As we giddily anticipate the series of Cherdonna Shinatra’s Made in Seattle events, we re-post an interview with Jody Kuener/Cherdonna Shinatra alongside fellow artists Mark Haim and Ezra Dickinson. These interviews were originally posted April 1,2014. Featured image by Eugenie Frerichs.
STANCE: What does it mean to you, to make dance/performance work in Seattle? Why is your work made in Seattle?
Jody Kuehner/Cherdonna Shinatra:
This city has given me so much opportunity. It has shaped me as an artist, molded my aesthetic, given me the best group of mentors, teachers and students. Seattle has provided me with a killer dance scene to learn, train, grow, experiment. I am inspired daily by Seattle’s drag and burlesque communities—the blending of mediums will be forever interesting to me. I have all this information and inspiration around me every day. In one weekend I will see a world-renowned drag queen perform at Chop Suey and the next night I will see surreal, avant-garde dance performance at On The Boards. I can go to a contact improv jam, a Pacific Northwest Ballet open class, a speakeasy forum, a modern technique class, hip hop class, breakdancing class, how to style a wig class, and on and on. I believe I could be happy in New York as I need all these different things in my life but Seattle also has the mountains, the ocean and the desert. Seattle has been the place where I dropped into my artist skin and I will forever be influenced by that.
I’m inspired by the land of the Northwest. I like to think about the land that existed before Seattle was settled by the whites. Lush rain forests, never-ending green growth, the wet fertile earth, the over saturated moss and sweet aroma of the air. Walking through Seattle I imagine what it once was and how it will get back to that ancient place.
I live in Seattle, and I travel as often as possible. No matter where I am, I want to wander down the dark streets and see the underbelly of what is forgotten. I want to create and make commentary on my surroundings. Observing the world and community is how I find inspiration and learn new ways to communicate through art.
Seattle uses me up. I love it. And I am forever grateful. And, Seattle doesn’t expect me to be consistent (well, maybe the granting organizations do, but fuck ‘em). I get to try on a whole bunch of different hats and I love them all: teacher, choreographer, performer. Sometimes, I get to work on a dance over a period of years (like This Land Is Your Land) and take it, with a large group of Seattleites who happen to be friends, to places like Paris, New York and the American Dance Festival. Other times, I get to make dances for 5-20 people in a matter of two or three hours for my good friend Lucia Neare and her site-specific works that happen all over the Puget Sound area. If that weren’t enough, I get to try new things and learn new tricks, choreographing for the Intiman last summer and most recently, the Seattle Opera. And, finally, every week I get to work with children ages 11-17 over at the International Ballet Academy in Kirkland as well as a lovely cross-section of lifelong dance students in both ballet and contemporary classes at the Velocity Dance Center.
What more could I ask for? My work is part of a large, receptive, non-limiting, open-ended community of talented, curious and supportive individuals. I am a lucky human being.