Kinetic Light / Alice Sheppard Residency

Alice Sheppard, balances on her hands, arms straight, and on a pair of silver crutches, lifting her lower body and wheelchair high. Alice’s head is tucked and her short curly hair peeks out from behind her strong arms. She is a coffee-skinned multiracial Black woman, wearing a shimmery gold bodysuit. Set against a black background, light reflects off her costume, chair, and crutches. Photo by Mengwen Cao.

Year: 2020-2021
DanceForce Member: Jim Self
DanceForce Partnering Member: Ivan Sygoda
Artists: Megan Omohundro, Jim Self, Alice Sheppard
Community Partners: CherryArts Space
Audience: 298
County: Tompkins

The Alice Sheppard Virtual Residency/Cherry Dance Project began planning in January 2020 as a live, one week, guest artist residency with additional local artist workshops, showings, and developmental activities. Over time the project morphed into three weeks, featuring 26 local artists, and a virtual workshop residency for Alice Sheppard. There were 21 events, including 14 movement workshops; 2 performances; and 3 open showings. The activities began on June 8th with Alice’s first workshop, and ended on June 26 with local artist Lauren Cranidiotis leading a “Listening to the Body” workshop, and Durga Bor leading an “Intro to Odissi Classical Indian Dance.” Sometimes elusive in upstate New York, Cherry Dance Month was remarkably diverse. Five black choreographers and two Asian American dance artists showed work. Six disability dancers participated in Alice’s virtual workshops which included the lecture: “Disability Culture & Aesthetics in Motion.”

Cherry Dance Month provided a serious experimental dance venue in downtown Ithaca, and was a first for the community in several ways: providing local dance artists opportunities to try new ideas, create and show new work; using a ticketing system for registration and payment; and providing a genuine opportunity for artists to collaborate. Additionally, it was one of the first venues in the area to open up after the pandemic restrictions were lifted.

The public events had 191 attendees, and the workshops had 107. The goal of Cherry Dance Month was to introduce the dance community to a newly outfitted venue –(high density foam floor)– that is extremely dancer friendly and easily accessible. Additionally, it introduced the general community to Ithaca’s dance world with an intergenerational and broad range of different styles, practitioners, and aesthetics.

A primary aspect of Alice Sheppard’s work is to engage audiences and practitioners with a range of disability access tools.

The Cherry Artspace was able to become familiar with, and provide these services: CART “live captioning;” and American Sign Language professionals.

Some testimonials:

“Thanks Jim! For such a memorable night, and the month of events. Great idea, and motivation going forward.” –Julie Nathanielsz

“Thank YOU for bringing all of us dancers together, and for creating this month of dance at the Cherry, AND for getting a dance floor in there – yahoo!” – Mee Ae Caughey

“Thank You! For giving me the opportunity to show a piece (in progress) in the Viewing/Screening last night. The performers were so happy to have this chance –especially at this time– and we were delighted to be in the Cherry Arts space, which was a new discovery for all of us. We’ve been dancing outdoors for months during the pandemic at the Farmers Market.” — Nancy Gaspar