Saturday, December 08, 2012

"Diane" Press & Dream Team

The show is open!!  Which means today I showered, ate a real breakfast, and peaked at the stack of mail and emails from the week.  Phew!

NEXT NW features six new works, of which my new work in progress, "Diane" is one.  I got to chat with Michael Van Baker from the Sunbreak about it and and he wrote up this sweet preview.

"This Weekend, Velocity Has Got Next"

 Since the program space is limited, I wanted to share more text!  Especially more about these dreamy performers and collaborators:

Title: "Diane"
Choreography: Shannon Stewart
Music: Jeff Huston, Mozart (Arvo Pärt), John Niekrasz
Sound Design: Adam Sekuler
Performers: Meredith Horiuchi, Raja Kelly, Mary Margaret Moore, Adam Sekuler, Shannon Stewart, Jan Trumbauer, Rosa Vissers.


Shannon Stewart is a dance artist with a proclivity for the enigmatic, dark, nuanced, delicate, comedic, durational and cinematic elements of dance. She creates work under the moniker THE REAL SHANNON STEWART, co-directs dance films with Adam Sekuler, dances for Salt Horse locally, and just finished a season with tEETh. She is currently working on a new body of work entitled DAVID AND DEBORAH, investigating the role of influence and inspiration by working with material from iconic filmmaker David Lynch and adapting a solo taught to her by influential post-modern choreographer Deborah Hay.   Velocity is at the center of her work and she is honored to have been a 2012 Creative Resident, to be part of Velocity's Next NW, and to tour her recent evening length work through SCUBA National Touring Network for Dance in 2013.

John Niekrasz (composer/drummer) is a drummer, composer, teacher, and writer living in Chicago.  He received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, studied percussion in Cuba and classical Hindustani Tabla in India.  John strives to bridge the musico-poetic divide through text-based composition and syllabic musical notation.  His work struggles with such spectra as poverty and ornament, rigor and effortlessness, justice and militancy.  In addition to drumming in ensembles Why I Must Be Careful, Thicket, and Sporting, John has collaborated and performed with Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nate Wooley, John Butcher, John Wiese, Wally Shoup, John Gruntfest, Doug Theriault, Mika Singh, Shamsher Mehndi, Thollem McDonas, Akron/Family, Sally Timms, Neal Morgan, and Tatsuya Nakatani.

Originally from Alabama, kt shores is a dance artist, yoga teacher, martial artist, and mom based in Seattle, WA. Exploring the obscure via everyday existence, sculpture, film, and performance art - kt has studied and performed across North America, Europe, and India, and has taught various movement modalities for over 16 years. 

 Jan Trumbauer (performer) writes, creates images and plays with movement. She grounds her work in a sense of place and a sensitivity to texture, often collaborating closely with musicians, visual artists, and other writers and dancers. She is committed to the practice of improvisation.
Jan performed as the lead improvising soloist in Apparitions, a contemporary dance film directed by Nusha Martynuk that was a selection at the DMJ International Video Dance Festival in Japan. She has taken an interest in exploring intersections between writing and movement both in performance and on the page, most recently as assistant editor of Encounters with Contact Improvisation, a special edition of Contact Quarterly about contact improvisation in institutions of higher education, and as co-editor of Stance: Journal of Choreographic Culture, produced by Velocity Dance Center. Jan graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Dance and the Helen M. Ward Memorial Award for Excellence in Theater and Dance. She was co-founder and co-artistic director of In Noon Dance from 2010-2012.

Rosa Vissers (Performer) NL is an international dance artist, educator and advocate. For the past 10 years she has performed in Europe and the US with companies/artists such as De Meekers, Olga Pona, Elshout/Händeler, Marissa Rae Niederhauser, KT Niehoff, zoe|juniper, Jessica Jobaris and most recently with Shannon Stewart. Her own work has been performed in the Netherlands, Hungary, Utah, Idaho, Chicago, NYC, Portland and at venues in and around Seattle. She is currently working on her first dance for camera film, Pull, funded by 4Culture. Rosa holds an MFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah and completed conservatory dance training at ArtEZ in the Netherlands and the Budapest Tanciskola in Hungary.

More on their way!

What's NEXT: New Work, New Film and Classes

See my latest newsletter here!

Monday, November 26, 2012

This would have been the end but it's just the beginning

I'm almost through my third month of the practice of the solo "Dynamic" by Deborah Hay.  In years past, SPCP participants had to practice solos everyday for three months, but on our last day in Scotland, while handing out contracts, Deborah informed us that it would be 9 months for us. I'm keeping a daily record in an album on Facebook, with little notes and rehearsal dedications to the 82 people that are supporting this process.

I think I will approach my rehearsals during this last week in November as if I were finishing just to see how it feels.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rear Window | City Arts Festival Reflections

Here are some notes I wrote in the immediate aftermath of being installed in a storefront window (5' x 15') for seven hours with Jody Keuhner while Adam Sekuler was simultaneously installed in another window making a film.  The idea was for us all to "perform" the creative process, or put in in a fish tank rather.  We had no agenda except to learn about and document our rehearsal process and filmmaking process.  We were fed material from a steady stream of crowd-sourced videos, audio and photos documenting the "mundane, " the every day. 
Now the notes:

-Time cut offs force you to make crucial decisions

-Videos and photographs require a lot of distilling to get something meaningful and readable in the body.

