Shawn Short : Community Service

Service is a core value that Short believes strongly in. From training (and housing) “rough around the edges” young Black men in ballet, making personal investments to increase the number of Black ballerinas working in the Washington, DC area, creating larger visibility for dance by producing DC’s first bi-monthly dance publication, and elevating a community by producing DC’s first annual dance concert affirming the lives of the Black LGBT community, Short has empowered various communities while personally caring for the advancement of the African-American dance community.

Black Ballerina Project/The Ngoma School  (2012 – )

Assisting with the national initiative to provide more spaces to train ballerinas of color, Short stepped acted and launched Ngoma Center for Dance in 2012.

” DC Black dance companies have always been cultural treasures to communities since 1934. The companies even helped to develop neighboring Black-majority Prince George’s county’s (Maryland) dance arts scene. We should be able to build equity in ourselves and for our communities” – Shawn Short

Short’s graduate research demonstrated (2013) mentioned that there was less than five out of 36 Black dance entities left. Under Short’s leadership,  Ngoma “rolled up its sleeves” to answer the call. Ngoma designed its strategic plan with its board members, in 2012, and with great assistance from the University of Maryland’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies rental staff an initial Saturday program was developed. With great programmatic success, The Ngoma School was created in 2014 to expand pre-pre-professional training year round.

A new place, where Black girls can follow their dreams, has been erected. Several male and female dancers from the school have received entry-level positions in Dissonance Dance Theatre, Ngoma’s professional company founded by Short in 2007.

William Wilson and Moyston Henry Jr. In Short's work Zero.

Moyston Henry Jr. and William Wilson in Short’s work Zero (2013), a dance work regarding an encounter of two men (one HIV negative and positive) and how they find acceptance of one another.

Black To Silver: A Black LGBT Experience (2013-2017)

According to the Rainbow History Project (Washington, DC) the Black LGBT community has existed since the mid-1920s. Since then the community has developed and thrived through the Civil Rights Movement and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

Against this backdrop, the cultural visibility of one of the largest Black LGBT communities in the United States is obscured. Where are the artists? Their stories? Experiences?

Wanting to give voice and positive recognition to a marginalized community, Short created an annual Black LGBT dance production that provided positive self-affirming images, raised the Black LGBT community’s spirit and began conversations around positive change in and out of the community.

During its tenure, Black to Silver: A Black LGBT Experience honored the efforts of Black LGBT activists (and pioneers) Michael  “Micci” Sainte-Andress, and Dr. Imani Woody. Black to Silver received generous funding from DC’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities and was frequently featured in Metro Weekly and the Washington Blade.

Gathering audiences from across the eastern seaboard, Black to Silver had regular-attendance of community leaders throughout its operation. Notable leaders in attendance include the former D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, Us Helping Us Founder Ron Simmons, Inner Light Founder Rainy Cheeks, and  Khush (South Asian LGBT organization)member Dakshina Dance Company’s Founding Artistic Director Daniel Phoenix Singh.  Short received the prestigious Us Helping Us’s Founders Award for Black To Silver in 2016. Us Helping US: People Into Living (Us Helping Us) was founded in 1985 and is the Washington, DC area’s leading health organization serving African-American living with HIV.

NR Mag Sept Oct  Cover 2016

Ngoma Reader Magazine (2013-2016)

Feeling that many Black dance artists were becoming invisible, in a city that had a history of Black dance activity since the 1930’s, Short decided to become the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of his first dance magazine in 2013. With the assistance of a small staff, Short published stories of legendary D.C. area dancers such as Baba Melvin Deal and Assane Konte, Esperonto Bean, Tehreema Mitha,  Helanius Wilkins, and Dr. Nilufar Rakhmanova. In its publishing year, Short expanded the periodical to become more universal. Ngoma Reader Magazine spoke through three core components: Community (D.C Dance Directory), Awareness (Shows, Events, Projects, Season Announcements), Celebration (History, Spotlights).

Dawn: A Black Men’s Initiative (2011-2014)

Founded by Shawn Short with his own finances. Housed at the former Flashpoint Coors Dance Studio (916 G St NW), operated under the non-profit CultureDC, Short created the program to give opportunities to Black male youth (16 to 26 years old) who wanted to train and dance professionally informal concert dance.  The program provided artistic and practical work experience in dance, with dancers gaining weekly dance classes with Short and a host of invited master teachers; selected program participants gained internship opportunities in Dissonance Dance Theatre productions and administrative projects.  Short believes that by engaging participants in both the art and the business of dance, dance serves as a catalyst to positively impact their lives and communities.