Shavon Norris Bronx born and raised. Math and science centered kid that took dance classes. Serious and sensitive. Wanted to be a doctor. Majored in Biology and minored in Math, Education, and English. Recovering over achiever. After graduation decided didn’t want to be a doctor. Sensed it wasn’t the right fit. Worked as Resident Director and Academic Counselor at alma mater. Supported students learning how to adjust and thrive in college. Kept dancing and performing. Had a quarter of life crisis. Considered applying to the Peace corp. 9/11 happened. Shifted inner life. Asked self, purpose and pleasure questions. Applied to MFA programs. Moved to Philly to go to Temple. Graduated. Taught at Temple. Then became the resident teaching artist at a Philadelphia Theater Company. Offered teachers tools to include arts in all aspects of learning. Became the dance and movement teacher at a Philadelphia charter school. Taught kindergarten thru 5th grade for 11 years. Explored expression, creativity and art with young humans. Raged against the ways Black and other students of color were treated and disciplined. Administration sent to trainings. Started to train other teachers. Raged less and
became the Organizational Culture Coordinator for the school. Was responsible for reminding community how identities and cultures affect learning, teaching, and living. Facilitation work increased beyond charter school. Kept dancing and performing. Left teaching job. Sourced what was learned from students about feeling, learning, and being human. More training to support facilitating. Now. Adjunct faculty at academic and artistic institutions. Facilitate workshops and
conversations. Organizational consultant to corporate and artistic companies. Sometimes get to write new things and share them as keynotes. Still making art and performing. Artistic and educational philosophies rooted in the desire to offer deeper understanding of self and the collective. Rooted in the desire to explore ways to light us up. Lift us up. And shift what needs transforming. Most days, loving the living and the working.
LSDC: How have the social shifts of 2020 impacted your life as an artist?
SN: As a human. As a body. As a Black woman body. 2020 offered me. New learning & new relationship with my internal life. I felt unknown to myself. I felt new nuances & details of grief and challenge. COVID. Black death. The lockdown. Being away from my people. Being unable to access my regular systems of healing & pleasure & connection. I was living with a Shavon I had not experienced before. I was living with a Shavon that lost her way to her center. I needed to locate the practices. The people. & the pleasures that would support & sustain me. I needed to create new ways to see & experience myself. See & experience myself as a body & spirit that was soft & delicate. Fierce & angry. Tender & unfolding. I needed new ways. To see & know myself again. Know my center. & know my way.
2020 invited me to be in relationship with my emotional & physical & spiritual self in different ways. I developed more intentional practices for tending to myself & my inner life. I started really saying No. No to things that were not a hell yes from the depth of my core. I got clearer about my values. & my pleasures. Clearer about. This grieving. This feeling. This exploration. This learning. This joy. & how it affected. The ways I am in relationship with myself. The ways I am in relationship with others. & the ways I experience myself as an Artist. Educator. Facilitator. There is more Shavon in these things now. A little more Shavon out in the world now. There is more ease. Delight. & play. There is more depth. & more feeling. There are more naps & laughter. There are more Nos. There are more boundaries for my care. & there is more communal help & partnership. There are more questions about who is going to be in the room with me. Virtually & in person. 2020 invited me to learn more about what helps ground & soar me. In all aspects of my living & doing.
LSDC: How has the broad emergence of this digital realm influenced your creativity/artistic work?
SN: As a facilitator & long-time teaching artist, my history is full of being creative & arting in unexpected & unusual spaces. These experiences helped me solidify the tools I use to invite myself & others into creative practices & artistic explorations. Even when the room, environment, or moment feels counter intuitive to art making. It is in these moments I soar & shine. I love inviting the possible into what feels impossible. & inviting myself & others to be surprised, in
awe, & in pleasure when the art happens...
(cont.) Shifting to the digital world felt like an unexpected & unusual space that was unexplored for me. So, I did what I’ve done in the past. I researched & adapted my tools to honor the new space & others in the space with me. & I mostly had a blast learning & moving & creating in the digital & virtual realm.
LSDC: Have you produced any new work, live or digital?
