Spotlight: Chanel DaSilva

AUG 24, 2018

by Mario Alberto Zambrano

The doors were closed when I wanted to meet her. Chanel DaSilva and the dancers were having a discussion during the creative process of a new dance piece she was working on. The topic at hand: sexual harassment and physical assault. PUBLIC/Private premiered last season with the Harvard Dance Project, part of Harvard’s undergraduate concentration in Theater, Dance & Media, and circled the indisputable habits of male gaze, objectification, and the slips in physical gesture that fall outside of civilized etiquette. The choreography could’ve been lighter, could’ve centered around an issue less intimidating to students at the undergraduate level, but that’s precisely why it was an issue that needed to be discussed. Chanel DaSilva isn’t making art in order to be nice—she’s in it to have a real conversation through performance. Now, she brings this commitment to the A.R.T.’s world premiere production of The Black Clown.

The Black Clown choreographer Chanel DaSilva.

Raised in Brooklyn, Chanel graduated from Juilliard and pursued a career as a dancer and choreographer. She danced with the Trey McIntyre Project for six years before taking a faculty position at the acclaimed LaGuardia High School in Manhattan. She is the co-founder and co-director of MOVE(NYC), a non-profit arts organization whose mission is to revolutionize the dance field by creating greater diversity and equity in the dance profession. The cornerstone of the organization is the Young Professionals Program, which provides tuition-free, high-caliber dance and leadership training to the talented and motivated youth of New York City who would otherwise not have access to this education.

The cast of The Black Clown in rehearsal.
The cast of The Black Clown in rehearsal.

In an interview with student directors in Dance on Camera, an undergraduate course offered at Harvard last spring, Chanel shared her point of view on what choreography is capable of, and how it can be perceived as a tool to change the world. After explaining how the lens through which she makes choreography is not necessarily the lens through which an audience will experience it, she said, “I love that art has the power to be so beautifully subjective. Everyone leaves with a different meaning.”

Malcolm Armwood, Amber Pickens, Lindsey Hailes, and Jhardon Dishon Milton in rehearsal for The Black Clown.

Mario Alberto Zambrano is a Lecturer in Theater, Dance & Media at Harvard University. A Presidential Scholar in the Arts, a Princess Grace Fellow, and an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has been a soloist and principal dancer for Nederlands Dans Theater, Batsheva Dance Company, Ballett Frankfurt, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

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