About us

Simply, we are a dance company. But at A House Unbuilt we practice a different kind of dance. We practice social choreography which looks at the fundamental role of embodiment in everyday life, cultural identity, society and politics, the environment, and more. We use different modes of artistic expression like movement, visual art, and social practice to explore these ideas. Our work may end up looking like research, storytelling, writing, drawing, an art installation, a dance, an advocacy action, and at its core it is a plea for greater empathy and civil discourse across individuals and communities. 

Our mission is to listen with the whole body, stewarding the land and place in which it works; 

to create objects, images, performances, and stories that are accessible and relevant beyond traditional art audiences; 

to bring new audiences closer to art by exhibiting and performing informally, in nontraditional venues, and for free; 

to develop and propagate training techniques that bridge fine arts disciplines with broader social structures as well as empower audience and performers to be cocreators; 

to provide mentoring and leadership in the local and national arts communities; 

and to push the place of dialogue-as-the-dance even further into the mix.

A House Unbuilt will carry out its mission without profit and for the benefit of the public.

Artist Statement

As a practitioner and choreographer of contemporary dance, I am always thinking about what the dance can be. I find the social deeply rooted in the work of my choreography, the work of mentorship, the work of being in company with others. This “social choreography” explores the fundamental role of embodiment in everything from a walk down the street to family narrative to climate change. This work straddles the make/think divide, collecting ideas, making meaning, and composing experiences.  Research, performance and activism are tools with which to build the stories that can connect us, rendering objects and artifacts that become the narrators.

Our bodies are immediate, a physical presence with the power to intervene in systems much larger than themselves; they can bring the incomprehensible paradoxes of our times to a human scale. Collecting and storytelling are ways of making more than sense—they are ways to cope with our feelings of isolation and division. They are ways to rewrite the story.

A House Unbuilt began as a story, written in six words. House unbuilt, home broken, evacuate, escape. After the devastating blow of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005, a divorced turned my broken home into both tangible and metaphorical disaster.

My body was the house left standing that I needed to unbuild in order to grapple with these losses, this trauma, being unmoored. Our bodies are themselves a collection of emotions and artifacts that tell the story of our lives. Listening with the body is a radical practice that can open more ears and create greater possibility for civil discourse. 

My work is about the body—the body alone, together, other bodies, the gendered body, the sick body, absent body, violated body, fragmented body, forgotten body, new bodies, that lead to whole bodies, that lead to a bodily foundation for communication, for encounters, for response. 

Meet the Team

Staff, collaborators, board members, et. al.
We do what we love. Here’s who we are, what we do and our social networks. Connect with us.

Victoria Bradford Styrbicki

Founder & Artistic Director

Victoria Bradford Styrbicki (b. 1980) is an interdisciplinary movement artist and embodied storyteller, working in dance, video, social practice, and ethnography. Her upbringing as a Southern female coping with mental disability shapes the lens through which she investigates, creates, and expresses her experiences. As a fragmented body navigating multiple realities, Victoria offers reflections on society, time, and place in its present. Victoria’s practice takes shape through the use of performance, installation, improvisational and somatic techniques, and writing. Her work allows her to make sense of the present by examining it alongside the past in the hopes of creating otherwise possibilities in our nearest future.  [more].

Tom Styrbicki


Tom Styrbicki is a bridge engineer, runner, bicyclist and Minnesota native. Tom serves as the State Design Engineer at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and in this role he supports and encourages the movement of people in every way (motorized and non-motorized) that fulfill their lives. In addition to being a licensed professional engineer with a BA in Environmental Science from the University of Colorado, BS in Civil Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and MS in Structural Engineering from the University of Nebraska, Styrbicki has competed in 20 marathons, 30 relays, and 15 triathlons.