-Why work with the mundane?  To create something mundane?  To see the mundane as extraordinary?

-What does collage look like in dance?  Is it possible with one body?

-Is it possible to to be in the process of making something without an agenda?



1. “Wasting Time”

2. I need these gadgets, even if they are crutches.

3. What are we looking at?  What are we looking for?

4. NOW IT MEANS SOMETHING – How documentation creates the opportunity to read more into something than it has undocumented.

5. Rigor, Interrupting yourself, breaking the rules, sticking with it

How do I mesh the desire to dance around with the commitment to make thoroughly considered work--to go somewhere with a concept or material in my body that may or not look like “dance,” all the while still really loving and wanting to just fucking dance.   The answer in another question. . . Why does watching “just fucking dance” bore me so? Okay, that is definitely NOT always the case.  I love the masters.  I do love straight up codified modern dance. . . but generally from the 40s-60s.

7. Is it possible to remove the performance of “being watched?”


9. This is no time to be a wimp/safe/think too hard/do to much/try to prove something aka
If we had to walk into a theater right now, what would we perform?


Here is what Jody and I made in our performance of a rehearsal:
If we were ever to perform this part of the performance again, it would have to be in a 5 x 15 foot glass box.

Here is part of Adam's performance of filmmaking:

Friday, October 19, 2012

all we need is a little bit of time, a little bit of space and YOUR material.

Saturday, Oct 20th 10am-5pm (Seattle, USA)


Rear Window is a seven-hour live dance and filmmaking project I'm undertaking tomorrow with dance artist Jody Kuehner and filmmaker Adam Sekuler, digesting and distorting ordinary images, sounds, and video crowd sourced from City Arts patrons, artists, and peers all over the world. 

We have a particular interest in the beautifully mundane or maybe not so beautiful everyday realities.  This could be taking out the trash, clipping your nails, watching a leaf blow by, working at your job, doing your daily artistic practice.

Can you appreciate something you don't always appreciate by being asked to document and share it? 

We will be installed in the City Arts Culture Club for the day making something from your material.  
 We are coming with no plans.  Just a couple wigs, funny coats, and notebooks from every composition workshop I have ever taken and can find notes for to be our guide.   

The film will screen in the front window of the Culture Club tomorrow and elsewhere in the future.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Croutons make me hungry. Saying we’re “Honoring Women” instead of we’re “calling out” or “ending sexism” makes me angry. I’m tired of both of these things

I sat inside on the computer for almost the entire day today.  I thought I would go to the gym before heading down to SAM’s private opening of Elle but as I headed out the door with backpack of sweats and water bottle, I reneged.   My vision of mounting myself onto one of the 100 elliptical machines under the weird blueish-white light, flashing cable TV in the ice blast of too much AC clashed with my idea of feminist preparations.  I mean, I guess that is the surface of what I was thinking.  I actually feel totally ambivalent about the gym at this point.  Underneath it all, I was worried about getting hungry during our 45-minute performance of “no.”

So I walked down to SAM, feeling the gravity of downhill glide my legs down Pike into the sunset on Puget Sound.  I navigated through canvassers in the downtown shopping district. 

Do you have a few minutes to . . . .? 


I thought, is the problem that canvassing is the worst job ever and shouldn’t be part of our political system or is it that I need to get over my problem with stopping to engage with a stranger on the street and thinking my time is more precious than everyone else’s?  And thus the issue of “no” is raised for me.

No always makes me question myself.  Should I be saying no?  Why am I saying no?  What am I helping/hurting by saying no? Do I mean no?   Is saying no privileged?  Is it empowering?  Does it protect me?
I enter SAM and immediately feel a tiny sense of dread.  This concept and performance is inspiring to me.  The artists involved are completely compelling but I feel a sense of disempowerment creeping in as we begin our performance of “no.” 

There are many beautiful silly moments.  I find relief in laughing the word no.   In partnering with Syniva in a supportive hands-on “no.”  In stepping away slightly and turning my back to feel the chorus of “nos” like a structure I can rest upon as I release myself from the task.  I’m aware of my class, my race, my age, my status as artist, the place in feminism I’m locating myself in in this act of separation and rebellion.  I wonder what the “nos” would feel like if our group included some of the trophy wives, museum employees, caterers, and men.  I wonder if I'm just bad at saying no.  After another while of performing “no” I step over to the window and look down and see a man pushing another disheveled man in a wheelchair past the museum.  I turn and watch the group of women from behind and then see Mimi stand in front and wave her arms.  It’s over.
Mimi hands us all little packets of croutons to take into the galleries to crunch when we “encounter a work that provokes” us.  The whole time I’m holding the packet, I keep having the urge to tear it open and eat the crouton and realize that there is something about the content and scarcity of a crouton that makes me uncontrollably hungry.

More musings of the no no girls can be found here.

More info on the Elles exhibit is here.


send photos of "no" to me anytime

shannonkstewart at gmail dot com

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

w h y d o y o u t e c h n i q u e ?

It's just a question.   

Why do you do it?  Why don't you do it?  What does it mean to you? 

okay, it's a series of questions.

what is it preparing your for?  

