Culture Shock: The City's New Languages Of Dance

Shift's Inclusive Dance Movement

Maggie Grimason
5 min read
Kelsey Paschich
Kelsey Paschich, Co-Director of SHIFT Dance (Francois Achan)
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“In Albuquerque there is quite literally space that enables us to do what we do,” Kelsey Paschich explained as we sat under a bright awning at Pop Fizz. “If you go somewhere like New York, there’s physically not space [and also] you’re trying to jam your voice in where there’s lots of voices. It’s this thicker, denser environment, which can be … really exciting, [but] we’re coming at it from a totally different angle. … The isolation is actually a strength.” What Paschich does, along with Lisa Nevada and Jacqueline Garcia, all of whom are co-directors, is run SHIFT Dance. “I think we’re always very conscious and aware of our environment,” she added. Part of the local arts environment for many years, however, was a distinct void of modern dance, particularly after initiatives like Global Dance Fest and Wild Dancing West folded. Paschich, Nevada and Garcia saw the need to create opportunities in the medium—for dancers, choreographers and audiences—and founded in SHIFT in 2015.

Their objective with the project was to create a platform for contemporary dance in Albuquerque and to encourage professional dancers and choreographers to stay and work locally. “All of us went through the MFA program here and came out saying ‘Now what?’” Paschich said. The three recognized that there were working dancers and choreographers in the area that didn’t want to relocate to a modern dance hub like NYC, as well as a vibrant, culturally-oriented audience that would be receptive to modern dance. When SHIFT was created, there was finally a platform for these people. Initially, Paschich, Nevada and Garcia took lead on choreography for the shows (they’ve had four in the past year alone), but, ever-inclusive, the group aims to support others in developing and promoting their own choreography. “We’re trying to present work, and not just our own … there are lots of choreographers in Albuquerque and New Mexico who want to, and should, show work. We would like to provide that space for them,” Nevada explained. “[We want to] make it accessible, not only for audiences, but for dancers and choreographers, to make it accessible just to create work—that means doing promotions for [their show], finding a space, finding the budget to help present it.”

They describe their work as creating a shift in local dance culture— and that about-face comes from creatives knowing there is space for them to showcase their dances, that there is a network of support and—if they need one—the reason to create. “We also wanted a word with some action behind it … a verb,” Paschich elaborated—something that evoked change, movement and the ever-evolving nature of creative practices. And that’s what SHIFT Dance is all about—the ongoing work, the research and the everyday praxis that culminates in regular knockout performances. That diligence will likely be evident in every step danced at the upcoming SHIFT Dance Festival.

To mark a year of expanding Albuquerque’s dance scene, SHIFT is hosting their first three-day extravaganza at the VSA North Fourth Art Center from Thursday, Sept. 29, to Saturday, Oct 1. The event will showcase the work of the three co-directors, as well as host several visiting artists including Allie Hankins of Portland, Jacqueline Stewart, who splits her time between Chicago and New York and Donna Jewell, head of the dance department at UNM. “We tried to curate it in a way that it would have a lot of diversity,” Nevada said of the lineup. “We understand that people will be drawn to some things more than others—but they can get a nice, rounded experience out of the whole festival.” “Our art form is very visceral and wide in range, I think that’s exciting for audiences,” Paschich added. Not to mention that there will be a fair bit of experimentation and genre-bending work happening over the course of the weekend—pieces that emphasize that eponymous verb that is at the heart of the project.

Paschich and Nevada described the importance of making dance accessible for everyone, in the theater and outside of it. “We invite people to see it in different ways, [in order] to get them excited or curious,” Nevada explained—the range at the festival contributes to that sentiment. Additionally, a whole host of discounts are available on tickets. “That’s important,” Paschich added, because “people might not know they like it yet.” As they elaborated on the variety of dances happening at the festival—performative dances, blended genres, new techniques learned in faraway lands—it truly seemed like SHIFT is offering up something for everyone. “I think [audiences] might be surprised by what dance can be,” Nevada concluded. “We just want to give people the confidence to come and feel invited and welcomed to experience it.” And yes, you’re invited, too.
Get your tickets for any performance, or all three nights, at
Jacqueline Garcia

Jacqueline Garcia, Co-Director of SHIFT Dance

Travis Lewis

Jacqueline Stewart

Jacqueline Stewart of JAXON Movement Arts

Eddo Photography

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