I have always had my own distinct voice within the NYC dance community, meshing classical and contorted lines with my signature thread of dark theatricality. My solo and duet work has been showcased at the Hudson Guild Theater, Green Space, Bridge for Dance, Triskelion Arts, Spoke the Hub, Laguardia Performing Arts Center, and the Connelly Theatre. It was after being chosen as one of eight choreographers to participate in the Ann & Weston Hick’s Choreography Fellows Program at Jacob’s Pillow in August 2018 that I had the confidence to establish my own dance company here in New York. I finally decided it was time to start challenging myself as a choreographer and begin the process of transferring my stylized movement aesthetic onto more dancers. The company began with the talented Morgan Hurst and Roza Savelyeva who joined me at the Pillow. In January 2019, I was lucky enough to be able to bring on Diane Auriol, Ellen Sickenberger, and Isaiah Dasilva Schmitt for our first project “Oblivion” that premiered as a work in progress at Dixon Place in April 2019. As a company we have been focusing on the continuous development and refinement of this work along with analyzing the specificities that make up my movement style. Since April, we have been able to share our progress in the IDACO Festival at the Sheen Center through support of Mare Nostrum Elements as well as the Ailey Center as part of the J Chen Project Core Choreography Competition Finalists’ showing.
What we are about:
As a choreographer, I think beyond the physicality of the movement and weigh a greater importance on the emotional quality of the work with the intention of raising awareness for issues revolving around mental health. Drawing from my own experiences with mental illness as well as the stories of the individuals I have had the privilege of meeting in psychiatric facilities, therapy groups, and everyday city life, I am able to give an honest and raw portrayal of life with such afflictions. While creating a communal sense of emotional release that allows space for the audience to create their own understandings and connections, I aim to dismantle mental health stigmas by illustrating the reality of this epidemic. By opening up the conversation about how mental health is viewed, my work dissolves the taboo nature of mental illness that keeps individuals in fear of getting help. My work is a cathartic outlet that allows me to give a voice to the mass amounts of people that persevere through daily life with a mental illness.
“Oblivion” is an evolving evening length work that depicts the varied ways mental illness can manifest. It consists of multiple vignettes, each highlighting a narrative speaking to one of the indications I’m honing in on. So far we have explored the physicality of disassociation and emotional numbness, substance abuse, anxiety, and manic obsessive behavior.“Oblivion” has the potential to be a powerful and moving work and I know that my dancers are capable. Thus far our biggest obstacle is getting the the time and space to explore new ideas and dig deeper into this work. While the performances of the excerpts have been successful, I still feel that we are just scratching the surface of this concept. Creating work advocating for those who suffer from mental illness helps me cope with my own bipolar and anxiety disorder. I want to not only share this with viewers and have them understand the difficulties of coping with a mental illness, but also be able to send the message that no one is alone in their suffering. The biggest compliment that I’ve ever received in regards to my work was a man saying “thank you” after one of my shows. I hope that my work gave him the same cathartic release that it gives me. Reactions like this inspire me to continue making work.
Why we need your support:
For those of you who aren’t in the field, having a dance company (especially in NYC) is very expensive. Rehearsal space, showcase application fees, props, travel expenses to transport said props (I’ve even carried a lamp in my backpack to avoid an Uber expense), costumes, and most importantly dancer stipends all add up! Susie McHugh + Dancers is composed of PROFESSIONAL dancers with over twenty years of experience in the field and their stipends should reflect that. I am fortunate enough to be chosen as a resident artist for this August at New Dance Alliance as part of their LiftOff Creative and Project Development Residency. This gives us the opportunity to rehearse three times the amount as usual during August, however with more rehearsals comes more time commitment I ask of my dancers. Just like any job, my dancers deserve to be adequately compensated for their time. Myself and almost all of my dancers work multiple jobs to be able to continue pursuing dance in NYC. In order for “Oblivion” to reach it’s full potential we need your support. Funds raised through this Kickstarter will go towards all the expenses mentioned above.
Susie McHugh + Dancers are proud to be fiscally sponsored by Unique projects, Inc. All donations $50 or over are able to be tax-exempt and donors will receive an acknowledgment letter from Unique projects, Inc.
Risks and challenges
I have carefully calculated our risks and we trust in the generosity of our friends, family, and online community. If we do not make our funding goal, the dancers will be paid what I can out of pocket and I will not receive any financial compensation for the other expenses mentioned above.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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