(small pause as I get up and do my physical therapy exercises, oh simple repetitive motion. . .  is this good for me?)

what is it bringing you into? taking you away from? 

why do you need a teacher?  why do you need other bodies? 

what does the mirror do?

share thoughts, ideas, knowledge for me to post:

shannonkstewart at gmail dot com 

or in the Face Space


Sunday, September 16, 2012


Body Dynamo with Shannon Stewart 

Sep 21, 28, & Oct 5 | 9:30 - 11:15

$15 Drop - In

Body Dynamo is a drop-in class for three Fridays ONLY geared towards exploring full-bodied physicality through guided improvisation that includes technical exercises, phrasing, basic partner work, and spontaneous composition.  Because this class is not a standard ongoing class, the format will be structured more like a workshop or master class where I will focus on the tools I use in my solo and group work for rehearsal warm ups, composing, and performing.

 Body Dynamo is open to experienced movers with an interest in mind/body rigor and a desire to share a supportive and productive artistic workspace with others.  We focus on cultivating a rich inner dialogue, a hyper full-bodied awareness and ability to not take ourselves too seriously.

Influences: Counter Technique (Anouk Van Dijk), Release Technique, Gyrokinesis®, various somatic practices and guided improvisation tools, and a love for good playlists.

9 - 10am | $12

Developed by a professional dancer for dancers seeking long and healthy careers, Gyrokinesis is a movement system that has since been adapted for movers of all ages and levels.  Gyrokinesis deepens our understanding of core strength to include qualities of suppleness, length and expansion. In this class, we will move through the fundamental exercises of Gyrokinesis--including the seven natural elements of spinal movement while also addressing all other joint articulations and ongoing deep abdominal engagement.  This class serves as a great warm up for ballet or a rehearsal, can act as a beneficial supplement to yoga and other athletic endeavors, and just a good way to start your weekend.   It is helpful to bring a mat or something soft to use as padding for work on the floor.


Saturday, September 15, 2012


Photos by Laurence  Nguyen - Monnot

I need the lab.  What if relationship is everywhere? You don't have to look for it.  You don't have to create it.   This is not a seduction, it is a courtship.

Round 2 of the solos is completely different.  Deborah's feedback oscillates between overwhelming and non-existent.  Something is happening.  Inside, the feeling of attempting and failing continues.  On the outside, the performances have changed.  This is not a group of dancers acting like they can't dance.  Each solo has elements of sheer magic and inconsequential failure. 

I continue to lose touch with my old friend comic movement.    I’m getting so bored of these old friends. . .it’s like they are underdeveloped children that I parade out and exploit for my own benefit.  You know exploitation, the old trick of trying to get more out of something that what you put into it.

That is why when Deborah says things like, it is a catastrophic loss of behavior to not get caught up in wanting to achieve something, or it’s absolutely anti-establishment, she is right.  

We have a bonfire and sing ridiculous songs.  Ana Rocha keeps encouraging me to come sit with her and ‘bring a bottle.”  They start to accumulate behind us.  At some point the hokey pokey (hokey cokey?) is sung and deborah has disappeared.  I end up at the sea for my second time.  I have only been there at night.  There is a waning blue moon.  I go to sleep late and wake up at 5:43 with sand in my ears.  I sit up in bed and practice “dynamic” in a delirious state as the blanket of blue light is gradually brightening.

* * * 

Solos and group practices are continuing.  We have many great talks but also the need to talk is diminishing.  Deborah is making changes to the choreography.  Now we are to enter the stage with our mouth full of food.  This I really love.

One evening Karl from Body Surf performs I Think Not for us.  It’s the first time Deborah has seen it since she taught it to him.  A perfect circle of chairs set on a line of chalk awaits as Miguel, Aura and I slip in to fill the last ones a little late.  An old suitcase is in the middle and Karl is sitting on a table in the back of the room.  There is a real and synthetic feeling of dusk in the hall, an electric dusk that almost makes the air buzz.  He walks to the edge of the circle, opens his palms to us and says, it’s just a costume.  The pleasure of knowing how the choreography works but not knowing his score is like a drug and everyone is transfixed. It’s the first performance we have seen since being in SPCP where we aren’t thinking about the sequence. 

He circumscribes the space, occasionally springing out of his course to cut parallel lines through the circle.  I feel like each audience member is part of an inventory that is being kept as he passes near to them. At a certain point when he enters the middle of the circle and puts his hand on the suitcase.  My throat tightens and I think about my dad. Then he says him mom’s name and ‘my mother’ (or my mum? I can’t remember) eventually following it with his father’s.  I doesn't feel psychic or telepathic, just like the adaptation had been arranged in such a way that everyone might have had a similar thought at the same time.  Maybe it's the suitcase, that it's owner is clearly not with us, that it has to be inherited or deliberately left behind. The feeling of dusk thickens.  Deborah is a statue.  He pulls off a rain parka to reveal another one.  He comically covers his head with the second and reveals, “It wasn’t me” written on the front of his torso in large black letters.  His hands come together overhead, persecuted.  The shed costume becomes another body in the space, a dormant identity intermittently attended to.  Eventually the pieces are absurdly reaffixed to his body and he exits. 

