Spotlight on the Artist: Shabaki Lambert

What do you love about the Dance Company?

I love that we do a lot of exciting things. It’s a lot of student choroegraphy, not just dancing other people’s pieces. So you get a chance to be creative. I also love that they’re a great group of people. The students have input into who gets chosen from auditions, so you choose the people who you’re going to be working with. Also, even though we have a small budget we’re able to get really good residencies. This past fall we had residency after residency with different artists coming up and working with us, so we got a whole range of experiences.

What don’t you like about the Dance Company?

I hate the fact that not many people know the difference between the Dance Company and Kusika. Kusika is an African dance troupe, and the Dance Company is a modern dance troupe. Not many people know that the Dance Company exists, or come out to see the performances. Being in both groups I get to see the audiences, and the company has a much smaller audience. Some people will say, “Oh, is Kusika having a performance?” and I’ll say, “No, the Dance Company is having a performance.”

Aren’t they the same thing?

No they’re not the same thing. They’re two separate entities.

What was your favorite dance that you ever choreographed?

It was a duet that I did my freshman year to the music “Last Temptation of Christ.” I got the inspiration from Lady Macbeth – particularly the hand washing scene. From that, I got this movement which I used to develop a piece about these two women who were doing this ritualistic repetitive motion – I choreographed a whole dance around it. I was kind of intrigued by Lady Macbeth and how many other ways power can be expressed, and how a woman’s power can be expressed. The piece was a joy to dance. I have a certain attachment to all my pieces.

How do you interact with the dancers and the audience?

Bonding is important for dancers – when you dance with someone there’s this unique kind of energy that you have to have with the other dancer, so you can dance better together. I enjoy playing with the audience and the other dancer and having the audience feel that energy. If the other dancer and I feel it then the audience will also. I try to interact with the audience while I’m choreographing so they can feel the intensity of my dance. I like to have a lot of eye contact with the audience.

What was your first dance experience?

I first started dancing in the seventh grade because my best friend Alewa was a dancer. After taking a couple of classes I was hooked and went all the time. I’d been dancing for maybe a year and I went to this meeting really eager and no one picked me to be in their dance. My dance teacher had to ask someone to take me. Someone did, and that was my first dance ever. It was easy after that — it all took off.

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