Each and every day, I lose myself in the immediacy of the moment, find myself in the joy of the movement. Each and every day, I learn more and more...and, within that new knowledge, realize that I have so much farther to travel.

Shallom Johnson is a contemporary dance artist, visual artist and freelance writer based in Vancouver BC. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Contemporary Dance from Simon Fraser University, and has been active in the Vancouver dance community as a choreographer, performer, and instructor since her graduation in 2004.

Shallom is interested in art in public spaces, site-specific performance, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community involvement. Her street-based artwork, performance and photography examines and documents who gets to make art, where it gets made, and where/how the creative process and product is viewed. In the future, she hopes to explore this theme further via new media and technologies, new methods of creation, collaboration and community engagement.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First Week at the Dance Exchange: SEIU Project

Well, I'm finishing up my first week of apprenticeship at the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, in Takoma Park, MD. I've travelled all the way across the continent, from Vancouver, BC, Canada - and I'm finally getting adjusted to the time change, the hectic schedule, and the humidity. I meant to start blogging right away, but I've been so busy this week that I haven't had much of a chance to get my thoughts organized.

So far, my days have been jam-packed with rehearsals (for two different projects - more on that later), co-teaching a few weekly classes, various administrative tasks, and jobs relating to my position as "Community Wrangler" for an upcoming performance.

The core company, adjunct artists, and participating community groups are preparing for a project that culminates this weekend. The performance on Sunday is taking place at the opening ceremonies of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) conference. This important conference happens every four years, and includes union members from all around the country. The SEIU is one of the largest unions in the world, made up of the people who keep our society running - janitors, health care workers, waitresses, home care workers, maids, etc. They are mostly Latino women, and mostly recent immigrants.

During the symposium, the union members will hear speeches from all the Democratic presidential candidates and vote on which candidate they would like to back in the upcoming federal election. In order for the candidates to even attend the conference, each candidate must walk a day in the shoes of one of the union members, to get a taste of what it's like to live farther down on the social ladder. They must also agree to a Q&A session where they will answer any and all questions posed to them by members.

Two weeks ago, the Dance Exchange was invited to perform at the conference. We will be doing three performances. The first (on Sunday) involves external community groups as well as the core company members - Tappers With Attitude, the Dance Place Step Team, SEIU members and volunteers from the community at large, all dancing together. The second and third performances are on Monday, and will only involve the core company and will include some performance, discussion and audience participation activities to keep the delegates engaged in between all of the speechifying and pontificating. The conference will be broadcast on national television - CSPAN will be there to film the whole thing!

My job in all of this? The esteemed "Community Wrangler", I have to be the person on-site who can answer any and all questions - I have to know contact information for everyone involved, know the choreography, know the facility layout, the rehearsal/performance scheduleand anything else that may come up. Sound like a lot of work? It is. We've been packing rehearsals into every spare moment - and with just three more rehearsal periods to go before the show, we'll be going full steam ahead right up until the last minute.

I have to go and warm up for rehearsal, but I'll be back later with more updates, info on the other projects in the works, and some rehearsal pictures!

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