We go back to Deborah’s “villa” to make revisions to the score.  It’s another moment where I’m feeling this historical significance.  I’m appreciating each person immensely (both the ones there and not there for this session)—so distinctly and uniquely clear in their way of thinking, of working collaboratively, of solving puzzles and respecting the integrity of the work.  As I leave, I want to go hang out with Miguel (Miguel!) but the lack of sleep ahs caught up with me and I’m in bed where we end up Facebook chatting while about 50 meters apart.  We are in an eco-village.  But it is 2012. 

* * *

At the end of the second to last day, it’s my second and final turn and we decide to change the orientation from being in the round to being more proscenium-like. I’m excited about the change until I enter (like a duck) and feel audience!! I'm really grappling with who I know as shannon the performer vs whom i've been in our group practices.  It feels comfortable and familiar but like the timing is terribly wrong. Comic movement does not go well.  Ack.  Camille and Cinira had such a amazing success with this that I eventually relinquish my attempts and settle into singing the sea.  Then it’s over.  I don’t feel so great.  Deborah gives me notes and says, “you didn’t cop out.”

A few minutes later I’m walking to the beach and feeling so sentimental about these people.  We have just one more day. 

Here is what I wrote down from our last circle

  • I need the lab to turn what I’m doing into a mystery to myself
  • no hesitation, and suddenly I’m in a place I don’t know
  • the art of solo is relationship
  • step up, opens the gap
  • notice, perform, and surrender
  • the moment, this dance, never to occur again
  • I’m not receiving this dance, I’m participating in it
  • I’m learning how to balance using the tools
  • ‘seduction vs. courtship has kept me very busy’
  • Deborah says, For the record, this is the worst altar we have ever had.

On the opposing page in my notebook, all by itself, it says


SPCP 2012 Part III: The continuity of your discontinuity

The morning of Day 3 we were working with composing an exit using the question,  what if my will is my destiny?  and I was emotional again.  I couldn't dis-attach from the way the questions of the practice felt in the context of everything else in life.  I had spoken with my dad the night before trying to keep the conversation light and hopeful, as always.  I talked about the scenery, how the coast reminded me of the olympic peninsula, one of his favorite places.  It's not what you are doing, it's how you are perceiving, dad, I wanted to say to him gently.  Can you perceive yourself and the space around you with a soft, full-bodied trust?  What if alignment is everywhere?

We were gradually breaking up into smaller and smaller groups to perform, "Dynamic." I was really struggling with the work.  Somehow, having some level of confidence with performing amounts to absolutely nothing in this practice. Ultimately, perhaps the idea that you need confidence is replaced with the necessity of maintaining curiosity and a kind of faith that your listening and learning from your body is the most important element of performance and even the most interesting to witness.  In our discussion about the process of adapting the solo, Karl (who has done SPCP twice) mentioned that he knew he was ready to perform it when he had let go of ambition.  This, I wrote down in the middle of a page in my notebook and underlined "ambition."

Antonija  and I spoke of our sense of humiliation in performing and when deborah wrote 20 numbers on the large white pad of paper for us to fill in our names for the order of our first solo practice of "dynamic," we both waited.  #2 and #17 were left.  I stalled again and so I was second.

More on not following your bliss. . . Deborah has identified three stages of working with her practice:

1. The continuity of your continuity -- your identity, behavior, gender, all the ways we've been choreographed

2. The discontinuity of your continuity - (my interpretation) the attempt to intentionally interrupt your continuity

3.  The continuity of your discontinuity - (my interpretation) a point in the practice where you aren't consciously thinking about movement patterns, fixating, trying to create, trying to achieve etc.  you have more of a feeling.

She said - you will fail.  it's impossible.  isn't that a relief?

We pulled the chairs out and spaced them evenly about the edge of the pentagon floor.  Detta broke the ice on performing the solos with her idiosyncratic precision and changes of focus that felt profound.    I went next and felt surprisingly good about it.  I realized later that there were a lot of old laurels of improvised performance I was resting on -- using my schtick, really making some good moments happen, allowing myself to comment on myself.  These things are clearly not a part of the practice.  It's like what my yoga teacher says about people doing asanas but not breathing  -- it's not that it's bad or that its nothing, it's just not yoga." 

At #2, it was easy to feel falsely accomplished because Deborah's feedback and changes accumulated over time.

--really laugh at yourself, but don't laugh out loud
--i can see the circle.  i shouldn't be able to see the circle (this was a piece for me actually)
--don't let the duck bleed into comic movement
--zigzagging doesn't have to stay in one place
--add intermittent pauses in the song
--be smart about time but don't give your timing away

and on and on

Miguel took it all on for us as he lusciously closed out the first round of solos.  Then we were in round 2. 

SPCP 2012 Part II: dy NAM ic muther fucker

This was the subject heading of an email from Amelia Reeber in my inbox when I woke up the next morning in response to an email I had sent about the first day.  Yeah.  Take that.  You better fucking believe it.  Rah Rah Rah. Dynamic!  Beautiful song be damned! Rah!

I went early to the hall and did a yoga practice.  Rah! (did I mention that was about 10 meters away from where I slept?)