SN: Over the last two years, I was involved in a few creative projects. I performed virtually for Pig Iron Theatre Company in Zero Cost House. I was the Movement & Stage Director for Swarthmore’s virtual performance of Suppliant Women. I was the choreographer for Temple University’s Spring Awakening this Fall, which was Temple’s first in person performance since classes became in person again. I also had the pleasure of leading learning for students at Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, & Pig Iron School over the last two years. I consider the time & learning I spend with my students to be a form of making & producing. With my students we explored ways of moving & meaning that felt new & expansive to all of us. The work & tools explored in these learning spaces, have followed me into the virtual space as a performer, creator, & collaborator.
LSDC: How have you maintained balance and regularity in this time?
SN: I prioritize ease & pleasure. Inviting myself to reach for what feels juicy & good. What feels soothing and offers my humanity the least amount of resistance & challenge. Reaching for ease & pleasure, shifts for me daily & sometimes moment to moment. The questions for me are. How do I invite compassion & care toward myself? How do I honor the fullness of my humanity? How do I acknowledge my vulnerability & tenderness/softness? Honor my light/soul/spirit?
My living. My loving. My health. My creativity. My artistic practices. Being Artist. Educator. Facilitator. I treat it as one. If my wellness needs connection. I spend time with loves. This feeds my groundedness. If my wellness needs play. I reach for my coloring books and crayons. Or time with the young humans in my life. This feeds my imagination. If my emotions need to move through my body. I reach for movement & breathing. This feeds my relationship to my body & art. If my wellness needs inspiration. I reach for my resources & icons. I read the elders and teachers that feed my explorations. This feeds the depth of my feeling & thinking & arting. For me. Tending to my wholeness. Reaching for ease & pleasure. Tends to my artistic life. Daily & always.
LSDC: How would you describe yourself as an artist, and/or your work, as we step into the year of 2021?
SN: I am. Artist. Educator. Facilitator. I grew up in a Black Sci-fi Christian home in the Bronx. My childhood was full of galactic wormholes, warrior angels, prayers, & the planet trying to recover from the apocalypse. These worlds informed. My relationship to body. To spirit. To surviving & thriving. To being Black & Woman. I dream in miracles & magic. I seek the unexplained. Currency in the sacred & the expressive. The magnificent & the mundane. I invite myself & others to explore the feeling, understanding, & connection necessary to be in-right/sacred/beloved relationship with ourselves, others, & the living & non-living world. I offer opportunities for individuals & the collective to be reflective & examine the ways our feeling, thinking, & being, desire to be affirmed & or adjusted & or transformed? Can we look at our living & the lives of others, with curiosity, courage, & compassion? Can we practice expanding our perspective, language, & action to foster connection & inclusion? Can we move toward the healing & wellness we desire for ourselves & hold expectation & acceptance for others to do the same?
The process & the product, be it over the course of one hour or over several months, be it in classrooms or shelters, be it
on stages or community centers. & now, be it over zoom or digitally, I serve as facilitator & co-creator with the community. We name the practices & rituals that allow us to experience the body as knower, each other as self-expert & the community as sacred space. We don’t use the word dance, or align ourselves with any specific aesthetic or genre of art. We center on what comes from our bodies & what needs to be celebrated & or transformed. As the co-creator & facilitator, I offer tools to develop & craft the art developing.
For me, in the past & in 2021, the work is about allowing us to practice empathy (I/we understand/feel you), equity (I/we hold space & expectation for your body, voice, & spirit), & belonging (there is space & a place for you in this community). I create work that is rooted in the desire to say yes to our humanity & I believe that we all deserve the full expression of our divinity & vulnerability. A chance to foster well-being & whole being. A chance to experience our
regular & brilliant selves.
Team Sunshine’s ambitious 24-year performance experiment returns with its fourth installment this December. Every two years, The Sincerity Project gathers the same group to create a new piece. The work reflects on the years that have passed since the last performance, building a long-term exploration into the shifting contours of contemporary life.
Facilitator and artist Shavon Norris serves as the Guest Director for this next installment, crafting an event that centers care as a way to reckon with these momentous last two years.
Weaving together performance and collective processing, Sincerity 4 asks: What does an experience of communal care and protection look, feel and sound like? How do we gather and move and speak to our individual and collective safety, wholeness, and wellness? How do we not go alone?
The Sincerity Project #4 provides us with a moment to gather, to be present with the mountainous experiences of these last two years, and to help us learn how we might reach for that something new.