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.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Q & A Session #3

This post is for Daina, Raina, Jessica, Neely and Branae: some answers to questions they posted waay back in September.

1. Daina - I'm not a doctor, and I have no way of actually seeing you do your side splits, so I can't really give you much advice on why your hip is "popping out" when you go into the splits. However, this doesn't sound healthy, and I would recommend that you avoid that position until you've figured out why your hip pops out and what you can do to either strengthen it or increase the flexibility to keep it properly in place. I would advise that you see a medical professional, explain your problem and get some advice from him. If you ever come to Vancouver, the Dancer Transition Resource Centre (or DTRC) runs really good injury prevention and treatment seminars that I have attended and highly recommend. They also have many other amazing services for dancers, check out their website for details.

2. To answer your other question, the worst injury I've ever had from dancing were the chronic overuse injuries that I was working with during university. Because I was dancing so much, and often not doing enough stretching to balance out all the strength training, my muscles became imbalanced and I had a lot of lower leg problems - namely, shinsplints, Plantar Fascitis, and Patellofemoral Syndrome

For Raina and Jessica:

1. One thing that I've gained as a person from my dance training is an appreciation for the process of creating art, as opposed to only focusing on the final product. Yes, it's important for me to create a work that is cohesive and has something to say, and is physically challenging and feels like a complete and cohesive work - but the journey of getting there, of exploring the concept and researching my ideas and experimenting with movement and music and text and props and costuming and set design and lighting and everything else that goes into generating and crafting the final product - that, for me, is where I learn the most about myself as an artist - about where I'm at, my strengths and weaknesses, and what I need to do to move forward and to grow as a dancer, as a choreographer, as a teacher and as a person.

2. To answer your second question - if you want to continue in the dance world, there are many ways of getting started and many paths that you can follow. Working as a choreographer or a dancer or a dance teacher are just a few of the many options. You can also find a place in the dance industry as a dance therapist, arts administrator (dealing with marketing, financing, programming, organizing tours, etc etc), technical director (working in the theatre with lighting and sound)...you can work as a visual artist or musician or storyteller or actor in collboration with a dance company...and those are just the first things that came to my head. The DTRC has a really helpful weekend conference for students and emerging artists, it's called On The Move and is held every year (usually in January) at The Dance Centre in Vancouver, and it deals with all of these questions on how to get started as a dancer. They also have yearly conferences in Montreal and Toronto. For more information, please visit their website.

3. My best experience as a dancer is probably happening right now. I feel like I'm finally being recognized and given credit for all the time and energy that I've put into developing my technique and performance skills and my choreographic voice. And, I'm finally starting to get paid for my work, which feels amazing. It's sad that I had to leave Vancouver in order to find work as a dancer, but it is definitely a reality of working as a dance artist - you will have to travel, like it or not, to find work and to get experience and exposure.

I am definitely enjoying this trip, and will find it difficult to go back to Vancouver and not be dancing every day, and working as a dancer. But, I will be so happy to see my boyfriend and my friends and family again. I miss them all sooo much! And I am also excited to bring everything I've learned here back into my next project with 30Toes, when we start rehearsals in April 2008. I am also hoping to keep working on some of the choreography that I've built here, and to premiere this solo at a venue in Vancouver, possibly Dances for a Small Stage. So I've got a lot to look forward to upon my return, as well.

For Neely and Branae:

1. I was four years old when I started dancing, although I had been in and around dance studios practically since I was born (both of my parents were dancers). I started out with four years of highland dance, and then moved on to jazz and ballet at my mom's studio when I was 8 years old. I continued exploring other styles, training in jazz, ballet, contemporary, musical theatre and character-based work until I was 17 and graduated from highschool moved to Vancouver and enrolled in Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts.

There I trained in ballet (classical and contemporary), modern dance (mostly Graham and Cunningham, with some Limon work in the mix), Alexander release techniques, Laban movement analysis, Bartenieff fundamentals, dance history, and visual/performance arts studies. Since my graduation in 2004, I have been taking professional-level classes at a few locations in Vancouver: CADA contemporary classes at The Dance Centre, ballet, jazz, hip-hop and floor barre at Harbour Dance Centre, and contact improv at EDAM. As I continue my training, I want to focus on diversifying and strengthening my skills in each of these styles.

Photo: Contradiction Dance, on a rehearsal break. (from left, clockwise) Me, Jasmine, Kelly and Damon.

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