The annual project at the museum is called, “Platform,” and the performance will take place April 1, 2015, at 6:30pm, featuring a series of routines by dancers, singers, storytellers and artists providing their interpretation of straphanger life on the city’s subways and buses. The Shakedown Dance Collective– a mix of dancers of all professional backgrounds, ages, shapes and sizes– is preparing now for that performance.
If you’ve ever seen a flash mob, where seemingly everyday people in non-assuming places suddenly break out in performance, this is similar, but yet different in one important way: “It’s an all-access pass to a professional dance experience,” says Jamie Benson, co-founder and choreographer of The Shakedown Dance Collective.
“So, yes, there is a fun-first mentality. But it’s also a professional dance operation that is highly structured, with the ‘flash mob’ fun mixed in.”
And although most of the participants in the Shakedown are not professional dancers, this isn’t their first go-around with public performance: Many of them met for the first time in 2012 as participants in the annual River to River Festival 30-minute line dance event at South Street Seaport called Le Grand Continental, produced by LMCC and Joyce theater and created by Montreal Choreographer Sylvain Emard. The event organizers hired Benson and fellow dancer Deborah Lohse to serve as the lead instructors.
The mostly novice dancers enjoyed the intense rehearsals, creativity and bonding that came from pushing out their comfort zone in preparation for that line dance performance– so much so, that when it was over, they asked Benson when they could do it again!
“A lot of the dancers that were a part of that event kept in touch,” said Benson. “After that event, they would come to all of [my and Deborah’s] individual performances and were the best audience. Then, one day, they literally cornered us and asked, ‘So where is our ongoing gig?'”
“Once they got the performance bug, they wanted to keep it going. So, they lovingly pressured us into it,” said Benson laughing.
Benson and Lohse agreed to keep it going and together formed The Shakedown Dance Collective. The group most recently performed at the Winter Garden Atrium on January 16, and are now starting to branch out to other festivals.
The Shakedown Dance Collective rehearses every Monday night in Chinatown at the Chrystie Street Ballet Academy, and they’re still taking recruits. For more information and to participate, contact Jamie Benson at 323-704-5287 or email [email protected].