Meisha Bosma on ‘Shelter’






My way of moving and creating is unique to each day. There are qualities that are inherent to my being – like everyone – but as life unfolds I notice how my dancing and choreography evolves. My process is frustrating and blissful at the exact same time. During the months of creation everything I see, touch, hear, smell or feel is subject to investigation. I let my imagination go everywhere, even if it feels completely bizarre or for lack of a better word, stupid.

Lately I don’t go into the studio with any material or agenda. My work is better when I create on the spot, but the disadvantage is that I usually don’t remember the choreography after it’s been taught. This is sometimes frustrating for the dancers, but we work collaboratively, and I trust them to take responsibility for the material after it leaves my body. Music and visual image is also important to me, and I like diversity within one piece so I take time to experiment, throw away, and finally decide. I don’t ever want the audience to expect what will come next, so I don’t allow myself to expect what will come next in the process. I strive for spontaneity and honesty, always.

Currently, BosmaDance is a working towards the premier of the Shelter Project. I have gathered five dancers, a visual artist and costume designer to be part of this community-based project that explores the meaning of “shelter”. Designed in three stages, this project began with an initial dinner meeting with the five dancers to discuss and explore our personal ideas. A journal was given to each dancer with specific questions and tasks to consider. 
 Questions/tasks include:

1. Free-write for five minutes on the word shelter. Read it and circle two words that are significant. Give those two chosen words to another dancer. Do another free-write based on those two words given to you. Discuss.

2. Describe in five words the place you live in now.

3. Were you “sheltered” as a child? Describe your answer.

4. Why do you dance?

5. The perfect imaginary place looks like…describe shape, size, height, color, texture, smell.

6. How does nature provide shelter?

7. How do humans provide shelter?

8. Can you touch shelter? Discuss.

9. Write down five questions/fears you have about becoming a mother.

10. What does it feel like when you don’t have a “shelter”?

After writing and discussion, we had a plethora of ideas and meanings to translate into movement. My dancers are very creative and are integral to the shaping of the movement language in all my work. Together, we have found a few qualities/characteristics that reflect our ideas thus far; direct lines in space, floppy limbs, crouching low to the ground, symmetrical spatial design, movement that happens ‘underneath’ and ‘inside’, and the carrying of a baby inside the belly. This is where we are at now. It might be all thrown away tomorrow, but this is where we stand in the process. We now have movement themes to draw from, and will continue to create as the project moves forward.

The next step will be to visit two elementary schools and a women’s shelter in Northern Virginia. We will provide workshops for the participants at each location using dance as a way to explore the meaning of shelter. Brief writing exercises and various movement activities will stimulate new ideas among the participants and will ultimately inform the foundation from which we will build the performance piece. Once this material has been gathered, the artistic team will begin to thread the work together. Our goal is to create a 40-minute work based on the personal experiences and meanings derived from our investigation period. I have no idea what the piece will look like or feel like yet, but I am certain that we are on to something special already. As one child told me “a shelter is the place where all the ants go to keep from getting wet from the rain” and another reported that his shelter was “in the kitchen where my mom and dad eat breakfast together.” This is just the beginning, and where we go from here is a mystery yet to unfold.

meisha-watching-by-jason-motlagh-for-webThe Shelter Project will premier at Dance Place on May 12 & 13, 2007. Visit for more information. BosmaDance is a contemporary dance company based in Northern Virginia. Founded and directed by award-winning artist Meisha Bosma, BosmaDance was featured in the January 2007 edition of Dance Magazine as one of 25 premier up-and-coming companies in the nation. For the past five years BosmaDance has presented an all-female lineup to reach both youth and adult audiences in the metro DC community through performances, movement workshops, and collaborative performance projects. Meisha Bosma has won five Metro DC Dance Awards for her artistic contributions to the community. Her choreography has been commissioned by the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Alexandria Performing Arts Association, Virginia Commission on the Arts, CityDance Ensemble, Arlington Arts Center, and universities throughout the country. As a performer, Bosma toured internationally with Kombina Dance Company based in Jerusalem, Israel from 2001-03. Named as one of the capital’s “most powerful women” by Washingtonian Magazine in June 2006, Bosma continues to challenge the public with her distinctive and daring style.

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