ShaLeigh Dance Works was honored to be featured by Stephanie Leather’s SITES on October 19th at the Durham Skate Park. Founded and curated by Stephanie Leathers, SITES is an ongoing SITE-specific performance series in Durham and surrounding communities and invites new artists, familiar landscapes, and critical questions surrounding its research. The transformative potential of SITES, now in its 7th year, is at the scale of civil engineering and yet as intimate as a guided walk. Not only does this work bring visibility to our environment but Stephanie makes sure each artist becomes visible to the community. Her incredible photography and videography are essential assets for performing artists. With ephemeral happenings, professional documentation becomes the key to the unlocking future opportunities. Stephanie made sure we were gifted with an abundance as you will see throughout this post! You can also see more of her work here.
We were all transformed by the experience and the palpable creative power this kind of work generates has continued. Palmetto Blog was inspired by the performance to write a tiny fiction piece about “finding something inside yourself you never knew was there.” And “how change is scary and hard and how hope sometimes comes in the strangest and most unexpected places.” We were touched by this beautiful short fiction. You can read the full story here.
“Let us always create where art can exist in the streets, alleyways, and dilapidated buildings without becoming sterile, conventional, or exclusive.” – Stephanie Leathers
We created a collaborative performance installation at the 10,000 sq ft state of the art skatepark featuring Manifest Skate Shop, local skaters, company members and community members.
The installation responded to the dialogue on Durham’s current revitalization and affordable housing crisis and how artists are facing unique challenges in building sustainable lives. Despite the increasing cultural and ethnic diversity in Durham, the arts ecosystem continues to privilege a relatively narrow band of aesthetic approaches.
Gentrification in its essence is an act of conformity and affects all aspects of a community. By encouraging the intersection of collaborative, artistic practices, we aimed to bring visibility to communal approaches in art making that could help forge a sustainable and diverse infrastructure for the arts in Durham and strengthen a creative capacity that honors the diversity of our community.
Skateboarding itself could easily symbolize versatility and adaptability. It can be an action sport, a recreational activity, an art form, an entertainment industry job, and a method of transportation. Skateparks have been constructed specifically for use by skateboarders and the very nature of activating a space with another art form begins the dialogue of how we can share space and invent new ways to utilize space rather than falling into the gentrification of otherness.
As displacement is the most challenging aspect our community members are facing, we placed ourselves as dancers not on a platform such as the reverie of the stage, but on the ledges we all feel shared with the same ledges skaters know how to ride.
Below is a short film that Stephanie made from the event. We sure hope this will be the first of many more to come!
As the saying goes, it takes a village to achieve large goals and shared visions. We would like to thank Stephanie Leathers at SITES for this remarkable opportunity, Tim Walter at Durham Fruit and Produce Co for hooking us up with a generator, Aubrey Griffith-Zill at Living Arts Collective for allowing us to use their PA system, my swiss army knife husband Shannon Fairbanks who helped us with our lights and sound and Mike Johnson at Manifest Skate Shop for gathering up more skaters and performing with us . And last but not least, we also want to thank Justin Williams and Mychal Keels at Unifyed Visuals for creating a short film from this unforgettable experience!