Shura Baryshnikov is an interdisciplinary artist who works broadly as a dancer, actor, improvisor, choreographer, and somatic movement educator. Performing improvisation, set choreography, as well as contemporary text and classical verse, Shura is compelled to question ideals of specialization in the performing arts. Shura has co-founded a number of dance projects, including Doppelgänger Dance Collective, a Providence-based dance company dedicated to the curation and commission of new contemporary works, and the Contact Improvisation research and performance ensemble Set Go with U.S. based dancers Paul Singh, Sarah Konner, Aaron Brandes, and Bradley Teal Ellis. Ultimately interested in applications of practice in pedagogy, process, and performance, Shura employs work in Viewpoints Technique, Safety Release Technique, Action Theater, and Contact Improvisation to co-create deeply-sensitized, collaborative spaces.
Most recently, Shura served as movement designer for Anne Bogart's critically acclaimed production of The Handmaid's Tale at Boston Lyric Opera and Bridge Repertory Theater's award-winning production of George Brant's Dark Room. Other design and choreography credits include Trinity Repertory Company, The Wilbury Theatre Group, Khambatta Dance Company, and Urbanity Dance. As a freelance dancer, Shura has performed and created work with Lorraine Chapman the Company, Betsy Miller Dance Projects, ali kenner brodsky & co., Heidi Henderson, Gabriel Forestieri, Lostwax Multimedia Dance, and Festival Ballet Providence, among others, and her solo and improvised performance projects have been presented nationally and internationally. Shura has performed theatrical roles with The Gamm, Odyssey Opera, Trinity Repertory Company, and Bridge Repertory Theater. She is Head of Physical Theatre for the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Program in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University where she has instructed since 2011 and has also instructed at MIT, Dean College, and Connecticut College, among others. She is a member of Actors' Equity Association.
FACULTY POSITIONS AND COURSES TAUGHT
2011-present BROWN UNIVERSITY, Head of Physical Theatre, Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies; Brown/Trinity MFA Program for Actors and Directors
Contact Improvisation (1 sections)
Postmodern Contemporary Dance and Composition (1 section)
The Instinctual Body: Sourcing Solo through Improvisation (1 section)
Viewpoints Technique for Training Actors and Performers (1 section)
2017 NORTH KARELIA COLLEGE, Department of Dance; Outokumpu, Finland; Guest Instructor and Choreographer; Contact Improvisation
2016 CONNECTICUT COLLEGE; Adjunct Dance Faculty, Experimental Workshop: Introduction to Improvisation/Contact Improvisation (1 section)
2016 KEENE STATE COLLEGE; Guest Choreographer
2014-present MOSES BROWN SCHOOL; Dance Program Coordinator
2010-2015 FESTIVAL BALLET PROVIDENCE SCHOOL; Contemporary Dance Faculty
Pre-Modern through Advanced Contemporary Dance Technique
2013-2015 Summer Intensive Program, Contemporary Dance Faculty
2015 DEAN COLLEGE; Adjunct Dance Faculty, Intermediate Contemporary Technique (1 section)
2014 SALVE REGINA UNIVERSITY; Guest Choreographer
2014-2015 MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY; Guest Instructor/Theatre; Viewpoints Technique
ONGOING ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTION SITES:
Moving Target/Green Street Studios, JMW High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, School@95/AS220, Trinity Rep Young Actors Summer Institute, Earthdance/Moving Arts Lab, TheatreBridge|Brown Univeristy, Boston University Summer Theatre Institute, The Gamm Summer Intensive, Sophia Academy, Lincoln School, OM Kids Yoga Studio, The Movement Exchange, Motion Center, Catalyst Series and Deep Dance at The Dance Complex, Urbanity Dance, The Dragon's Egg. Contact Meets Contemporary Festival, Paris CI Gathering, School for Contemporary Dance and Thought, Loyola Marymount University, Rhode Island College, Interlochen Arts Academy, Boston Conservatory at Berklee
SAMPLE CLASS DESCRIPTIONS
CONTEMPORARY TECHNIQUE: Skate, Circle, and Fall: movement practice for dancers who LOVE the floor
In this contemporary class, we will draw upon the technical foundations of B.J. Sullivan's Safety Release Technique work to build safe and efficient patterning from the floor to standing, challenging our habits and progressing together towards a number of exciting, hands-free pathways. Driving powerfully with the spine, we will play with the relationship between our heaviest parts and the efficiency of our distal points. This play will support increasing speeds, and surprising pathways, unleashing the kinesthetic joy which will bring us through moments of risk and disorientation in our dancing. If we accept that the body is always falling, we begin to understand that our task is only to guide it safely from up to down and then ride our momentum and structural organization from down to up again.
