Events – Danspace Project
Alice Sheppard reaches her arms up into the arm to catch a moment of hangtime at the top of the wooden ramp before gravity pulls her backwards in her wheelchair. Photo by Hayim Heron; courtesy of Jacob's Pillow.
Photo by Hayim Heron; courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow.

Research Residency: Alice Sheppard

This fall, a series of week-long creative and research residencies at Danspace’s home in St. Mark’s Church will provide time and space for crucial experimentation for artists.

Bessie Award-winning choreographer Alice Sheppard “creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Engaging with disability arts, culture and history, Alice attends to the complex intersections of disability, gender, and race.” During this creative and research residency, Sheppard will explore the architectural possibilities of St. Mark’s Church.

This residency is not open to the public.

Alice Sheppard took her first dance class in order to make good on a dare; she loved moving so much that she resigned her academic professorship in order to begin a career in dance. She studied ballet and modern with Kitty Lunn and made her debut with Infinity Dance Theater. After an apprenticeship, Alice joined AXIS Dance Company where she toured nationally and taught in the company’s education and outreach programs.

Since becoming an independent artist, Alice has danced in projects with Ballet Cymru, GDance, and Marc Brew in the United Kingdom. In the United States, she has worked with Full Radius Dance, Marjani Forté, MBDance, Infinity Dance Theater, and Steve Paxton.

As an emerging, award-winning choreographer, Alice creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Engaging with disability arts, culture and history, Alice attends to the complex intersections of disability, gender, and race by exploring the societal and cultural significance of difference.

Nacera Belaza. Photo: Pol Guillard.

Nacera Belaza Workshop

This workshop will offer participants a window into French-Algerian choreographer Nacera Belaza’s practice, which considers the body’s interior and the space around it. Belaza will share exercises that propose free and open movements that feel out the space, seizing it and investing it with action. The workshop is appropriate for all levels!

This workshop​ is part of a weeklong Danspace Project Research Residency for Belaza, who founded her own company in 1989 and creates work with a feminist, minimalist aesthetic, exploit​ing​ formalism to reveal layers of embodiment and body politics.

Belaza will return to Danspace again in March, 2020, to participate in Danspace’s next Platform curated by Okwui Okpokwasili and Danspace chief curator Judy Hussie-Taylor.

Born in Algeria, Nacera Belaza has been living in France since the age of five. After her studies in modern literature at the Université de Reims, she has created her own dance company in 1989.

In January 2015 she was appointed Knight of the order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. She enters dance as a self-taught interpreter and develops a choreography that originates in an inner progress, a sensible awareness of the body, of space and of the emptiness inside herself. Her path resembles a quest and tends towards the enhancement of the direct bond between the dancer and the spectator, open to the infinite of the stage. Each element of her pieces – light, space, time, body – respond to each other on stage and develop their own designs.

The repetition of the gesture, its infinite slowness, the stretching out of time: Nacera Belaza’s pieces all explore the movement as one would explore a calm, a profound and continuous breath, one that would mix with “the deafening row of our existences​.​”

Nacera Belaza’s Company presents its pieces internationally with a regular presence in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. In France, it is regularly invited by prestigious venues and festivals such as the Festival Montpellier Danse (2003, 2006, 2012, 2014), the Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine- Saint-Denis (2008, 2010), the Festival d’Avignon (2009, 2012) or the Biennale de la danse de Lyon (2010, 2014), Festival de Marseille (2017, 2018).

Nacera Belaza’s desire to share and​ ​pass on has become focused on the relationship between the audiences and their territories. She develops outreach activities and choreographic creations which take multiple shapes, going from the Master Class to the in situ performance.

Nacera Belaza’s path has continually maintained a coming and going between Algeria and France. Concurrently with her company’s activities in France, she has founded an artistic cooperative in Algeria. She has been in charge of the contemporary dance festival “Le Temps dansé” programme since 2013 and offers training and outreach activities for audiences on the themes of contemporary art and of the danced gesture.