Tribute to Angela Risi: 'She was an intensely beautiful and generous artist'

letters to the editor

I first met Angela at the Duke MFA in Dance orientation at the Rubenstein Arts Center during the fall of 2022. Angela arrived in a fantastic outfit, looking effortlessly cool (as I would come to know was one of her specialties), and I was struck by her apparent uniqueness
and immensely interesting additions to our group conversations. I realized almost instantly how infectiously energetic she was, and that we would all benefit from her evident brilliance in the dance department. 

As time passed, I got to know Angela through courses at Duke and also through our time together outside of school. Angela and I are both part of the queer community, and I think we felt a camaraderie, maybe even a shared responsibility toward each other, when we met. I remember her texting me immediately after she arrived in Durham and asking where she could find some more of us, so I told her about some local spaces I knew of. Angela seemed to be on a mission of community-building because, wow, did she make a lot of friends — and
fast. It was mesmerizing. 

The first time we hung out — just the two of us — Angela had invited me to her home. When I got there, I asked if she wanted to talk about the program or if she wanted to talk about other things. We agreed to talk about other things, and Angela quickly decided to give me
a tour of her house. She spent the most time pointing out precious possessions, and in particular, her collection of artwork and ephemera gifted to her by loved ones. It was clear to me then how fiercely she loved those around her. 

The first time I ever saw Angela dance at length was in our Movement Research course for an assignment that required each of us to dance for an entire hour, taking turns each week. When Angela’s turn came around, she seemed calm even in the face of this daunting task. As
she moved, she was feeling, touch and texture embodied. She was strong and soft at the same time — a balance that is difficult to strike, yet she did it with ease. I can still remember exactly how she looked that day and her repetitions of specific movements, which demanded my full attention. Her movement made me want to really know her.

Angela’s passing is overwhelmingly painful. No one will be able to fill space in the particular and beautiful way that she did. Angela begged us all to see the value in community. Specifically, she reminded me personally of the value in queer community and nudged me out of bouts of self-isolation. For that, I am eternally grateful. She was an intensely beautiful and generous artist, and since her passing, I can’t stop thinking about her voice and how it sounded.

Leo Ryan is an MFA in Dance alumnx ('23).


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