Chantal Cherry is a queer South African dance choreographer and performer with a BFA in South African Contemporary Dance from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an MFA in Choreography from UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures/Dance Department, Los Angeles.
Chantal’s choreographic research is currently centered around queer identity and its representation in art and media. Her latest work, Our Bodies At Night, explores romantic intimacy between two women who powerfully support each other through symbiotic weight- bearing, sensual, movement. This duet was showcased as part of the Movement Research Open Performance Showings (NYC),the Dance Umbrella Africa Festival (South Africa), and at Highways Performance Space (Los Angeles).
In addition, Chantal recently premiered two new works at Highways Performance Space as part of her evening of dance. Tribute To My 12-year Old is a solo that gives voice to Chantal’s inner child, her desire to dance, and her parents’ disappointment in her career choice, presenting life as an artist as a failure. AndHome (Live) is an abstract duet portraying of two approaches to grieving, inspired by the death of a friend.
Chantal has taken part in such international conferences as Confluences 6 & 7, and Crossings International Artistic Workshop, hosted by the Gordon Institute of the Creative and Performing Arts. Her dance film, A Bigger Bang For Your Buck, screened at the Dance Transmissions Festival in Uganda, as well as the Re-Visioning Dance Festival in South Africa. Another of Chantal’s dance films, 1, 2 ,3, screened at the Echo Park Film Festival and was screened at the Los Angeles Municipal Arts Gallery as part of the Juried Exhibition. The same work was adapted for its stage premiere, Folie a Trois. She has worked with a wide range of esteemed choreographers, including Vincent Mantsoe (France), Germaine Acogny (Senegal), Christina Towle (France), Hsiao-Mei Ho (Taiwan), Shahar Biniamini (Israel), Jeanine Durning (New York), Ros Warby (Los Angeles), Sheetal Gandhi (Los Angeles), and Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa). Chantal has trained in contemporary dance, African dance, West African, Spanish, release techniques, contact improvisation, Gaga technique, and Skinner Releasing Technique. She has a vested interest in cinematography, theatre lighting design, and dance film making.
I am curious about the human behaviour and body language and the self-imposed societal constructs we abide by (in relation to our respective communities/cultures) as a way of making order and meaning out of the ways in which we organize ourselves publicly and privately. I find societal constructs and social norms to be somewhat oppressive as we stifle what we would instinctively say and do in favor of what we believe we should say and do. For example, from our need to survive we have implemented the societal expectation that we should all pair up and have kids regardless of whether or not this serves the individual. I began questioning these kinds of expectations when I realized, as a queer individual, that I am in direct conflict with certain heteronormative societal constructs that have been positioned as the norm.
My movement vocabulary tends to be athletic, and draws from contact/partnering work and touch, as well as pedestrian gestures that are expanded into full-bodied movement. Presently, themes I am exploring in my work are failure, physical exhaustion, and romantic intimacy between womxn. My work is influenced and inspired by Pina Bausch, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Mamela Nyamza, among others.
Art has the ability to help us to better understand the human condition and, in doing so, to better understand ourselves. Through my work I aim to challenge the public’s perceptions and instill in the audience the ability to recognize themselves in the performers on stage, allowing them to further their personal growth through the discoveries made by the characters. I hope my work unleashes the suppressed emotions of the viewers so they may feel, and in doing so, heal. When we as audience members see ourselves represented on stage, we feel heard, we understand that we have a place in the world, and our healing process begins. We get to know ourselves more intimately. Through identifying with the known, we learn about the unknown.