2018: A Retrospective / by Shannon Litzenberger

2018 In Review
Happy New Year! 

2018 was a year of significant creative output for me. As I reflect on the year that was, I am thinking a lot about creative development, art-making and artistic opportunity.

When I'm immersed in the creative process, I'm reminded of how little I know about anything. It's hard work. Creative challenges can quickly become personal, triggering fear and self-doubt. Everything goes wrong before it goes well. It's exhilarating, terrifying and takes a Sisyphean effort.

As I come closer to the premiere of World After Dark, all of these feelings are very present! This year has been a roller coaster of challenges and victories. 

The silver lining, though, is that there have been many people around me who have helped me to continue advancing. Their generosity is what keeps me optimistic (and sane). They come from many corners of my life - my creative collaborators, my peer network of artists, my mentors and champions, my business colleagues, my family members and friends, funders and donors. This support reminds me that it is a great privilege to be supported as an artist, to be made visible, to have the opportunity to realize a creative vision and to have a platform to share it with others. 

As we launch into 2019, I am raising a glass to all of the courageous artists out there in the world, visible and not yet visible, who are toiling away at their creations. May we have the opportunity to see them, to hear them, to discover them, and to draw inspiration from their creations. 

With much love for the people and opportunities that surrounded me this year, here are the highlights of 2018.
Early in the year I spent time delivering several Embodied Leadership training workshops for corporate clients and also as a faculty member of Banff Centre's new Cultural Leadership program, developed in partnership with the Artistic Leadership Residency at the National Theatre School of Canada. 

In February, I traveled to Hawaii to teach a series of movement workshops for non-dance majors with dance colleague Pam Shoebottom at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, experimenting with new methodologies to support my work in leadership development at Embodied Leadership


Last winter, I had the pleasure of working alongside Why Not Theatre Artistic Director Ravi Jain over several months of rehearsal, choreographing a new production of Animal Farm, which opened in March at Soulpepper

Images by Cylla von Tiedeman

In early spring, I realized another edition of the Canadian Arts Summit in collaboration with my fabulous colleagues at Business/Arts and Banff Centre. The 2018 Summit "EngageNOW", held in Banff, was all about cultural engagement. Diane Ragsdale’s keynote about ethics and aesthetics is totally worth a read. A full account of the Summit is available online, including video recordings of speaker presentations. 

Images by Karran Sahadeo
Quick on the heels of the Summit I was back in the studio, fully immersed in a new project produced by the Luminato Festival. Le Grand Continental (Toronto edition), created by Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard, brought together over 250 dance lovers to perform an epic line dance in Nathan Phillips Square. There were auditions followed by evening rehearsals for weeks. I was among a team of 14 professional dancers who supported the group to learn and perform 30 minutes (!!) of choreography for the event. This blog by Jamie Ridler, one of the participants, really sums up the magic of the whole thing. This was really one of this year's highlights for me!

Rehearsals in gymnasiums, warehouses and stadiums!
The glowing participants, Dorothy (92) with Violet (10) and a stint on BT!
Taking over Nathan Phillips Square.
An ecstatic closing performance in the pouring rain! 
Jef and I kicked off the summer with a bucket list trip to Greece at the end of June. Athens, Santorini, Paros, Anti-Paros. The whole experience was a dream that culminated in a 3am open air Milonga in Athens where I briefly attempted to dance the tango. 
We returned to Toronto to the unexpected news that we were being evicted from our apartment to accommodate landlord reoccupation. Panic ensued but by some miracle we found an apartment in our no-longer-affordable Cabbagetown neighbourhood. Now that the dust has settled, we have too and we love our new home at 426 Sumach. 

In the midst of the unexpected move, I traveled to Vancouver for a week of Embodied Leadership business planning, to Montreal to scout venues for the 2019 Canadian Arts Summit, to Saskatchewan for my niece's 16th birthday and to Winnipeg to visit family. By Thanksgiving, I didn't want to see the inside of another airport for awhile. 

In August I enjoyed a weeklong production residency at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, among the first artists to be selected in their new Performing Arts Residency program. With the creative team, I was able to experiment with the design and technical aspects of World After Dark. In particular, testing the effects of lighting and responsive video design technology. Exciting stuff. 

After moving September 1st, I promptly left for Banff Centre to begin the development of a new collaborative work with fellow dancer and choreographer Aria Evans called ‘In Translation’. Our two week performing arts residency in the rocky mountains was followed by a showing of the work in development in Saskatoon hosted by Free Flow Dance Company. Always planting creative seeds for the future... More on that project next year. 
In October, my work as a Support Lead with the Metcalf Foundation’s Creative Strategies Incubator program (2015 cohort) culminated in a public sharing of grantees cumulative learning over three years. I also became an Associate Facilitator with Metcalf's newly designed Staging Change program, in collaboration with American-based EmcArts. This new program is helping non-profit performing arts organizations incubate new ideas and innovations. 

In November I turned 38 and we had a housewarming party. Aria Evans shot a new short film that I danced in. I also spent a week in residence at the National Ballet of Canada as part of their new Creation Residency Programme. Thank you to Choreographic Associate Robert Binet and the NBoC for the opportunity to work in your beautiful studios!

With the premiere of World After Dark fast approaching, my heart and mind is fully invested in creating and producing this show. I’m swirling around in the deep end of original creation right now and I have all of the feelings.
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2019 is sure to bring many new adventures, some known and some yet to discover! Follow me on Instagram @litzdance or @shannonlitz for more updates!

World After Dark premieres March 6-9 at Harbourfront Centre. (Have you got your tickets?!) The 22nd edition of the Canadian Arts Summit will take place in Montreal April 11-13.

And, this summer I will begin a new self-directed research project focused on developing my arts facilitation practice. I am infinitely grateful and honoured to have been awarded a 2019 Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council which will give me the time, space and resources to do this work over the next year.  

Wishing you a 2019 full of meaningful creative moments.

Thanks for reading.

Shannon Litzenberger
Artistic Director
Shannon Litzenberger Contemporary Dance
With gratitude for the funders, supporters and sponsors of World After Dark: