This past July, I had the privilege of setting a new work on some of the intensive students of the Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD). It was a week-long process and I had 10 hours to set a “work-in-progress.” It was such a great experience. The environment that the director, Leymis Bolanos Wilmott, and her company dancers and staff have fostered at SCD was great to be a part of. The week-long intensive included two-morning classes and rehearsals for the students each day. The week was challenging and fun with a strong sense of community, support, positivity, and creativity throughout the process; not to mention so much talent around me. At the end of the week, we presented our work “in-the-round” in SCD’s studio theater. After each piece was performed, the choreographers had the opportunity to receive audience feedback.
For my work, I decided to build on the theme of a solo work I created (STANDING) this past May for Moving Current’s, New Grounds. STANDING is a work that honors Ukraine through the use of street murals, video projection, and dance. The solo work was choreographed based on my perspective and my desire to show support for Ukraine. For this newer section, I focused more on the idea of community and putting ourselves in the shoes of Ukrainians and what they could possibly be feeling, while also expressing support and hope for their country. I also inserted a very poetic voiceover of President Zelensky’s May 8th speech for the United Nation’s Day of Remembrance, a time of remembrance and reconciliation for those who lost their lives during the Second World War.
In the speech, he reflects on the phrase “never again,” stating that “never again” has become a false hope.
It was a learning experience to develop this new section alongside other dancers. During the process, I was able to take feedback and suggestions from Leymis (the SCD director) and the dancers. I had one dancer express some hesitation in being a part of the work, feeling it was a sensitive subject as an outsider. After discussion and clarification that this work was only to show support and hope, she was more at ease. Experiencing her hesitation made me second-guess my place in presenting this piece. However, after showing the work to the audience and going through an “in-the-round” discussion with them, I now know this work has a place. It received a lot of great feedback and a show of appreciation. It is my hope to continue to build on this work in an effort to continue to “STAND” with Ukraine as they face unthinkable acts of violence and invasion within their communities. There is a possibility that this work may be chosen by SCD to be expanded and set on their professional company for their fall production. Fingers crossed that this comes to fruition!