Stephanie Bussell vividly remembers her first kiss, her first death and the first time she knew she could fly. Throughout her five seasons with the Charleston Ballet Theatre (CBT), diverse roles in performances ranging from “The Great Gatsby” and “Don Quixote” to “Camelot” and “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” have allowed the versatile performer to assume various onstage personas and interpret both subtle and extreme emotions through the nuances of dance.
“I feel like movement is the simplest form of expression,” says Bussell, a Michigan native who spent her teenage summers studying in prestigious programs at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C., the Boston Ballet School and the Bolshoi Academy at Vail before graduating from Butler University in Indianapolis.
“I really enjoy the process, the physicality of dance,” she continues. “I’ve always been very connected to that – the ritual, the routine, the rehearsing. I also really love the performance aspect of it. Just being able to transcend the space and really move people, or make people feel the emotions I feel when I’m dancing. I try to give people that feeling of exhilaration by watching someone pushing themselves to the limits of what their body can do.”
Bussell has danced professionally with the Lexington Ballet, Dance Kaleidoscope and Terpsicorps Theater of Dance, and has appeared as a guest artist for a number of companies, including Ballet Internationale, Taylor Ballet Americana and the Georgian National Ballet in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. In Charleston, she also dances and choreographs for Cabaret Kiki – what she describes as a “looser, let-your-hair-down” style of performing that has influenced her interest in choreography.
“It’s one of those things that just makes sense to me, to see movements in music,” says Bussell, whose choreography also has been featured in CBT’s Fountainhead Competition. “I’ve always really loved all kinds of music. I like being able to interpret what I would like to see when I hear something, or take an everyday set of movements and turn them into something completely original.”
The dance artist says her work as a choreographer has refined her perspective as a performer, renewing her appreciation for the countless rehearsal hours that culminate into a palpable energy and exuberance in front of an audience.
“It’s almost like time stops onstage,” says Bussell, pausing to try to give words to an almost surreal sensation. “When everything is right on, and you’re feeling confident, and you’ve gotten past the nervous jitters that we all get, even now – when you get past that, you put yourself into the moment and just forget about everything else. You are completely there and able to enjoy every second of what you’re doing. And then to be able to share it with people in the audience – well, it’s hard to think of a word to even begin to describe that feeling. It’s just a wonderful thing to be able to share.”