We had the good fortune of connecting with Rose Shields and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rose, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I think the most important factor behind my success as a Dance Artist has been my desire to keep learning new things, new techniques and ways to approach dance training, choreography, and performance. I also love to read and learn about topics that inform the creation of my work. Right now in particular I’ve been learning so much about the history of our country’s politics and how it has evolved for better and for worse over time. I also enjoy using my love for science and math to inform how I approach building dances and to use as topics for choreography. Embodying the mathematical idea of a manifold has been challenging and fascinating in my most recent choreographic work by the same name “Manifolds.”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think I’m most proud of the fact that I’m still a working dance artist and that means I perform, I choreograph, and I teach. I also didn’t mention earlier that I consider myself, as a whole, a performance artist as I do perform in circus arts. Namely floor acrobatics, lyra, aerial silks, and human pyramids. I always loved gymnastics, and though I only trained for a short time in childhood, I discovered my love for climbing and being upside down really shaped the kind of dance and performance artist I am today. I joined a local circus group almost 10 years ago now and it has opened up an amazing world full of wonderfully talented and creative individuals. The circus world along with the dance world has been at times difficult to navigate separately. Though both inform one another, the professions cross over only so much at least here in the southern US. However, through growing popularity and accessibility, I think circus has become less secretive and more open to our community. I really believe it has helped me learn a deeper sense of what community means, and that has bled in to my work as dance artist. In a literal sense, when we build human pyramids, I learned really fast that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the bottom, the side, or the very top of a pyramid, if each person isn’t fully engaged and focused, the pyramid won’t hold. Every minor shift in each person changes what everyone else is feeling. It forces everyone to shift in order to keep the pyramid balanced and strong, so you really have to listen not just with your ears but with every inch of your physical self so you can feel slight weight shifts that are happening within your own body and within the group. And this task is a never ending discovery process as I learned to do the same set of pyramids with different people. With each group of people, you have to find little ways to get the balance just right since there is not one human body that is the same. This really taught me the importance of listening and patience and how it applies to so many other aspects of my work and home life. I think that the actual physical feeling of being reliant on others and others relying on me has deepened my understanding of integrity and trust beyond it being an idea. I think it has shown me on a physical level how little shifts in myself can affect others, and that in order to be a working part of my community, I must be reliable and also allow myself to rely on others.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
That’s a tricky question to answer during a pandemic. To be considerate of social distancing, I’d have to go with doing a sunrise hike at Arabia Mountain; during the week is best since it won’t be as crowded as the weekends. I would order takeout from a place like Busy Bee or Slutty Vegan and have a picnic along the Proctor Creek Trail near the soon-to-be-open Westside Reservoir Park. I’d take her for a bike ride along the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail and stop through Old Fourth Ward Park, grab a drink at Victory Sandwhich Bar (also a cute place for a snack), and then head north to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I would hang out at Piedmont Park as it’s a huge, beautiful park to explore people watch and sometimes catch some performance artists outside. It’s been a while, but since they’re implementing social distancing rules, I’d take my BF to the Atlanta Zoo. Also a jaunt around Centennial Olympic Park is fun on a not-too-hot day. If we’re talking post-pandemic, I’d definitely take her to Ponce City Market, see a show at The Fox Theatre (my favorite theatre in Atlanta), and/or to go dancing at an old favorite MJQ. There are a lot of really great places to check out in and around the city. I’m personally a sucker for adrenaline rushes and so Six Flags holds a sweet place in my heart and I try to go at least once a year. The best time is in the fall when it’s a little cooler and Fright Fest is around the corner.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to give a shoutout to my dance mentor Danita Emma for instilling in me the joy of dance and it’s relationship with music and its importance in the world. I think it was because of her passion for choreography and teaching that I found joy in being like a sponge as a dance teacher, choreographer, and performer. She taught me that there is always something to be learned from any class, a performance, a student, fellow teacher, or in experiencing other art forms like music and visual arts. I’d also like to give a shoutout to Core Dance, the dance organization that has supported me so much over the past 8 years as my employer and supported my most recent choreographic venture. This company has given me so much wonderful experiences with a myriad of fellow dance artists, choreographers, and artists from multiple disciplines. Sue Schroeder, the co-founder and artistic director of the company cares very much about the Dance Artist as a valid component to society and works very hard to make sure we as Dance Artists are paid well for our work. I feel like I should name so many people in my life who have supported me as a growing human being and as a Dance Artist. My mother and father have always been cheering me on in this profession I’ve chosen, which is not necessarily common in families as the Dance Artist profession isn’t known to be lucrative. I am so grateful for their unconditional support. My husband Myron supports my creative endeavors as well. So very much. Though an engineer as his main profession, we met in the circus, and so I think he also has a wonderful and deep understanding of the vulnerability, focus, and hard work it takes to create and perform. I am so lucky to have him in my life. I have learned so much about organizing and not being afraid to research the heck out of something to understand it more and do a job right. Even my college professors at UNCSA changed my perspective on the world of dance and surely I would not be where I am without them. I really feel every person I have met along the way in my life so far has helped shape me in some way. To quote Jane Goodall, “Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference.” This is is a tough section to keep succinct.
Core Dance in “A World Too Wide” – Photography by John Ramspott Core Dance in “And a Side of…” for Bayou City Arts Festival – Photography by Sue Schroeder Core Dance Headshot – Photography by Paige McFall Core Dance in “Life Interrupted” – Photography by Lynn Lane Photography by Imperial OPA Circus Core Dance in “If…A Memoir” – Photography by Christian Meyer Photography by Myron Lo Core Dance in Manifolds – Photo by Felipe Barral and IGNI Productions