We did a practice then continued to learn the choreography, stopping many times to look at things more closely.  Man, did I think I had a handle on comic movement without being funny.  This was my jam until it wasn’t 4 times later.  I think we ended the day (fittingly) with an unpretentious march off stage.  Dum dum da dum dum.

Also, that day we added a practice with music and Deborah surprised us with PJ Harvey, Catpower, the XX, Sufjan. 

Remember to turn your fucking head

This is a newer mantra in her toolbox.  She said she watched video of herself and was mortified at its fixed frontal position.  What if front is everywhere? She cited the people that brought this into her practice but didn’t mention Merce.  Maybe he arrived at it later.  Which reminds me. . .

I believe that was the day of her first history lesson where she shared a bit about how she came to and developed this practice.  We gathered in a circle.  I thought I would tell you a little bit about where this came from, she said and the magnitude of the history we were taking part of became real.  Deborah Hay herself explaining the course of her radical dance pioneering.  These things I had read, but now we were having the real human experience of it. How she got to be an understudy and then ended up performing Story and Eon with the Cunningham Company and how terrible she felt afterward.  She had terrible stage fright. She was doing performances at Judson before she really knew what she was doing and eventually moved to Vermont and lived in a tent in a barn and dreaming up a way of working with the cellular body.  She was in the process of trying to survive.  She stopped performing and started making large group pieces for non-dancers.  Eventually she took away the audience as well.  She felt some need to remove all these elements (herself as a performer, traditional training, and audience) in order to cultivate a new understanding of performance that she could find endless possibility within.

At the end of the day, I found that anxiety was mounting for me.   Is the only way you can actually get anywhere with this practice by turning your life over to it?  Or more specifically, by turning your dancing over to it? Is there anyway you can just have it be a part of a whole, not give it 100%? Maybe I didn’t fully realize what I was getting into.  This was an nervous rant I had at dinner with Miguel and Matthias that night and then the next day she said, it’s a presumption, not a belief and things began to flow again. 

My next big block was, it’s not what you are doing its how you are perceiving.  How are you perceiving?  How am I perceiving?  I would say this over and over and over answers jumping into my head (with my eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, nerves, softly, fluidly, while jumping, while lying down, etc, etc).  The time between perception and dis-attaching was long enough to formulate sentences and answers.  This is not the point. 

Quote of the day:  I’m asking you not to follow you bliss.  I’m sorry.


[Intro/Disclaimer: this is a little recap of my experience in Deborah Hay’s SPCP 2012 wherein I was one of 20 dancers that learned the solo “Dynamic.” It’s for myself, for patrons of the solo, for other “dynamic” practitioners whom I hope are writing their own accounts, for those interested in her work and I’m sorry that it reads a little bit like, dear diary. . .  but I’m out of practice with writing.  It may at times sound like insider jargon.  Again, my apologies.  To the one random stranger who reads this, feel free to get in touch if you want more info.]

w h a t   y o u   t h i n k   y o u   n e e d

I’m already skipping parts:  the taking seven kinds of transportation to get there, the turbulence that almost made me vomit coming into Scotland, the breathtaking bus ride, welcome night at the pub, the first night of quiet deep sleep. Advance, advance, advance.

We meet at Universal Hall (I manage to get a little lost on my way of course which seems impossible in retrospect) and begin a tour of the village, given to us by someone named Ian that I immediately felt I knew from studying Community and Environmental Planning at UW.  But no, he was an American or Canadian about my age with the same sort of obscure background.   Familiar just because.

It’s raining lightly and fellow participants open umbrellas for one another to stand under.  I think, I’m from the Northwest, but am so happy about this gesture and the huddling together with strangers on the same path. We step into the singing sanctuary made of stone that is evolving over years by hand and Deborah asks us to sing a little song and try to find unison.  We land on a note sort of like ohm and she laughs, that was just one note, not really a song. 

I think I laughed nervously. The work of opening up the barriers, the tension and the anxiety, the letting go of whatever crap that has gathered in the center of my throat and voice has begun.

To more imagined than actual chagrin, Ian informs us that the hot tub is out of commission because the whiskey barrel construction is faltering and being replaced.   We run out of time before I get to ask about the Living Machine, the complex system of organisms that eat the village waste.  I owe it to CEP nerds everywhere.

* * *

Left up, right down.  Get what you need or think you need.  The length of time varies and then Grass-ee-us followed by a hand squeeze.   

The opening circle is simple.  Our name and where we are from.  I'm speaking too slowly and deliberately sort of like I don't know if anyone will understand me. I’m from see-at-tul in the you-n-eye-tud states.

Deborah asks us to share something truly unique about ourselves. Blankness.  She says that she always looks at the clock at a certain time. Asher says he kind of is annoyed by his belief in astrology. Detta says she has strange lumps on her feet. Aura that her whole family is dancers. I can’t think of anything at all (I’m a tiny bit blind in my left eye?) Miguel says with seriousness that he can see people as they were as children.  Antonija says she worked in a gold mine in the Yukon.  Little mythologies formulate in my mind.  These people are truly magical. Maria doesn’t need an alarm clock to wake up. Matthius was in the airport with David Hasselhoff. I get bloody noses frequently, I say.  Deborah follows up to say that the last person who said that also had a tail.  A real hair tail.  Now that’s unique. 

