It’s been a couple of hours since I’ve left the stage where tomorrow night I’ll perform as an extra for MamLuft&Co.’s premiere of /SHIFT/ at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater of the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Although I left my costuming at the theater, have washed my hands, driven home, and eaten dinner, the music still resonates within my mind. The theme of the performance still present, having just as much meaning now as did several weeks ago when I first began to understand the message of this group of dancers and choreographers via the piece.

MamLuftCo, modern dance company in Cincinnati
Pictured: (L to R) Clint Fisher, Susan Honer, and Emily Scott. Image courtesy of MamLuft&Co.

“What happens after an end?” This is the question they pose to you, the audience. The description goes on to say, “Through movement, /SHIFT/ follows a happenstance community of ‘survivors’ after an unknown catastrophic event. The unseen event is up for interpretation: was it a bomb? an epidemic? an apocalypse? a tumultuous change in power? Or, something as simple as a personal or interpersonal catastrophe?”

When I auditioned for a part as an extra, I didn’t know what the piece was about. All I knew, as a matter of fact, was that the company was looking for people who weren’t necessarily dancers. It all began coming together as we gathered week after week for rehearsals, where company director Jeanne Mam-Luft trained a group of about 14 of us on how they wanted us to present ourselves on stage and become a part of the choreography. I admired MamLuft&Co from the start for this, as it took some risk to invite members from the general public to commit to something that they’re putting so much hard work into.

Tomorrow night (Friday, February 21, 2014) is our first live performance, and I think it’s safe to say that the hard work from all of us has paid off. I’m not sure yet how this experience has shifted me personally, but I can tell you that the emotions the dancers elicit from me are just as strong after having watched this week after week for our rehearsals as they were the first time I watched the choreography. I don’t want to give away too much, but the ebb and flow of the dancers, the lifts, the love, and the angst they portray are powerfully given, and received.

Early in the process, in a moment when I was able to tell Jeanne personally how much I enjoyed the piece, she said something like, “I think what it comes down to is that no matter how bad things can get, everyone is really just trying to do their best.” Indeed, and I believe this to be true of life in general.

In the quiet moments before the curtain lifts from the stage floor, I’m grounded, literally and figuratively. I “shift” from Cherie–alive, vibrant, joyful–to the body that used to be Cherie, as I get into my character. I’m still for so long, with powerful and yet simple music filling my ears, sensing the subtle movements of those around me as I feel the vibrations from the stage floor where my face rests. And then for the next hour and a half I’m in the world of MamLuft&Co, which is our world, your world.
I hope you join me there.

Peace, love, and dance,
Cherie Dawn

Visit for Matt Peiken’s interesting 4-part video series, Time Stands Still, on the six-month making of SHIFT.


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