CONTACT IMPROVISATION: Does the idea of tracking (fundamental, hands-on tracking of our partner in duet) feel elementary in our CI practice? Together, let's reinvigorate our interest in tracking our partner's spine as well as the centers of power and mass in their body. Let's track with such acute awareness that we drop, rise, and ride with full ease, our bodies immediately responsive and surprising. Let's embrace this "task" in our dancing -- the "task" of effective tracking the other. This will free us from the pressures of having to generate or make the dance. The dance will make itself.
CONTACT IMPROVISATION: In a time when we are increasingly detached and technologically dependent, what type of communication humanizes us? What kind of communication establishes and reinforces bonds rather than isolates us? When we practice Contact Improvisation, our primal faculties are on display, which can remind us of the pure essence of human communication. Each dancer is relying on their own body, the most complex operating system we have access to, using the body as a human landscape and exploring movement in the relation to earth’s physical laws as well as a partner. We believe that CI challenges our overwhelming acceptance of media ecology, offering a respite from our dependence on virtual information. Contact Improvisation is analog versus digital. It is subversive in a time with so much digital dependence. The practice of Contact Improvisation provides an opportunity to zoom into the ecology of the body and then out to experience composition, community, and culture. We are simultaneously negotiating shared choice-making with another human, creating new languages and mode of communication with every dance. When examining the etymology of the word communication, we learn that it literally means "to make common." With this non-verbal language, we build community through communication.
CONTACT IMPROVISATION: Our dances are made of the ingredients we choose to include on any given day. Like making a soup, what we put in the pot results in a dynamically different flavor. In this class, we will do this with our dancing - three ingredients at a time. (With three ingredients, we will healthily challenge our attention but ultimately seek to hold all three simultaneously.) We will work less with imagery and metaphor and more with specific physical investigations in combination. For some, the ingredients may seem complementary. For others, they may feel at odds. We will ask: how do I dance these three ingredients? We will quickly build a combination, dance the fulfillment of it, reflect with our partner and then move on to a second round and then a third. I will offer a few flavor combinations for the group and then you will create your own and dance it through. Three pots of soup. One class. Lots to taste!
CONTACT IMPROVISATION: Let‘s explore how extension can bring us into an exquisite understanding of kinetic chains in the body, increasing our range of motion and allowing us to dance our full frame. Through investigation of line, length, and directionality, we will fall upwards in the act of reaching through space and towards our partner. The eyes, the intercostal muscles, and the tips of our fingers will lead us to our edges, and we will envision our joints moving with additional interior space in order to maintain released extension. Working in solo, duet, and trio, we will explore how extension can help bring additional awareness to interior lines of energy and to the tactile experience of a point of contact.
I am a working artist; I am a practitioner. I work to adapt to different creative environments and processes. I bring somatic inquiry to play in the way I move, coach, and create.
I endeavor to train artists capable of great physical clarity, virtuosity, and athleticism. With pedagogy built on a foundation of somatic awareness as well as rigorous personal and relational exploration, I ask practitioners to truly inhabit the body, taking responsibility for all that is spoken through an ever-present and deeply communicative physicality.
The forms I teach are the forms that I practice. I attempt to model attention, investment, breath, and humor. I share my compositional aesthetic. I share a hungry, expansive way of moving yet believe in processes that support the nervous system and respect the autonomy of the artist.
I bow to lineage. I conjure the teachers that I have been in the room with - those that I couldn’t look away from. I remember the way they moved, or didn’t, the way they held the room with exquisite attention, and the respect with which they witnessed others work.
Never static, the forms I pursue are evolving and continually shaped by the vernacular of those who investigate them. Contact Improvisation, the Viewpoints Technique, Action Theatre, and postmodern contemporary dance techniques such as Safety Release Technique are all open practices rather than closed methodologies. The artists who embrace the rigor of deep, kinesthetic research, yet hold on with a flexible grip, define these practices and mark their evolutionary course.
Continually morphing, these open practices and their practitioners will evolve without us if we do not adapt; we must extend our flexibility as artists and educators to that inevitable, seismic activity. The role of the witness becomes meta: we must accept change in these fields of research and also in ourselves. We cultivate curiosity. We have all that we need in our ability to witness and step forward.