story & photo
by Jon Persson
Stephanie, no longer shy, dances in the lead of an Artist’s Jam at New London’s Harbour Towers. She moves with easy grace and smiling confidence between actual performance, and as the framer of the improvisations which are the theme of this evening, inviting the audience to join her in the creative process of living art.
For those who have known the young woman both behind and in front of this open forum, her blossoming from quiet, reticent figure to the energetic, outgoing presence with an easy laugh is both touching and inspiring. It is in part testament to the power of a calling to a life of artistic expression.
Stephanie is joined by Christine, a vibrant dancer whom she connected with through the recommendation of mutual friends. They have rehearsed “three or four times,” Stephanie says, during which they “planned the structure of the evening.” This includes a demonstration of “Throw and Catch,” where one dancer improvises a short routine (the Throw), which the second dancer repeats with added movements of their own (the Catch). Demonstrations of techniques used by dancers and choreographers follow.
“I wanted people to have a place to come together to play,” Stephanie explains. “I don’t want this to be just ‘Stephanie’s Artist’s Jam,’ I want it to be our Artist’s Jam,” she adds. Following this lead, six of the 50 or so people in attendance take their place on the mirror-side of the stage; Justin to read with conviction his poem 12 a.m., Wall St., NYC; Cristin to dance gracefully to a melodic violin solo. Guitarists and a player of a Chinese instrument perform as Stephanie and Christine dance, an interaction which was the objective of this evening.
The Jams themselves are works-in-process. Organizing this Artist’s Jam has been a learning process for Stephanie, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Temple University. Answering emails and talking to interested people required about 40 hours of her time, leading her to consider doing future Jams “on a seasonal, rather than monthly, basis.” This first event, which raised funds for the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, also revealed an expectation by attendees to be entertained by a “finished” performance. But, Stephanie emphasizes, “its not a ‘show,’ it’s a Jam. It depends on the people who show up” to make it a successful, creative event.
In addition to seeking out artistically talented participants, Stephanie would be appreciative of help from people with skills in networking and the organizing of events. Stephanie has also begun giving dance and movement lessons at the New London Healing Arts Center.
At the evening’s conclusion, Stephanie asks the assembly of people to join hands in a circle. “Arts have a momentum which helps in the rejuvenation of the city,” she says. “Tell a stranger you had a really good time,” she adds; “there are a lot of ways to be talented.” And, she concludes, the arts provide many opportunities for us “to love each other.”
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