Sometime during this inaugural day the administrators and partners orient us.  There are so many!  It takes so much to make this happen! (Shout outs to Independent Dance in London, Bodysurf Scotland).  As Deborah introduces them and hands it off to the organizers she dedicates SPCP to Gil Clarke.  There is a long pause and the air gets heavy.  I don’t know that much about this woman except that was integral to this gathering and she passed away in November (I was later filled in by Becky, the filmmaker* at SPCP, that Gil was the co-founder with Fiona Millward of Indenpendent Dance).  She is a stranger to most of us but her absence is felt.  It’s like the breath emptied out of everyone and also the room and it’s very still. I’m surprised that even my eyes blur momentarily.

Then we get logistics.  Some warnings about wandering into the dunes and getting lost (did I mention we are on a Bay and by the Sea?!). Reminders about planning our departures, eating, doing kitchen patrol/party duty (fuck, sorry).

As Fiona is greeting us she smiles warmly and continuously.  Then she and Iris from ID hand us the written choreography for “Dynamic.”

Deborah begins, I thought we could read this through. I mean, just for the record, this is the worst title I have ever had for a piece.  It was called A Figure A Sea originally and then one day. . . She goes on to tell us how she discovered dynamic.  We joke about different ways to say it--kind of dramatically, like you have botox, etc--and a week later decide to officially add the turning of the fucking head to the title (more later).

We read through the choreography and I’m psyched.  Anticipating. Already practicing. Thinking I somehow have already grasped it.

We break for lunch—a spectrum of greens and purples splayed out in oversized bowls and casserole dishes.  I’m taken back to Green Gulch in Marin just north of San Francisco.  I’m immediately comfortable.  I know that there will be a separate table for butter, soy sauce, and maybe even yeast flakes (no, but peanuts and seeds!).  I know to look for the tea and coffee station.  We get this everyday for lunch.  Spoiled.

After lunch the practice begins.  The whole body at once is the teacher.  It’s not linear so there are no goals except to shorten the distance between perceiving and dis-attaching (not detaching) from the seduction of the experience.

As I partake and observe, I’m intrigued and also have the judgmental thought, we look like dancers trying not to dance.  Hands in the air sort of zombie like (this is me describing myself mainly) slowly walking through space or else doing a sort of cut-jump A.D.D. slightly frenetic thing.  I’m not letting anything take hold or saturate which makes me initially feel that I am not having a sensual experience.  I’m trying really hard not to follow desire.  I bring this up in the discussion that follows, when she asks how it’s going.  It is one such question of many of the ‘are-we-dancers-trying-not-to-dance variety?’ (over time this will start to become a pointless question). 

I’m curious about what role desire plays in this practice, I say in a veiled attempt to say I feel like I can’t do anything I want to do or know how to do and I can only try to do the opposite (i.e. move like a dancer trying not to dance –zombie hands, weird weight shifts, etc) but I’m hoping it sounds smarter, like I’m deep or something.

Deborah looks at me squarely and says, my sort of smart aleck remark to that is it takes too much fucking time.  Desire is linear. 


Christopher and Aura follow up with more straightforward questions about training and doing dance moves.   Deborah elaborates.  Don’t ignore your training, just enlarge your experience.

We begin learning the score for “Dynamic” and I’m immediately reminded of bits of No Time To Fly which I had seen in Berlin a few nights prior.  I love this! We are doing "singing the sea" when she stops us and asks us to form a circle to practice together.  Christopher, just you sing, she says and I’m filled with terror that mounts as she lets his song go on and on but am also overwhelmed over by how beautiful it is.  Then Emily with another long and beautiful song.  Then, because fear had probably become the second most palpable thing in the room next to the beautiful voices, me. 

Air stops flowing, caught in a silent sob.  I wonder if it is possible to fake my way through singing a beautiful song and then run to the bathroom and release it.  But no.  It will have to happen here. Deborah waits unyielding but gentle.  Somehow the energy of the group collects and softly coaxes a far away sounding voice past the spasm in my chest.  I do not die in the process. Anotonija follows her voice crystal and throaty and resonant.  I’m okay.  I’m embarrassed.  I’m getting hugs and support.  I’m still embarrassed.

We gather that evening at Deborah’ to tell our stories of patronage.  I’m reminded of the 82 people who are supporting this growth.  The opening up of the throat chamber.  The process of learning without thinking.  This is my lesson of the first day:  This is not a solo.  

*Deborah decided that 2012 would be the last year for SPCP and so this year's program was documented by Dance Videographer and Filmmaker Becky Edmunds.   Embarking on this practice with a camera around was an interesting variable to throw in to the mix, at first making me too self-conscious to stay true to the tasks at hand.  But Becky quickly became an essential part of "the lab."  She explained that she was rarely recording when she was shooting.  She was practicing with us.  This seems like such a practical and fruitful way to approach bringing live performance into documentation in some sort of truer form.  Lookout for the film.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Incredible people that I got to study and work this summer.

catherine cabeen
faye driscoll
jonathan burrows
martin kilvády (les slovaks)
german jauregui (ultima vez)
isabel lewis
renate graziadei
sebastian matthius
d e b o r a h  h a y
tamas moricz (forsythe)
and one class with rosalind crisp (Omeo)

An amazing and disorienting array of approaches that overwhelmed me to the point of understanding my own a little better.

three sequences for four

Today, I finally fixed the flat tire on the lovely bike left here for me to borrow and everything changed.  Moving at about 10-20 miles mph through a city is a kind of home for me. 

