Spotlight: New Works Award Winner Sarah Council


In an effort to support the creation of new choreography by NC artists, the NCDF has partnered with the NC Dance Alliance (NCDA) to offer the NCDA/NCDF New Works Award. This year’s inaugural New Works artist is Sarah Council of Charlotte, founder and artistic director of Sarah Council Dance Projects (SCDP).  Her new work Dislocate will premiere at the Raleigh NC Dance Festival performance on September 10, Jones Auditorium, Meredith College, 8 pm. Dislocate will also be shown in a Greensboro performance and discussion during the National Folk Festival’s “Fabric of Freedom” programming on September 24, Little Theatre, Bennett College, 7pm.

Council describes Dislocate as a “multi-sectioned group work centered on themes of loss, perception and paradigm shifts. Inspired by the experiences of international refugee families relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, Dislocate is a physical inquiry into stories of courage, expectation, disappointment and sacrifice. In this thought provoking work, dancers will navigate physical and emotional spaces; searching out moments of synchronicity, balance and connection in a shifting, off kilter environment. As an entry point to the creative process, SCDP will work with local non-profit refugee service organizations, to collect a series of recorded interviews from displaced families. These stories will be source material for the creation of this work. These interviews will also be incorporated into the original sound score for the dance piece composed by Mike Wall.”

Dance Project asked Sarah a few questions about the creation of Dislocate.

What most inspired you to work with refugees for your new work?

SC: The inspiration for Dislocate and my interest in exploring the refugee experience actually began with my own experience of relocation. We had lived in the northeast for over 10 years and then for various reasons needed to move and found ourselves here in Charlotte. It was not the easiest of transitions. I made my way to the studio and I began to explore ideas of loss, shifting perspective and perception, why we see things in the way that we do, and what makes a home.

During that same time I met a woman who worked at Project 658, a local refugee service organization. She shared with me that there was a large refugee community here in Charlotte. I was very interested in finding out more. As I thought about it, I wondered how these same elements that I had exploring and experiencing on a small scale would be present on a much larger scale in the lives and stories of these individuals who had been forced for various reasons to leave their homes.

Shortly after that the refugee crisis became front and center in the world’s eye and I felt confirmed to make this piece. Through the relationships I was building at Project 658, I was able to gather the stories of several of the displaced individuals and use them along with the material I had been developing to spark our creative process for the piece.

You describe your process as collection, expansion, and distillation. Could you explain how those components have played out in the formation of “Dislocate”? Have any of these been more challenging than in previous works?

SC: The collection and expansion phases of this work have been extensive. I had been exploring ideas of loss, perception and paradigm shifts in the studio on my own since early 2015.  By the summer of 2015, I began to expand and further develop these ideas with a handful of dancers. During this time a vast vocabulary of movement was generated. As the specific context of the work began to take shape, we started collecting interviews from displaced individuals, studying articles, poetry, and images related to the refugee experience and distilling, shaping and focusing movement and interactions in that direction. We are coming to the end of the process and are very close to finishing this initial version of Dislocate.

In this particular creative process the expansion phase was the most difficult. I was very new to Charlotte as I began making the work so I was on my own in the studio for a very long time. Bringing together the group of dance artists I am working with now was a very long process as well, so this pulled the timeline for the work out significantly. In the end though I think that it was a blessing, I feel that because the work has been built and developed over time there is a depth to the movement and the dancers’ relationships that I am really excited about.

What are you most excited about for the premiere of “Dislocate”?

SC: I will be so excited to see the Dislocate fully realized. I am hopeful that the work will generate conversation, thought and reflection. I’m excited that aspects of these stories of displaced individuals living in our state will be brought to light, given space and honored. I am thankful to Project 658 and NCDF/NCDA for their support of this project!

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Council’s choreography has been presented in numerous venues in NYC including: The LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Triskelion Arts, Merce Cunningham Studio, Times Square Arts Center, and also at Dance Place (DC), The Jack Guidone Theater (DC), Franklin Marshall University (PA), Glema Mahr Center for the Arts (KY) and Jacksonville Episcopal School (FL). SCDP has performed throughout the New York City Public Schools in collaboration with arts education organization, Together In Dance. As a teaching artist, Council has conducted residencies sharing creative movement and modern dance with children of all ages throughout New York City, New Jersey and  Washington DC and North Carolina.

For more information on Sarah and her work, check out her website!

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