I discovered a dance form that came naturally to me. (When I was doing yoga years earlier I would get into spontaneous ecstatic rolling in my bedroom which must have helped.) . Now, I make my living teaching and choreographing dance.”