Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Feeling Value

In this post written by SLMDances’ 2015 summer intern Nadia Mbonde, she reflects on her experience working with the company from May through September of this year. Nadia is a junior at Barnard College majoring in Africana Studies.

I was instantly drawn to Sydnie L. Mosley Dances (SLMDances) when I met Sydnie, a Barnard alumna, at the Africana Studies Major open house at Barnard College. I was declaring my major in Africana Studies and Dance and I looked to Sydnie, who had the same major, for guidance. Unsure of how my academic interests would inform my future career, I decided to explore the connection between the arts and business. Arts administration was a new field for me and the unknown sparked my curiosity. So, I eagerly pursued an arts administration internship with SLMDances.

When I joined the company, SLMDances was preparing for the November premiere of Body Business, an interactive production that re-envisions the economic practices of the dance world. It was the perfect opportunity to learn about the business behind dance. While I worked behind the scenes managing the bookkeeping, archives, partners, and marketing, company members in rehearsals addressed issues of how dancers can get paid for meaningful work.

My internship at SLMDances taught me to think in new ways about art-making and community building. Contrary to the romanticized image of the starving artist, Body Business demonstrates how artists can live in abundance and create work in a way that allows them to thrive. I saw this during rehearsals when Jen Abrams from Our Goods came to talk to the dancers about how they can invite the audience into resource sharing. In this process, individuals identify their haves and needs and barter with one another to fill areas of lack with the vast amount of resources shared amongst people in the room. This taught me that there are other measures of value besides money and that we can transform areas of poverty in our lives into places of abundance through interdependent community.

Nadia pictured with SLMDances company members and Kemi Ilesanmi,
Executive Director of The Laundromat Project, after our June 2015
performance at Exponential Finance.

My experience at SLMDances was shaped by my professional curiosities as well as my personal needs. I struggled with illness and a break-up and SLMDances played a role in my healing. Through observing and interacting with the dancers, I learned valuable lessons in sisterhood, friendship, and self-love. Although my stay was brief, everyone made me feel like a valued member of the company. I was blown away by the company culture which encourages community, mentorship, and wellness in both the dancers’ professional and personal lives. I was allowed the space to talk about my struggles during professional development meetings and in response I received advice, words of encouragement, and support from the company members.

I would definitely recommend this internship to anyone who wants to learn how to be a better artist, administrator, and most of all, a better human being. The dancers at SLMDances bring their whole selves to the studio - their quirks, joys, and burdens - and leave stronger, healthier and happier people. My internship gave me the opportunity to do the same.

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