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Meet Shannon Hafez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shannon Hafez.

Shannon, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Dance has been my main source of motivation and healing throughout the years. I grew up periodically dancing at dance studios, doing conventions and competitions. From a young age, I deeply felt that dance was a part of my purpose in this life, and I’ve diligently worked throughout the years for dance to exist in my reality.

I spent a lot of my childhood watching every dance video and film that existed online, and I was heavily influenced and inspired by every dancer I watched. After training at Serendipity Dance Company and graduating high school, I’ve been studying dance at California Institute of the Arts. During my time at Calarts, I’ve been training, collaborating, creating…and doing all sorts of films, performances, and music videos.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Those close to me know that I have had quite a health journey. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to talk about it, but I recognize how impactful it could have been for my younger self. For some background, I was diagnosed with all sorts of things throughout my tween/teen years, some of which being fibromyalgia/chronic musculoskeletal pain/hypersensitivity syndrome/chronic fatigue/chronic stress/insomnia/depression/ anxiety/etc. In other words, my body was stuck in fight or flight mode for a large portion of my life. The trauma stored in my body manifested into disabling pain, brain fog, and widespread symptoms. On the other hand, I’ve lived years feeling the best I’ve known…dancing, laughing, and living my best life. My symptoms and relationship to pain has fluctuated throughout the years, and this is and will forever be a journey. Over the years, I’ve studied/researched my body and how/what it needs to function best; how to maintain it, how to recover it, what fuels it, etc. I’m still unlearning and learning new things about it every day. My body didn’t always physically align with dance, and I’ve worked years to build up to this level of being. Dance has served as a way for me to release, control, and restore the intense energy I experience in my body: it allows me to feel in control of my body.

Dance was the words I couldn’t quite articulate and the pain/symptoms I didn’t know how to express. The desire to dance, the euphoria I would feel, lead me to the process of accessing my subconscious to reprogram my pain signals/relationship with pain. I think the only reason I have been able to work my way to the health I have now is because I encountered something I loved, something that fueled me and used it as a vehicle to heal. I’m at a point in my healing where I’m working to share the knowledge and research I have cultivated, to hopefully evoke healing in others’ journeys. I have witnessed the power of dance time and time again and I strive to share this high vibrational energy that heals through my work and research. My health journey is humbling and ignites me to dismantle ableism and ableist values in my work and in this world. Despite these struggles, the knowledge I have cultivated has shaped my perspective of life and has led me to abundant knowledge and ways of being. I completely trust and am enlightened by my path.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
A mentor of mine always says “how you live is how you dance and how you dance is how you live.” My work is a reflection of the multidimensional being that I am. I use the body as a medium in a variety of different contexts and spaces, and I don’t see myself in any specific artistic category. I’ve done concert work, choreographic work, music videos, films, museum and performance art. I was in Solange’s movement film “Metatronia,” I was a statue in Xu Zhen’s MOCA exhibit, and I’ve danced at concerts for Dorian Electra. The work that I have done and will do is limitless because I am an ever-evolving being. I have vast contemporary training but you will also catch me doing incredibly theatrical work or watching battles.

I think I’m known for the individuality in my work and performance, and how it transcends through style and setting. I’ve always been drawn to film and music videos, I think of them as presents to the world. A lot of my work is inspired by sensation, energy, and the healing aspects of dance. I see healing as a broad, expansive term that exist in many different forms. I see the practice of living in authenticity and truth as healing. I see dancing, community, laughing, crying, space, conversation, drag, time, art, and experience as healing. I see healing as unlearning and reimagining gender, community, ableism/disability, sexuality, style, and identity. My identity, the way I live, and the way I envision this world is what informs and shapes my art-making practice.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I truly believe everything has aligned in this way for a reason, and every “problem” has brought growth and wisdom. If anything, I would just wish that I wasn’t so hard on my younger self for how my body functioned. I also would have thanked my momma more for all the doctors and appointments she took me to, trying to help me be well.

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Image Credit:
Kesiah Manival, Emma Noelle, Josh Rose, Rafael Hernandez

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