Relay of Voices, Alluvium

Nic King Ruley


Nic King Ruley is a performance artist, educator and coach living and working as a freelance scholar. His body of work encompasses the politicization and performativity of contemporary identity, with his current research focusing on the overlapping strategies involved in steering the performance of athletes and actors. Nic received a BA in Dance/Theater from Antioch College and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts & Media Theory from Columbia College Chicago. He is a USAT certified triathlon coach and a USMS certified masters swim instructor. When he grows up, he wants to be a fireman.

Relay of Voices, Declivity, Do Something Else, When Fear Hits the Body

Jessica Cornish


Jessica Cornish has shown work in China, Hong Kong, India, Berlin, Italy, Amsterdam, Chile, Louisiana, New York City and Chicago. Along with her solo practice, Cornish works with a wide range of collaborators in different disciplines and uses her ever-changing environments as sustenance to create.

Since graduating from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign in 2012, Cornish has been the recipient of awards and residency opportunities such as; Freeman Foundation Theatre Award, Beverly Blossom Talented Student Award, Beverly Blossom Alumni Award, LinkUp Residency, Guest Artist in residence at UIUC, Place Residency in LA, Krannert Center for Performing Arts at the University of Illinois Residency, A Morrison Shearer Fellowship for a residency at Ragdale and was one of 12 dance artists in the Chicago area to participate in New England Foundation of the Art’s Regional Dance Development Initiative.

Skirts, SCA Gala,PLACE, Neighborhood Dances, Running with Scissors, Running begins Elsewhere, Dinner Dance, VM

Hannah Barco


Hannah Barco is an experienced arts administrator with deep faith in artists and a strong conviction for the importance of the artist’s role in society. She brings her expertise in performance art to her careful consideration of how audiences encounter art in all contexts and forms. Currently Associate Curator and Festival Director at Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston, Virginia, Hannah has long been a performance artist, writer, object maker, and facilitator of relational situations; making work with the stuff of everyday life. Barco has performed, displayed and produced her work in Chicago; Boston; New York; Durham, North Carolina; Oakland, California; and Prague. Venues include, in Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Artists Coalition, Sullivan Galleries, Hyde Park Art Center, Defibrillator Gallery and Grace Exhibitions, as well as the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and Mobius Performance Collective. Hannah Barco is Chicago-based artist with roots in Durham, North Carolina. She received her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University in Boston, MA. She earned her MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Learn more about Hannah Barco ’s HATCH exhibition A History-shaped Hole in the Universe.  

Dinner Dance, Running with Scissors

Maya Sosua


Maya Sosua is a printmaker and multi-media performance artist based out of Boulder, Colorado. Sosua’s work visually translates the landscapes she has inhabited, connecting personal experience to rmembered place. She recently recieved her BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL). Sosua also attended Ox-Bow School of Art (Saugatuck, MI) during the summer of 2013, the highlight of her educational and artistic career thus far. 

In Residence

Angela Gronroos


Angela Gronroos is a dance artist and improviser. She was born in Bangkok, Thailand, raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and now resides in Chicago, Illinois. Her training as a performer started in Judo, for which she competed twice at the national level. She later studied modern dance, contact improvisation, and Butoh, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance from Columbia College Chicago.  She currently works with STäD, a group she co-created alongside three other improvisers. STäD is a collective of improvisers consisting of Suzy Grant, Angela Gronroos, Tina Peterzell, and Donnell Williams, whose lives have converged, departed, and overlapped over the past 20 years.

Declivity, When Fear hits the Body, Do Something Else, Water/Ways — Clarksdale

Hellen Ascoli


Hellen Ascoli was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala in 1984. She received her BFA in sculpture from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX (2006) and her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (2012). Ascoli has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, including The Loom Made Me a Weaver, Sol del Rio, Guatemala City, Guatemala (2016); To Weave Blue // A Poem the Weaving, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN (2020); and One Hundred Earths, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH (2021). Her work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Bienal de Arte Paiz, Museo de Correos, Guatemala City, Guatemala (2014, 2018, 2020); My Body is Here, Concepción 41, Antigua, Guatemala (2016); One Stone and the Rain, Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX; and Guatemala from 33,000 km: Contemporary Art 1960-present, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, CA (both 2017). Ascoli teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She currently lives and works in Madison, WI.