I took a break from the generally slow and deeply internal technique classes of berlin (starkly contrasted to the frenetic, chaotic Forsythe workshop I was in) and went to Tempelhofer -- the airport/park in the middle of the city.   A little tarmac before the tarmac at 9am tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vienna ------> Berlin

Summer camp is over.  No more heaving the tired body out of bed to head to an immense dance filled building full of classes and workshops to work and study and think about dance for 10 hours followed by watching performances that allow you to keep studying and thinking about dance.  Video archives, bars and theaters all dedicated to contemporary dance.  Sharing all this with people from all over the world who just want to push, pull and practice dance.  Bye Vienna.  Beautiful, mysterious, idyllic, unnerving and too full of itself.

Berlin is real.  A vibrant and mottled assemblage of people and streets and buildings to navigate in a life still searching for the dance class, the fellow practitioners, the opportunity to work all day (it seems we often only get to do our work for such small parts of the day), etc, etc.

I got sick and this is not the place to be sick unless sausages, beer, pretzels, beer, coffee, cheese, sausage and crazy thriving nightlife somehow miraculously had become the cure for the common cold.  Night 3 and I'm in again.  

We made a little video yesterday.  That was fun.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Things written down during the first day at ImpulsTanz

Without the time or energy for being very eloquent, I thought I would copy some of the barely legible notes from the first day of Jonathan Burrow's Writing Dance Intensive, a mostly theoretical discussion about how we engage with making dance and  followed by exercises about how we experience the "rules" (more specifically, how visible they are and whether that is important) in a performance.

Rules about time he has borrowed -
From Steve Paxton - The body can only concentrate for three hours at a time
From Mortin Felman - Cut of the first 5 minutes of what ever you make - that was the warm up
Someone else (john cage?) - Work one week without judgment, video it, then wait a week, then watch it

Random quote:

Collaboration can be a very bad thing. . . enough time spent with your OWN stupidity is a good.

We also had to write the answers to many questions about our creative process, self and external criticism and our hopes for the future.  We had to share what success would mean for us to the group.  Since I shared it with a bunch of strangers I thought I would share the full version here:

Success to me would look like a sustained dance practice and performance schedule that I continue to be curious and fulfilled by, that (concretely) provides me with opportunities to perform outside of Seattle and the United States; that allows me to work with and around committed artists investigating material that contributes to dialogues about art, the human experience, and the world around us; and that, in the long-term addresses the question of how to listen and respond to aging while remaining a dance artist with respect and compassion for the body. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Featuring Mary Margaret Moore and yours truly, our short film Green Formica premiers Friday August 3rd at the Twin Peaks Festival in North Bend.

Inspired by the enigmatic appeal of David Lynch‘s cultishly adored film Fire Walk With Me, this mysterious and dark work is and haunted by subconscious fissures and the duality of light and darkness.

This film is part of a new suite of works called DAVID AND DEBORAH, exploring the influences of
filmmaker David Lynch and choreographer Deborah Hay.

Co-directed and shot by Adam Sekuler.

Do you want to receive more information? Click here, please!

For press and booking inquiries or feedback, send an email to



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Northwest New Works!

It is my extreme honor and pleasure to be blogging for On The Boards during the 2012 Northwest New Works Festival!

Go see the show!

Here are my posts:

Love Affair with the Studio Theater
Love, Darkness, Light, and Loathing
Obsessions and Icons

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Master Class June 2nd at Conduit!

Hey Oregon!  I'll be teaching a class on Saturday June 2nd at 1:30pm.  

ALIVE: Improvising Set Material | Setting Improvised Material    
Master Class with Shannon Stewart, Adam Sekuler and company

Saturday June 1st @ 1:30PM

918 SW Yamhill St # 401
Portland, OR 97205

An Inner Place Heads South

(Portland Premier)
Choreographed by Shannon Stewart with film by Adam Sekuler

After two years working with the concept of memory and memory loss through a variety of research processes and creative projects, Seattle choreographer and tEEth performer Shannon Stewart will bring her latest work An Inner Place That Has No Place, to Portland’s Studio Two on June 1 & 2.

An Inner Place That Has No Place
Friday June 1 – Saturday June 2 | 8pm

Studio Two (formerly the mOuth)
Zoomtopia Building
810 SE Belmont
Portland, OR 97214

$10/adv $12/door

Recent Press about An Inner Place 

A trio of female dancers beautifully balance their way through a complicated scheme of light, sound and video of themselves that's both rich and disorienting.” – Michael Uphurch, Seattle Times

Stewart’s accuracy (the dancers, even frozen, have personality, and there’s a startling photographic fidelity to the tableaux, to eyes at half-mast and expressions caught in mid-flow) is striking.” – Michael Van Baker, the Sunbreak

Shannon Stewart’s choreography is filled with brave, unusual contrasts, and it is by turns athletic, detail-oriented and tranquil.” – Victoria Jacobs, Seattle Dances

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A little video detail from the show:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

April 14-16 & April 20-22
An Inner Place That Has No Place

Saturday April 14 - Monday April 16
Friday April 20 - Sunday April 22

The Piranha Shop
1022 1st Ave S
Seattle, WA 98134

$12/adv $15/door
April 16 Only: $8/adv $10/door

(World Premier) An Inner Place That Has No Place is an evening-length performance work created by Shannon Stewart in collaboration with filmmaker Adam Sekuler, composer Jeff Huston, and performers Meredith Horiuchi, Mary Margaret Moore, Aaron Swartzman, Rosa Vissers, and David Wolbrecht, delving into memory and memory loss.

Through dance theater, music and film this piece illustratesering as a process of recreation rather than reproduction. It attempts to retrieve the content of memories lost either because of time or the myriad of reasons we intentionally forget--fear, shame, regret, grief and posit them next to absurd life documentation posing questions about how the recollection of our life is intentionally fictional.

This piece is part of a suite of dance a film works exploring memory and memory loss at the personal, material, and societal levels. An Inner Place That Has No Place was made possible through support from 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and 112 individual Kickstarter donors.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Please consider becoming a patron of a new solo by Deborah Hay that I will learn, adapt and perform in the next 12 months! You can make a pledge here!

2012 Work Sample (solos) from The Real Shannon Stewart on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

I've been accepted into Deborah Hay's Solo Performance Commissioning Project in August of 2012 in Findhorn, Scotland and am raising the funds for the program fee and part of the travel expenses to get there. If you have $5, $10, $50 to give, I would so appreciate it. I'm unbelievably excited to embark on this journey and appreciate any level of support!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some coverage of Make | Believe.

Oregon Arts Watch

"More important is the emotional “state” of each dancer, moment by moment, because their communication of sadness, frustration, humor, anger, aggression or concern is where the real meaning of the piece emerges. The four dancers (Philip Elson, Noel Plemmons, Molly Sides, Shannon Stewart) were perfect vehicles for those emotions throughout the piece. “Commitment” is too soft a word for their immersion in the dance. So, just as the music and movement interlocked, so did the dancers and the movement."

PSU Vanguard

"Make/Believe is a story about the nature of human communication in all its forms, told in the abstract language of contemporary dance. The story lacks characters and a traditional narrative, but the story is made vivid and accessible through the performers’ sharp delivery of gesture and expression.

Hebert made a point not to explain the work in great detail, for the performance is intended to be interpreted by the viewer.

I don’t want to relay too much,” Hebert said. “Early on, we wanted to focus on fantasy and how we use fantasizing as a way to cope in society.”"

Willamette Week

"We’re expressing ourselves through more channels than ever before, but what are we saying? That might well be the question driving this riveting new contemporary dance work by Portland performance company Teeth, which debuts this week. In it, two men (Philip Elson and Noel Plemmons) and two women (Molly Sides and Shannon Stewart) embody the image manipulation, incessant chatter and selective hearing of the information age. . ."

PDX Pipeline

Make/Believe investigates the limitations of verbal exchange, the psychology of fantasy and the human desire to manipulate the world and the people around us. On a stark stage, tangled in microphone cables, four dancers—Philip Elson, Noel Plemmons, Molly Sides and Shannon Stewart—explore themes of communication, connection, breakdown and physical experience through precise, visceral movement and partnering.

Oregon Live

"Much has been made in the press of Teeth's "oral fixation" with movement ideas; all their works literally probe the interior regions of the mouth, sometimes with live video feed to give the audience a discomfortingly up-close perspective, frequently with the addition of the dancers' guttural vocal expulsions."

Research Club

This show is a particularly good portal to newcomers or outsiders for a few reasons. Superficially, it is a brisk 55 minutes, with uncomplicated costuming and simple props used well -- standard microphones endowed with abnormally long cables. The show is also surprisingly accessable for such a deliberately challenging piece. A few genuinely funny passages emerge from a broader sarcastic tone that dovetails with the surrounding intensity and intimacy in a way that is better seen than described, and the original score is, like the dancers, not afraid to be beautiful and aesthetically rich while it distorts and confronts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

WED 1.18 | 9:30 - 11:15 *

It's my last technique class in Portland!

With live music by drummer John Niekrasz (from Why I Must Be Careful)

I hope you can join me for one more go round at the mOuth THIS wednesday. This class will keep you moving and build one long, juicy phrase.


* There is no class next week, Jan 25th. . . or any thereafter!

< < tEEth premiers make / believe > >



Thank you for your support and inspiration Portland! I hope to be back regularly and keeping up with all of you!

many x's and o's,



Salt Horse - 12 Hour Play
FEB 4th | 6pm - 6M
Washington Hall, Seattle

memory (loss) bank
Seattle Storefront Residency
Feb - April

An Inner Place

(new work by myself and filmmaker Adam Sekuler)
March 30 - April 1 & April 5 - 7

Deborah Hay Solo Performance Commissioning Project
August 2012

Monday, January 09, 2012

Left behind at WTF

Appreciation of Movement Practice

flow comes easily
hip rotation and gyration
hands & arms

Also, left behind: detritus of critiques that can be let go of.