Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Searching for Creative Partners

Leadership Team (L to R): Allegra Romita, Artistic Visioning Partner. A. Nia Austin-Edwards, Strategic Visioning Partner. Sydnie L. Mosley, Founding Artistic & Executive Director. 

For the past year, I have been witnessing the fruits of SLMDances' Strategic Planning labors. Our implementation game has been STRONG. *insert biceps emoji* I couldn't be more proud or excited of how far we've come. Still, with the implementation of strategic changes has come other changes that I couldn't have quite predicted.

Many of the dancers who helped shape SLMDances in its prime have moved on to their next level of badassness and sorcery. I mean these bawse women are pursuing MBAs figuring out new models of dance company business, PhDs researching labor of Black women in the concert dance field, developing new somatic practices, in seminary school studying African diasporic spirituality, becoming curators, producing festivals and concerts of their own, touring with other artists, and more. As I wished them well and sent them on their way it didn't occur to me that we were in a time capsule brought together by a series of unique circumstances to form a magical creative partnership.

2014-2015 Company (L ro R): Allegra Romita, Sydnie L. Mosley, Nehemoyia Young, Kimberly Mhoon, Rachel Russel, Candace Thompson, Kayla Hamilton. (Not Pictured: Autumn Scoggan, Katherine Bergstrom) photo credit: FFVisual 2014

As we've held auditions for new dancers - two times in the past year already, and we're gearing up for another - we've struggled to find the words to describe and capture the magic of the role that artists play in this company. Are they just dancers? Are they dancers and teachers? Do we ask them to submit an administrative resume? We're offering a lot of professional development, but we also ask people to read books and essays -- is it more of a fellowship? Do we ask people to pay us to be here? How did previous dancers know to bring ideas, questions and research into the studio? 

From these questions, what rises to the top for us as most important is that we are organizers who are committed to using dance performance and education as a means toward liberation for Black women and girls. In that process, we understand the utmost importance of leadership development of and collaboration with artists - particularly women, particularly women of color, particularly Black women. We are asking a lot from artists, but we also invest a lot in people because we need a strong collective to move this work forward.

As such, we know that we are more than a dance company and we needed to name the role artists take on accordingly. After lots of word play and simmering for some months we landed on Creative Partner, an all encompassing job title that embraces the artists' role as dancer – teacher – organizer – badasses who believe in our core values: Dreaming, Activism, Authenticity, Individuality, Community, and Learning. 

2017-2018 Company (L to R): Jessica Lee, Sydnie L. Mosley, Allegra Romita, A. Nia Austin-Edwards, Maia Bedford, Stephenni Miller-Allen. (Not pictured: Rochelle Wilbun) photo credit: ShocPhoto 2017

Participation in SLMDances’ work as a Creative Partner asks artists to show up and engage in the decision-making in each aspect of SLMDances’ work. Our Creative Partners are resourceful and creative collaborators bringing ideas and research into the dance-making process. They are teaching artists and community facilitators in our education programs that address topics such as gender and economic equity. Lastly and maybe most importantly, they are administrators and organizers working as agents of change, often producing events with community partners. 

Creative Partners are compensated for their time in each aspect of this work as SLMDances believes in investing in whole people. This intentionally crafted approach expands the traditional role of the performer in dance studio rehearsals, and creates space for them to self-actualize lives of their choosing. Through our unique organizational design, these women acquire tools and resources that ripple toward their own organizing work outside of SLMDances that often addresses further intersections of people of color’s experiences. (See: Candace Thompson's Dance Caribbean Collective and Kayla Hamilton's Nearly Sighted.)

There are some logistics that need to be considered. One of my long time goals has been to move our regular class and rehearsal schedule to day time work hours because as we all know, dancing is work. That means this role is only right for someone on the road to figuring out their freelance / consulting / part-time work hustle. (If you haven't, but are willing, we can help with that! Sign up for our evening Professional Development workshop on June 26.)

More than anything, I am looking to work with people who are ready and willing to show up with their whole selves. People for whom this dancing thing, specifically dancing to affect change for the liberation of Black women, is of utmost importance. People who want to do this work in community. People for whom their dancing is the means to their personal liberation and are looking for a home base to tie all of that work together.


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The upcoming SLMDances audition is a part of our summer intensive Professional Development for the People! taking place June 26-29 at Brooklyn Studios for Dance, 210 Lafayette Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11238. Please contact allegra@slmdances.com for any questions about the workshops or audition process. 

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