In Residence

Lisa Leszczewicz


Lisa Leszczewicz hails from Chicago’s Southside and holds a BA in Dancemaking from Columbia College. She is a founding member of Laboratory Dancers, continuing her dedication to the company through their current collaborations, both near and abroad. She also teaches with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, bringing arts integration and skill-building to several Chicago Public Schools and community organizations. Lisa collaborated with Victoria Bradford/A House Unbuilt on A Relay of Voices: the Great River Run, a journey spanning the length of the Mississippi River. In addition, Lisa is an avid musician and performance artist, creating work as one-half of Night Beasts, as well as a solo series of multimedia vignettes. Alongside the realm of creation and performance, Lisa is completing her prerequisite courses in order to obtain a graduate degree in Community Psychology, which she hopes to interweave with her dance and teaching practices.

Declivity, When Fear hits the Body, Do Something Else, Water/Ways — Clarksdale

Carla Gruby


Carla Gruby is a Chicago-based movement performance artist. They graduated with a BFA in dance from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, and have since been merging their practices of dance and performance art using different mediums and influences from their own every-day experiences in the context of current socio-political climates. Gruby focuses on creating intentional visual images and landscapes that utilize the body. Some of this process can be viewed by their practice called PoorPaintings (some pieces are documented via instagram). They explore work with personas, identity, and systemic social structures, as well as re-purposing and re-contextualizing physical materials. Gruby has been very influenced by Jennifer Monson, and continues to pull ideas from her large-scale projects and environmentally connected dance philosophy. Gruby has recently begun studying for their certification as a Pilates instructor, to further merge their goals of enhancing their teaching and movement studies.

Declivity, When Fear hits the Body, Do Something Else, Water/Ways — Clarksdale

Lia Kohl


Lia Kohl is a cellist, composer, and sound artist based in Chicago.

Her wide-ranging practice includes solo composition and performance, installation, improvisation, and collaboration.

She tours nationally and internationally, working in theater, jazz, rock, and experimental contexts.

Her work centers curiosity and patience, an exploration of the mundane and profound possibilities of sound.

Skirts, Neighborhood Dances, I’d Rather Dance with you than talk with you, Murmurings

Ione Sanders


IONE SANDERS (she/her) is an improvisational dancer, artist and art educator based in Chicago. Pre-pandemic, she attended weekly contact improv jams and led school tours at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Her creative practices center around play, improvisation, and emergence, and range from printmaking and tattooing to improvisational dance and mechanical tinkering.

Declivity, When Fear hits the Body, Water/Ways — Clarksdale

Kara Jefts


Kara Jefts’ work as an archivist is driven by collaboration and experimentation. She combines the roles of art historian and artist, record keeper and content maker, in order to think critically about how to connect archival information with new audiences, maximizing the potential influence of narratives that document experience and change. 

Kara Jefts has worked with collections at institutions including: the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Chicago, IL; The Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, Chicago, IL; The Fashion Resource Center, Chicago, IL; The Albany Public Library, Albany, NY; Neil Hellman Library, The College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY; Union College Permanent Collection, Union College, Schenectady, NY; and Schaffer Library Special Collections, Union College, Schenectady, NY. Kara Jefts founded Studio Archive Services in 2016, offering collections management services to artists and collectors, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Chicago Area Archivists.Kara Jefts is an active swimmer, dancer, and runner. She currently serves as collections manager at the Plattsburgh State Art Museum.

Zack Bailey


Zack Bailey is an accomplished distance runner and contemporary movement artist from Chicago, IL.

