We had the good fortune of connecting with Chantal Cherry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chantal, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
Time management and simply showing up to do the work. Being a self-employed artist requires a lot of self motivation and often a lot of time and effort goes into a project with seemingly little reward until months later. I am very deliberate with my time. Usually, on a Sunday, I write down what I’d like to accomplish in the coming week and then divide the workload between the days, setting goals to be achieved by the end of each day. The most important part of being a choreographer is doing the work. The work is the foundation. There can be no performance if there is nothing to perform. It’s easy to get caught up in submitting applications for festivals or writing grants and then spend less time rehearsing because rehearsal space is hard to come by or finances for paying dancers are low. The commitment to show up and do the work is key. One of my biggest downfalls is that I often forget to schedule in relaxation time. As someone who works from home (or a rehearsal studio), there are no set ‘office hours’ – there is no point where I get to look at a clock and say ‘oh I’m done for today’. What I’ve learnt about myself is that my relaxation time is when inspiration strikes. Most of my ideas come to me when I’m out in nature -in my happy place. When I am nourished, I have energy for creativity. Lastly, I know that my own mind is my greatest limitation. Sometimes I don’t apply to certain choreographic opportunities because I think I’m not good enough or that my work is a failure. If I don’t apply to that residency or grant, I am taking away my own power and preventing myself from the chance to receive that opportunity. I am my own downfall. I have learnt the importance of having confidence and showing up for myself. I have learnt the importance of beating the resistance and showing up to do the work. Creating the habit pattern of putting in the time and showing up to do the work is critical. With hard work, the rest will fall into place.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a choreographer/performer/dance filmmaker. Inspired by choreographic legend, Pina Bausch, I am fascinated by human behaviour and often spend time people-watching so as to analyze body language. As such, my choreographies often feature pedestrian movement amongst the very physically demanding movement vocabulary prominent in my work. In addition, I am interested in people’s emotional motivations for their actions and understanding what is anchored in learnt behaviour by way of societal conditioning and what is genuine. I realize, as a queer individual, that I am in direct conflict with certain heteronormative societal constructs that have been positioned as the norm. As a result of this realization, I have come to use my work to further question and disrupt the societal ideas of sexuality and gendered behaviour that have been fed as “the norm” so that my choreographies may become social commentary. Thus far, the highlight of my career has been performing Our Bodies At Night nationally and internationally. More specifically, the opportunity to perform my choreography in South Africa, my home country, was really emotional for me. The last time I performed in South Africa I was as an undergraduate student and I hadn’t yet performed my work as a professional choreographer, though I am South African. Unfortunately I have many associations with shame around my sexual identity and South Africa. This piece is vulnerable, it’s autobiographical, it’s queer AF, and explores erotic intimacy between two women. Performing this piece was a deliberate overcoming of that shame and owning my queerness loudly and proudly and somewhat nakedly. Dancing, for me, is cathartic. It’s a way to release the emotional memory stored in the body. It’s a way to express joy. It’s my way to be myself. I want to share that with others – a way of communicating that doesn’t have to rely on language to convey meaning and create healing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite things about living in LA is the access to so many different nature landscapes within driving distance – desert, mountains, ocean. If my best friend were coming to visit I would for sure organize a road trip up the 395 towards the Sierra Nevadas. We would hike to waterfalls in the Angeles National Forest . My favorite trail is Switzer Falls because it has lots of swimming holes along the way. In LA we would definitely eat at Jewel – a queer POC owned vegetarian restaurant. We’d have a work-party at Cuties, a queer owned coffee shop and safe space for queer people to hang out. I would want to go to the beach and I always go to a dog beach so my pups can come. At the moment my favorite beach is the Leo Carillo dog beach. We’d definitely find some queer event to go to like a Drag King performance, or Dial Up Disco.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe a lot to Gabe Gabriel for always supporting me in this career choice. I didn’t allow myself to consider being a choreographer because I knew my parents (mostly dad) wouldn’t approve. Gabe encouraged me to audition for my undergrad dance program and then again to the master’s choreography program at UCLA. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In addition, I have a group of artist friends who are my go-to people when I want feedback on my work, namely choreographer Daeun Jung and filmmaker Gabby Stuart. In turn, I am that person to others. I think it’s really important to establish a network of close, reliable people who can be a creative support system. Lastly, my sister, Natalie Cherry, is my #1. At the moment, she is helping me sew an 18-foot veil for my next dance film, and she just did incredible body art for me on my previous dance film. She’s always cheering me on.
Linkedin: Chantal Cherry
Other: Vimeo: Chantal Cherry
Sean Deckert, Charles Han, Philip Spohn, Lloyd McCullough, Wei Chang, Bobby Gordon
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