Lessons on Facilitation with THE SINCERITY PROJECT #4

THE SINCERITY PROJECT #4 (2021): Cyclones, Schools, and Packs presented by Team Sunshine Performance Corp is a part of a 24-year performance experiment. Every two years, the same group of artists gathers to reflect on the two years that have passed and create a performance out of this reflection. This year, Guest Director Shavon Norris facilitated the work.

Gathered at the Arch Street Meeting House, a space adorned with Quaker memorabilia in Old City, the ensemble enters the space to begin the performance. At first, it is unclear if they are introducing the work or if this is the performance. Eventually, it becomes clear the performance has begun. Shavon launches into a beautiful monologue welcoming everyone to the space, including all their feelings, homes, languages, dialects, energies, resistance, and challenges.

The entire room engages in a collective breathing practice, a way to set our intentions and send our energy to others as we enter into this experience together. Come as you are, come as you are, come as you are. Shavon continues to carry and guide the work as the ensemble moves through improvisational practices, choreographic scenes, and monologues. The work was heavy. The two years that have passed since the 3rd iteration have been and continue to be heavy. Breathing, witnessing, holding.

Shavon guides the audience in a practice she calls 1-10, examining effort and speed in movement. We start with our hands at one, slowly painting the space around us. Working our way up to a 10, we sink into the pleasure of movement. We dance together. The ensemble keeps going as we, as the audience, settle in to watch them play with effort and initiation points and use movement to reflect on where and how emotions settle in their bodies.

Later, a beautiful song is sung by one of the performers. As the music continues in the background, other ensemble members grab headphones, put on their favorite songs, and start their pleasure dances. The ensemble transitions into unison, and the whole room lights up, witnessing their joy. A theme of the work is this seamless moving between vulnerability and pleasure, and maybe we learn that they aren’t so different from each other.

The work moves into the most memorable and beautiful sections next, monologues from two different performers, detailing their feelings about the Atlanta Spa Shootings and the ongoing BLM movement instigated by the murder of George Floyd. Their statements are powerful and visceral. They try their best to describe the feelings inside of them, often resorting to gestures and movement over words. The ensemble and audience members lean in to listen, witness, and hold space.

Overall, the work was powerful and emotional, unlike anything I have seen before. It is so rare to feel a personal connection with the performers of an ensemble, and this work is successful in that. I truly felt taken care of as an audience member, and I wanted to take care of the performers through my attention.

Concluding, the ensemble moves through a memory dance, repeating memories of what has happened over the last hour, sharing the most memorable moments again and again. The audience comes together to write letters to our future selves. These letters will be delivered to us in 2 years at the next installment of the Sincerity Project. I write thoughts of what my life might look like in two years, about who I’ll still hold close, and wishes that I’ll find ways to hold myself until we meet here again.

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