Declivity, When Fear hits the Body, Do Something Else, Water/Ways — Clarksdale

Todd Mattei


Todd Mattei has been producing his own music for the last 10 years, playing with Chicago bands like Joan of Arc, Male, and Friend/Enemy. His first release with Felix Onyx was Datasleep, showcasing eclectic electronic experimentation, while his second release, Hold You, offered a more unified sound. Mattei’s music aims to evoke mental and emotional landscapes for listeners. For more information, visit toddmatteiart.com.

Caught up…, Declivity, When Fear hits the Body, Neighborhood Dances

Xinqi Tao


Xinqi (Chelsea) Tao had graduated with bachelor’s degree on Management from University of International Business and Economics at Beijing, and meanwhile she was also a semi-pro hip-hop dancer. Later she pursued her master’s degree on Arts Administration and Policy at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Xinqi’s involvement in hip-hop culture and dance field had greatly influenced her academic research and artistic practice, which primary focused on cross-culture study on hip-hop, contemporary art curating and performance. From 2015 to 2016, supported by the EAGER Grants from The Earl and Brenda Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration in Chicago, Xinqi initiated the collaborative project You Heard Me?: Hip-hop, Identity and Crosscultural Communication on the theme of hip-hop, which had cooperated with Jeff Chang, one of the most influential hip-hop scholars in the U.S, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. During her stay at the U.S., Xinqi was invited to collaborate in several projects as the performer by Chicago artists, including leading performance artists Victoria Bradford and Adam Rose, and since then she had started her performance art work practices.

Neighborhood Dances

Ryan Packard


Ryan Packard is a percussionist, composer and sound artist currently based in Stockholm, SE.  His compositional language is concerned with intimacy, interdependence and sympathetic relationships. His sound installations have been featured at the MCA Chicago, Lumen Project Stockholm, Fuji Textile Week Japan, Graham Foundation, Defibrillator, Hyde Park Arts Center, Galeria Labirynt, High Concept Labs, Constellation Chicago, Norberg Festival and Experimental Sound Studio. He has collaborated with artists like Nelly Agassi, Dave Rempis, Ben LaMar Gay, Brandon Lopez, Okkyung Lee, Will Guthrie, Nate Wooley, Peter Ablinger, Julio Estrada, Annea Lockwood, Magnus Granberg, John McCowen, Seth Parker Woods among many others. He’s a member of the new music ensemble, Fonema Consort and has performed with Ensemble Dal Niente, Norrlandsoperan, Ensemble Nist Nah, Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society, tya ensemble, MOCREP, a.pe.ri.od.ic ensemble, NYC experimental rock group Skeleton$ and Architek Percussion Quartet. Some of his current projects are Kommun, Kyosaku, ZRL and the Chicago minimal free jazz quartet, RedGreenBlue. He has released on American Dreams Records, Astral Spirits, Dinzu Artefacts, Thanatosis, Insub, Fönstret Edition Festival Records, Shinkoyo, Amalgam and No Index. Ryan has a masters of music from McGill University and bachelor of music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Neighborhood Dances

Aurora Tabar


Aurora Tabar is a performing artist, occupational therapist, and multi-tasking mom. Her professional and creative practices examine the process of healing and the potential for transformation. Most recently Aurora had the pleasure of collaborating with members of WATCHTOWER (Rosé Hernandez, Ginger Krebs, Bryan Saner, and Sara Zalek) during a residency at Roman Susan Gallery. Aurora has presented solo and collaborative performances across Chicago including at Elastic Arts Foundation, Prop Theater, Links Hall, and High Concept Laboratories. As a special educator, Aurora is committed to inclusion and helping students build functional skills that they can carry into the future. She lives on the west side of Chicago with her partner, two adorable kiddos, and a cohort of cats.

Neighborhood Dances

John Bradford

Board Member

James Pike

Board Member

Lauren Moore

Board Member

Tracy LeMieux

Board Member

Dinah Bradford

Business Manager

Support the work…

Join in the effort of listening and building the conversation. Please consider contributing to A House Unbuilt to help us continue our mission, or just be in touch and participate where you can. We’d love to hear from you!