The Shame Symposium
June 9th-12th @ FringeArts


A year ago we became completely excited about shame in performance.  Through Swim Pony's Cross Pollination Residency we met photographer Jaime Alvarez and began taking Shame Portraits of local performers. Then we went to Martha's Vineyard through a DancetheYard Residency and created many of our improvisational and pedagogical structures for performing shame.  We have been teaching at UArts and rehearsing our brains out.  The Shame Symposium is the first opportunity to present and explosively perform that research.

Shame Portraits

“What is an element of your personality that gives you pleasure and shame?”  That is one of the questions we ask people to write on when preparing for a shame portrait.  We have done 15 wildly different photo shoots on a variety of shames: selfish, crazy, foolish, aggressive, pretty…the list goes on.  The images are beautiful.  And every time we do our consuming two-hour customized photo shoot we feel moved by the raw beauty of the exposed self.  These images will be present in several ways during the show.


Performative Shame Solos


Last summer we had a formative three-week residency through DancetheYard in which we began to perform shame solos in earnest.  Chelsea chose her shame around the word “cute” and Magda chose “aggression.”  These solos have come a long way and existed in many different iterations, with the philosophy that every time we perform them we integrate and react to the experience of the last time we performed them.  So if someone yells at us one time, the next time we do a version that acknowledges that moment.



This spring, we taught an 8-week class through the Practice of Performance in Dance series at the University of the Arts.  We guided 6 juniors and seniors majoring in dance to create a unique and original Performed Shame Solo.  It was a transformative experience.  Through embracing and exposing their shame around: flirtation, optimism, callousness, hyper-sensitivity, confidence, and passion they showed us what it might be like to love these parts of ourselves as well.  Every night when we walked home together after class we yelled the whole time about how amazing they all were and how much we love this kind of work.  Yes we walk and yell in our own bubble of excitement quite often.

Improvisational Movement and Text Scores

The ultimate goal of embracing shame is not to focus on it, but to include it as one honest option of many that may arise in the moment of performing.  We have been developing several structures that prioritize real time presence and transparent reactions to being a human onstage.  The question goes: “What if the only thing you were supposed to perform at any given moment was your actual reaction to everything about that moment?”  Your reactions to yourself: including your history of performance, your history as a personality and a body, your history of your relationship to yourself and others.  Your reactions to the audience.  Your reactions to the decisions you are making as a performer.  Your reactions to sounds and sights- to all sensations.  Some of the names of these structures include:  The Loop of Integrity, The Loop of Relationship, Impulse Score, The Authentic Feeling of the Speaker, Child Body, Extra Turnt Body, and Best Dancer.  I won’t try to explain the scores because that is just going to sound like some very abstract and difficult language.  Also because we will be doing all the demonstrations and explaining in the show.

Girl World/Female Friendship

Magda has been assembling a little library of texts that focus on formative female friendships and interviewing women about theirs.  Much of our work with shame has lead us towards our girlhood experiences and tiptoed around the central friendships of our lives.  What would it be like to research yourself like an academic or test yourself like a scientist?  Our approach likes these questions.  Some of the library includes:

“Surpassing the Love of Men” by Lillian Faderman
“Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde
“Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit
“My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante
“How Should a Person Be?” by Sheila Heti
“Sula” by Toni Morrison
“To Tell the Truth” Betsey Berne on Francesca Woodman
“The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship