Today we’d like to introduce you to Shenandoah Harris of Psychopomp Dance Theater.
Shenandoah, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. From a young age, I fell in love with both acting and dancing. While in Colorado, I trained at The Cleo Parker Robinson School of Dance studying ballet, tap, and jazz. I also took acting workshops at the local JCC. I moved to California in 2005, and even though I was only twelve, I decided to commit my extracurricular time to only dancing.
Academia and Spirituality were both an important part of my youth as well. My brother, a father figure to me, pushed me to look at the world critically, and engage with political and socioeconomic content in a mature and analytical way. Studying in a Jewish School for many years paired well with this outlook… The old Rabbinical saying, “Two Jews– three opinions” rings very true to the way I look at the world.
As I continued through High School, I studied in both the summer workshop and took regular adult open classes at Lines Ballet. Training under Alonzo King, Lee Wei Chao, and others solidified in my spirit and soul that I needed to pursue dance and movement as a lifelong career.
I went on to study both Dance and Technical Theater UC Santa Barbara. While in college at UCSB under the instruction of Mira Kingsley, Christopher Pilafian and Christina McCarthy, I fell in love with creation. Creating allowed me the space to explore, question, and confront our world in ways that words never could.
I graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance and Choreography as well as a second degree in Theater Production and Design in 2016.
Upon graduation, I moved to Los Angeles, where I began dancing as a Freelance Performer and Lighting Designer. In addition to being Artistic Director of Psychopomp Dance Theater, I also currently work as a Professional Dancer and Teaching Artist with Diavolo Architecture in Motion touring nationally and internationally.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I believe that humans are meant to move. The body is the first form of transportation, and movement is our first way of survival. Society has continued to diminish the amount that we use our bodies on a daily basis, and as that connection has diminished, so has our spiritual connection with one another. Physical exertion, sweaty bodies, breath, and grit, are all built into our DNA. I believe the more opportunities we can find to bring movement back into our lives, whether that is through moving our own body or witnessing the movement of others the easier it will become to shed the layers of ‘differences’ we have created and find a deeper and more spiritually fulfilling connection with others.
I founded Psychopomp Dance Theater at the end of 2017. Psychopomp focuses on authentically soulful and deeply spiritual movement qualities. Our style is highly athletic, raw, grounded, visceral, and sometimes violent. The material can be described as a mix of modern, contemporary, acrobatics, and capoeira styles. Psychopomp’s dancers work to connect not only physically and emotionally but also spiritually to one another. Allowing space for the audience to witness and reflect upon the core ideas and questions around what it is to be human. Psychopomp is committed to new movement innovation and melding our creation process with scenic, lighting, and other design elements. Psychopomp Dance Theater works collaboratively. Each dancer is asked to bring their unique perspective, personality, and movement style to the work. This highly collaborative process allows the work to engage all different types of viewers from all different walks of life.
Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
Creating art, no matter the medium is extremely challenging. It is an uphill battle. Lack of finances, lack of connections, lack of time, or lack of resources are all reasons… or rather excuses that we make to ourselves to feel better about not creating the art we dream about. But when we strip away all the fancy words and labels we use to explain why we CAN’T do something— the only thing that is left is fear and uncertainty.
Many people are too paralyzed by this fear and uncertainty to take the first step and MAKE something. Take the plunge and dive in. The first thing you make will be the scariest to make. The first thing you make will also not be the best thing you make. But it does not matter if what you make is amazing; it just matters that YOU made it.
Once you have created your first thing, you have to just keep creating. And with each creation, the fear will get a little easier to deal with. You will know more about yourself, you will know more people, you will find a support system, and you will begin to truly see who you are as an artist.
I believe that if you create for someone else, your work will never truly be whole. You must create for yourself. You must listen to your artistic instinct. Art is so subjective even if one hundred people dislike your work– there are thousands more who will feel that it resonates more deeply than anything they have ever seen. If you create for yourself and each day work to bear your soul through your creations– what you create will always be touching.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
We offer open company classes and post about an upcoming class or performance dates on our Instagram and website. We love seeing new faces in class and love collaborating with new artists in our work.
We recently put up our first evening-length sold-out show at the Diavolo Dance Space that was entitled RELICS: Return to Clay. We are currently in the process of booking additional performances of this piece in Los Angeles. Stay posted on our Instagram and website to find out more information.
We continually perform at both large and small dance festivals throughout Los Angeles and have a short dance film currently posted on our website. Psychopomp is always looking for new and unusual spaces to create in as well as different forms of media and new artists to create with! We are about to begin a long-term research process that will reach culmination with several evening-length performances in the middle of next year.
- Website: www.psychopompdance.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @psychopompdance
- Facebook: @psychopompdance