DDT Director Shawn Short speaking with dancers backstage Photo by Jeremiah Jones

Shawn Short with Dissonance Dance Theatre dancers discussing at a technical dress rehearsal.

Shawn Short - Award-Winning Choreographer and Creative Director


The Beginning
A child born during the end of the disco era, Shawn Short boogied to music and movement. Short’s early performing arts training was rooted in classical music and dance, studying his craft throughout Washington, DC’s arts scene.  A young Black dancer during the decline of Washington, DC’s Black dance golden age (1932 – 2000), Short represents one of the last African-American dance artists to study with notable Director Mr. Mike Malone (Fame – TV Show; Founding Director of Howard University’s Musical Theatre Dept), and legendary D.C. dancers: Tyrone Murray, Assane Konte, Adrian Bolton, Katherine Smith, Sandra Fortune-Green, Adrian Vincent James, Fabian Barnes, and Miya Hisaka.


A Man Of Many Firsts: 
– Founding Faculty, Washington Ballet’s Newest Community Initiative WSB@THEARC (2005-2008)
– African-American Male Ballet Professor, Catholic University of America (2008-2015)
– First Fiscally-Sponsored D.C. Dance Artist, New York Foundation for The Arts (2009-2012)
– Head of Dance, Adventure Theatre (DC’s Oldest Operating Children’s Theater) (2011-2015)
– Editor in Chief/Publisher of D.C.’s first online-dance magazine Ngoma Reader Magazine (2013-2016)
– DC Dance Artist/Recipient of Pointe Magazine’s Video of the Month Editors’ Choice award (Dec/Jan 2013)
– Creative Director/Choreographer of D.C.’s First Annual Black LGBT Dance Platform, Black To Silver: A Black LGBT Experience (2013 – 2017)

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Fostering his initial classical ballet training at Washington Ballet, Maryland Youth Ballet, Howard University, and a residency with Lines Ballet’s Alonzo King and Ryan Taylor, Short began to cultivate his love of theatre, classical ballet, Black dance forms, and nontraditional contemporary dance. Short went on to receive a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theatre from Howard University, a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Post Graduate Certificate from the University of Liverpool (England).

From Black and collegiate modern dance to contemporary ballet, as a professional dancer, Short gained a myriad of artistic experience that later formed the origin of his choreographic signature and leadership style. Short professionally performed with El Teatro de Danza Contemporanea El Salvador, Bolton/Smith Dance Company, Dance Alloy, and toured with now-defunct K2 Dance.


Since 2001 Short has gained choreographic notoriety, receiving commissions from organizations such as the Greater Washington Urban League and The ManDate Men’s Wellness Conference; D.C. arts organizations (Varkas Dance Theatre, Kelsey Collie Children’s Experience, Catholic Univ of America’s Rome School of Music Composition Department); national events (United States Conference on AIDS); corporate-sponsored collaborations (Gilead’s Leadership Luncheon Presentation/Artistic partnering with Cynthia Geffon (Choreographer/ Super Bowl Halftime Show (including Madonna, Beyonce, and Prince). Short is also the recipient of Pointe Magazine’s Video of the Month Editors’ Choice award for his contemporary ballet work, Caught in 2013.

"One of the 11 small-but-mighty dance companies outside of LA and NYC" - Dance Spirit Magazine

Dissonance Dance Theatre/Ngoma Center for Dance
Increasing D.C. dancer access to pursue contemporary ballet performance and artist development, Short founded Dissonance Dance Theatre (DDT) in 2007. Initially a laboratory for Short’s choreographic progress, Dissonance Dance Theatre has become the artistic host institution for innovation in dance especially for artists of color. Since its inception, Short has created over 105 works for DDT.  Under Short’s leadership, DDT has developed artists that have launched careers performing locally, nationally and internationally; dancers have currently or formerly work at Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Virginia Ballet Theatre, Garth Fagan Dance, DV8 Physical Theatre, Elisa Monte Dance Company, Philadanco Dance Company, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, UniverSoul Circus, Washington Opera, Broadway musical and crew ship touring companies.

Presented Works
Dissonance Dance Theatre has performed and presented Short’s works in New York City (APAP 2018/Jazz @ Lincoln Theater, Brooklyn Arts Exchange (2009), Baltimore (Univ of MD Baltimore, Charm City Fringe), Washington, DC (*Atlas’ INTERSECTIONS Festival (2010-2019), *WPA/Shakespeare Theatre’s VelocityDC Dance Festival (2009-2013), *The Clarice Performing Arts Center (2018- ), Wolly Mammoth Theater (2009), Capital Fringe Festival (2007), Atlas Performing Arts Center (2018), *Artists’ Bloc (2008), Jack Guidone Theater (2014-2017), Lincoln Theater/DCCAH (2017), and Virginia (Ernst Theater (2018).

* Presented/Co-Produced Works

In 2012, Short founded Ngoma Center for Dance furthering his mission to provide professional dance education that focuses on the expansion of professional African-American dancers, working in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond. Ngoma Center for Dance is the parent organization for Dissonance Dance Theatre and The Ngoma School.

Shawn assiting student with arm