Monday, June 8, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Sydnie L. Mosley

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

Sydnie L. Mosley

Sydnie L. Mosley
(photo: Jamie McLean)

Sydnie L. Mosley​ is an award winning artist-activist and educator who is interested in creative work that is both artistically sound and socially aware. ​She produces experiential dance works with her collective SLMDances. Through their choreographic work, the collective works in communities to organize for gender and racial justice. Her evening length dances The Window Sex Project and BodyBusiness, their creative processes and performance experiences are a model for dance-activism. ​​​Her dances have been performed extensively throughout New York City and she was listed by as one of twenty-five “Up and Coming: Young Minority Artists and Entrepreneurs.”​ Sydnie was recognized by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for using her talents in dance to fuel social change.

Currently, SLMDances is engaged in a multi-year residency through Lincoln Center Education as the Manhattan Community Artists in Residence toward the development of their newest work, PURPLE. They also received LMCC Creative Engagement funding to support The Window Sex Project: Community Workshops (2017 + 2019), and PURPLE (2020).

Other support includes: CUNY Dance Initiative (2016 + 2017 Artist in Residence), Dancing While Black Artist Fellowship (2015-2016), and The Field Leadership Fund (2015-2017). The Performance Project @ University Settlement (Artist in Residence 2015-2016). She is a 2013 alumna of the Create Change Fellowship with The Laundromat Project, and the Gibney Dance Institute for Community Action Training. In 2011, she became the inaugural Barnard Center for Research on Women Alumnae Fellow.

​A versatile dancer, Sydnie is a part of the 2017 Bessie Award winning cast of the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds curated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa. Sydnie danced with Christal Brown's ​INSPIRIT, a dance compan​y (2010-2013) and has continued to appear as a guest artist for Brooklyn Ballet since 2009.

​As a dance educator, Sydnie's technique classes pull together orientations from the African diaspora, attention to the architecture of traditional modern dance, and the language of Laban/Bartenieff Fundamentals grounded in the use of breath, voice, and personal choices. She has been an Adjunct Lecturer with the Barnard College Dance Department, led guest artist residencies at colleges across that nation including Oberlin College, Washington University in St. Louis, and in 2012 designed Barnard’s Dance in the City, Pre-College Program which she continues to teach.

She graduated from Barnard College in Dance and Africana Studies and earned an MFA in Dance Choreography from the University of Iowa.​​​​

Sydnie resides in Harlem, New York City. When she isn’t dancing, she is writing, listening to music, and cooking.

SLMDances in Direction from Harriet
(photo: ShocPhoto)

Sydnie L. Mosley in Body Business
(photo: Kearra Gopee)

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

Kind of. SLMDances has been in a long term research and development process for PURPLE. PURPLE is a multi-project universe that illuminates the power of “deep sisterhood for social change” through storytelling and movement. Among its projects-in-progress there are: a community-engaged oral history project with elders, a stage work for an intergenerational ensemble of twelve artists, and the development of a series of solos on veteran performers (that language borrowed from you, Eva!).

The thing is, PURPLE is actually a life practice. So although we are no longer able to meet in person with our elder friends or be in a studio movement practice, the way that we continue to work together is practicing the work and moving it forward.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

The first dance I choreographed was to a Langston Hughes poem performed in the center aisle of an AME sanctuary dressed in kente cloth. I was 7. I come from: making up lip synch dances to En Vogue with my sister, cousin, and God-sister; pink tights and sequined tutus in mirrored studios; summers at the American Dance Festival four-week school; choreographing for and running my grade school dance companies; and moving in and out of linoleum community center floors.

At 17, I decided I wanted to run my own dance company. I used my college and graduate school educations--including classroom, work study job, and internship experiences--to learn everything I possibly could about my craft and the field in New York City. From laying the marley to composition to technique to company management.

I also come from formative experiences that affirmed my Blackness, my identity as a woman, my trust in community. That taught me how to lead, organize, and hold space.

By the time I got to making my first evening-length work, I was figuring out how to connect my history advocating and creating space for my communities with choreography and production.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

I am practicing stillness. I am practicing surrender. I am practicing listening. I am practicing being cared for. I am practicing writing. I am practicing advising. I am practicing healing. I am practicing wellness. I am practicing joy. I am practicing being who I am becoming.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

Everything I do is in alignment. I care the most about Black people, Black women and girls, artists with marginalized identities, dance as a field--wellness, thriving, and liberation for all. The act of growing the SLMDances collective, dance by dance, organizational iteration by organizational iteration is my practice. We are guided by our core values: Dreaming, Activism, Community, Transparency, Humanity, Learning. This is our framework, compass, and rubric for accountability.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

My practice LOVES the world we have now. My practice is affirmed by the world that we have now. The SLMDances COVID-19 pivot is not really a pivot. Our continued rehearsal ritual, as we call it, has been grounding, with most of us tracking time in the past thirteen weeks by SLMDances Day or non-SLMDances Day. Even though we are meeting virtually, we are still moving together, still breathing together, still checking in, and still creating together.

The collective organized a professional development series with guest facilitators sharing their expertise in topics ranging from theater devising techniques to trauma-informed facilitation to plant medicine to financial wellness. We are tending to our own wellness by being together, acquiring information together, brainstorming together. We are sustaining relationships with our elder community partners by making phone calls and connecting them to resources where and how we can.

Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.

Give yourself permission. This is an idea we have talked a lot about in developing SLMDances’ most recent work PURPLE. As the world has turned upside down, it has become increasingly important to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. Be gentle and release expectations. We are grieving, we are shocked and upset, we are losing grasp of everything we thought we knew. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, to not work, to rest, to eat, to dance it out. What we once knew has gone. You have permission to be new.


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Artist Development and Curation and Editorial Director. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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