Sunday, March 25, 2001

Dancer Womack steps into teaching

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        When Shawn Womack left the Tristate in June 1999, it was to an uncertain dance future. After years of pouring heart and soul (and money) into her local company, Dance Projects, it was time for husband Michael Oxley to do his thing. He wanted to study to become a minister.

        The couple and son Rafe, now 4, moved to Berkeley, Calif., where Mr. Oxley enrolled at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Ms. Womack figured she'd get a “real” job, something that paid more money than dancing and take her time getting a feel for the area. Almost immediately she found “action theater.”

        “I did a three-month training with Ruth Zaporah (a theater/improv expert) in movement improvisation,” Ms. Womack says. “I needed some regenerative time for myself after producing so much work, and it gave me time to delve into improvisation, not just dance. It's helped me refine my own teaching methods.”

        Which has turned out to be helpful, because although she's not yet performing, she is back to teaching — in schools and training teachers.

        This summer she'll be easing back into the creative side of dance when she heads for an island in Canada (“I can't remember the name,” she says) to study with Deborah Hay, a solo choreographer and performer.

        “She invites choreographers to come work with her with a riddle. She uses the 7,300 trillion-celled body as her teacher. She calls it cellular awareness. Sounds esoteric doesn't it?” Ms. Womack says, laughing.

Back to school

        When Ms. Womack's dad died last year, the family uprooted again. But this time it was a shorter move, from Berkeley to Riverside so Ms. Womack could be close to her mom.

        In the meantime Mr. Oxley, who's known locally for his work with VoiceBox changed his focus from the ministry to teaching. (He doesn't have time to sing these days.) He's working on a master's in theology with an emphasis in ethics. Work on a doctorate will follow.

        Ms. Womack discovered she can earn a master of fine arts degree in experimental choreography at University of California-Riverside, and that's where she sees the future.

        “I'd like to focus my teaching in the academic area — maybe working in a university. An MFA would get me closer to being able to do that,” Ms. Womack says.

        Getting back to choreography and performing are also in the works.

        “I'm ready to begin making dances again — post-company. I needed to be away from it for a while. Now I'm ready to get back to it. My heart is in making dances. It's who I am.”


All about Oscar
Exploring with Roger Brucker and James Borden
Rich melodies flavor CSO's Rachmaninoff
- Dancer Womack steps into teaching
DEMALINE: The arts
KENDRICK: Alive and well
MCGURK: Film notes
Prize possessions
Concert review: CSO
Theater review: 'Art'
Theater review: If Theatre Collective
Get to it