Riley Watts is a multidisciplinary dance artist and producer living in Portland, Maine. He received his early dance training at the Bangor Ballet and Thomas School of Dance in Bangor, Maine, and went on to study at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and The Juilliard School. He has worked primarily with choreographer William Forsythe and The Forsythe Company in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as with Netherlands Dance Theater 2, Bern Ballet, and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.
Since moving back to his home state of Maine from Europe in 2016, Riley has become an passionate advocate for the arts across the state. Riley is the Founder and Creative Director of Portland Dance Month, an arts umbrella which seeks to highlight and support the work of dance artists and arts organizations in Greater Portland in the Fall season. Now in its second year, PDM2019 is partnering with 21 local arts organizations and several independent artists to produce a 7 week calendar of events, comprised of nearly 40+ individual dance events happening all in Southern Maine between October 4 - November 24, 2019. He joined the Advisory Council for Bates Dance Festival, the Board of Directors for Bangor Ballet, and SPACE Gallery as a Dance and Performance Advisor, where he helps curate and produce the Moving in SPACE and COMPANY series.
As a Forsythe dancer, he has toured extensively to major theaters and museums across the USA, Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia, including Brooklyn Academy of Music, LA County Museum of Art, Edinburgh International Festival, Helsinki Festival, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sydney Opera House, Beijing National Theater, and Sadler’s Wells, and has performed for the royal families of Norway, Netherlands, and Japan. In 2015 he was invited to perform alongside iconic dancer Sylvie Guillem on her Life in Progress farewell tour, where he danced William Forsythe’s DUO2015. Riley is a Princess Grace Award winner and was named Contemporary Dancers of the Year 2015 with Brigel Gjoka by the Leonide Massine - Positano Prize, Italy, for their work in Forsythe’s DUO2015. He is currently on tour with Forsythe's world tour, A Quiet Evening of Dance, which was named London's Best Dance Show of 2018 by The Guardian.
In his own work as a performance artist, Riley has created choreography and installations around New England, including 2 Thinking Rooms (Space Gallery), Points Beginning (Bangor Ballet), Thinking Space i (Reciprocity Collaborative @Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Tonight’s Pattern (Bates Dance Festival Gala), Veil i (Doppelganger Dance Collective) and Veil iii (Prometheus Dance). He has been an Artist-in-Residence at Bates Dance Festival, SPACE, Hewnoaks Artist Colony, and will be a 2019-2020 Ellis Beauregard Foundation Studio Artist in Rockland, Maine. His dance work is centered around the mediums of dance improvisation, embodied psychology, video art, and sculpture.
He bases his teaching work on Forsythe improvisation modalities and the exploration of dance psychology. He specializes in facilitating a challenging and rich environment of exploration of embodied consciousness through movement. He is frequently invited to teach and research internationally in arts and academic institutions, festivals, dance companies, and research platforms, most recently as a visiting artist at Bates Dance Festival, Princeton University, Colby College, The Juilliard School, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Boston Conservatory, New Dialect, Paluccaschule (Dresden, Germany), National University of the Arts (Seoul, South Korea), Universidad de San Francisco (Quito, Ecuador), Sydney Dance Company Pre-Professional Year (Sydney, Australia), and STRUT Dance (Perth, Australia).
As an interdisciplinary collaborator, he has published research on entrainment in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, collaborated in research development with brain scientists in the UK, Germany, and Australia, and is the coauthor of a children’s book “Where’s Your Creativity?” with Dr. Aaron Rosen for Tate Publishing, London.