Choreographer Meaghan Novoa’s dance journey comes full circle through memory-based movement

Photo Credit:  Cody Jacques courtesy of Bautanzt Here
Wearing a long sleeve red and black jumpsuit with black sneakers, Novoa climbs through the hanging rings of a jungle gym at an outdoor park. Novoa’s right leg is bent against the structure’s vertical pole and their left leg hangs freely in the air, while their arms each hold on to the rings above. Climbing in front of a background of a sunny blue sky and green leafy trees, Novoa has short, dark brown hair and looks down toward the ground while navigating the jungle gym.

March 6, 2024
Volume 5, Issue 2
By: Carson Mason

From choreographing Davidic dances at their synagogue to providing concert contemporary opportunities to local Atlanta dancers today, Newnan, Georgia, native Meaghan Novoa’s (they/she) dance journey is coming full circle.

With classical dance training in ballet, jazz and modern, Novoa’s choreographic journey began when she was a teenager creating Davidic dances, often performed in the round, for the Shabbat holidays.

“I remember some friends at the time were choreographing dances and they had asked me to start helping them once they heard that I had a background in ballet, jazz and modern dance as a kid, so that’s how I got started making dances,” Novoa said in an interview with DanceATL.

After training through American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive and Atlanta Ballet’s open classes, Novoa’s first professional dance opportunity came when she joined Paulo Manso de Sousa’s Southern Arc Dance Theater as a founding member. The company performed repertory works in Newnan, Georgia, and brought works to festivals including Full Radius Dance’s Modern Atlanta Dance Festival

After dancing with Southern Arc Dance Theater and relocating to Atlanta at age 18, Novoa continued dancing professionally with City Gate Dance Theater and Room to Move Dance Company. Their favorite performance experience involved dancing in a circle to live music from the Kronos Quartet at 7 Stages in 2016. The piece, called “Homeward,” reminded Novoa of their Davidic dancing at the synagogue.

Photo Credit: John Ramspott courtesy of Movement Arts Atlanta
Novoa is dancing in the Trolley Barn in Inman Park wearing a pale pink, sheer dress with their arms raised above their head in a V shape. Novoa’s leg is extended into the air at a 45 degree angle in front with a pointed, turned out foot and their standing leg is slightly bent. The room has dark brown flooring, a white and green painted wall and windows.

“The quartet was placed center stage, and it was a very visceral performance experience, being so close to the live music and not having to necessarily adhere to interacting with or facing the audience,” Novoa said. “It just felt very much like an experience that was for us. It was very special.”

In 2018, Novoa moved from Atlanta to pursue professional opportunities in the Pacific Northwest, dancing for companies in Portland, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho. During this period, they began seriously pursuing choreography, inspired by Atlanta choreographers and their fusion of contemporary styles including George Staib, Jennifer Davis, Toi McClendon and Amy Gately.

Novoa uses task-based exercises and memory recall as tools to start improvisational movement for their choreographic work. They described their choreography as an amalgamation of personal experiences influenced by all the dancers and choreographers they’ve worked with. 

Their most vivid example was a piece created for Idaho Dance Theatre in 2021 called “Mishpocha,” meaning family or close people in one’s life. Novoa recalled that piece stemming from childhood memories including Shabbat dinners their mom made.

“I was thinking about very specific instances, those memories and the kind of gestures that would come to mind,” Novoa said. “I would start improvising with my chosen music with these specific tidbits in mind. A piece is not just one or two memories, but an amalgamation of a lot of different times in my life or things that I feel like are relevant to the subject matter.” 

After spending three years in Boise, Idaho, Novoa moved back to Atlanta in the spring of 2022, bringing her dance journey full circle. They credit  the Atlanta dance community for its supportiveness. Novoa’s long-term goal is to establish a 501(c)(3) dance company to provide more consistent performance opportunities to the local dancers she works with today. 

“To be able to tour and share some of the work that we’ve created here with other communities, especially smaller communities in the south, like where I grew up and where I didn’t necessarily get a chance to see a lot of contemporary concert dance, would be awesome,” Novoa said.

Manso de Sousa, who watched Novoa’s choreography in “Art on the Beltline” at the Beltline After Dark Festival in June 2023, enjoyed the innovative movements and expressions that stemmed from personal memories. 

“Dancers depend on muscle memory to work,” Manso de Sousa said in an interview with DanceATL. “It’s really exciting that (Novoa’s) tapping into deeper emotional aspects and who is in their life and making those feelings and expressions come out in movement.” 

Through grants from Arts & Entertainment Atlanta and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Novoa will premiere an immersive full-length contemporary work titled “In This House” on June 14-15 in downtown Atlanta. 

Follow Novoa on Instagram and check their website for upcoming performances. 


Photo Credit: DeAndre Gresham/SlingShots Atlanta
Carson, wearing a bright pink tank with matching jeweled stud earrings, smiles into the camera. Her blonde hair frames her face and falls just below shoulder-length

Carson Mason is an Atlanta-based dancer who grew up dancing competitively in Greensboro, NC before studying contemporary dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Carson has lived in Atlanta for three years and works full-time as a brand social media manager. She is also a substitute dance instructor at Peachtree Dance in Buckhead. A lover of writing and communications, Carson has bylines in several editorial publications including MLB.com, NBA.com, The State Newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, The Lansing State Journal, The Macon Telegraph and more. Carson is thrilled to be more involved in supporting dance in Atlanta as a volunteer on the DanceATL writing committee. 

Read more from Carson:

Moving Our Stories founder Julie B. Johnson collaborates with Atlanta community to educate on participatory dance and embodied memory mapping

Raianna Brown’s Komansé Dance Theater Highlights Social Activism, Artistic Movement

Aryanna Allen’s passion for dance reignites through Emory University program, Atlanta community

Atlanta dancer Umi Iman explores liberation and healing through movement

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