Shelby Durham is a dancer with and the Marketing Manager of COMMON Conservatory, the Marketing Designer Assistant, Social Media Specialist and Head of Merchandising for PARA.MAR Dance Theatre, a dance instructor with Definition Dance Academy and LoMastro Performing Arts Academy, and a choreographer based in Chicago, IL. She is a 2020 Cum Laude graduate with a BFA Dance Performance & Choreography and BA in Arts Administration, with a minor in Business Administration from Elon University. She has trained with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, Centro di Danza Firenze, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the American Dance Festival, where she was able to perform works by Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. While with Hubbard Street, she studied choreography by Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin, Alejandro Cerrudo, Peter Chu, FLOCKWORKS and Nacho Duato, and was also able to create new works with Robyn Minkeo Williams, Micaela Taylor, Roderick George, and Rena Butler. Shelby was the first Elon dance major to have her choreographic work selected for two consecutive years to be presented in the Fall Dance Concert, and has had her choreography and commissioned work presented throughout the US. Recently, her work has been screened in the HOMEGROWN Choreography Festival and selected for the IODC and the EXCHANGE Choreography Festival. Shelby was awarded the “Outstanding Senior Dance Performance & Choreography Award” for her accomplishments in both fields at Elon University in 2019. Before joining COMMON, she trained with Danielle Agami of Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY in Los Angeles during Summer 2020.
resumes + reels
The human experience is ultimately something that everyone on the planet can relate to. If you are a human, you have experiences.
These human experiences unite us, however, they are what differentiate us. A cognitive reflection that one person may have over the smallest detail, might mean massive amounts to another. These experiences, however they differ, are what intrigue me as an artist.
When discussing our unique experiences, one can take a situation or an experience to its actual extreme. Take something as simple as agreeing with someone. The level of extremity I am interested in is cult behavior and a mob mentality. This is where I begin to create.
Movement is my vernacular. It’s the being in which I feel most fluent. I can write novels in shapes whereas I can only write pages with words. Versatility within this expression is one of my strongest traits as an artist. I can easily articulate rhythm one moment, pop the next, and move like a silk scarf right after. Versatile training is what led me to a plethora of movement vocabulary and studies which helped me find my artistic voice, and myself, through improvisation. This eagerness to create and design ultimately led me to choreographing.
Designing a stage feels like second nature to me. I have always had a passion for lines, color, shape and texture through the mediums of fashion, architecture, paintings and interior design. Much like how I can create an aurora of myself through my clothing, I can create an experience within an audience member through a piece. I strive to create dynamic movement vocabulary with motivation, rigor, grit, and honesty. My movement is the culmination of research on a topic, however big or small, and I begin with the extremes of the human body. I want to see how heavily the dancer can perform, or not perform, a single movement. I want to see how the dancer’s anatomy can hinder their shapes, or help create them. These contradictions and conflicts within the human body spark conversation and confrontations under the skin that is exclusive to each human on the planet, not just dancers. And on top of all of these ideas, I value performance. My creation is just as much as it is for the dancers as it is for the audience.
As a choreographer I have not only learned the technicalities of creating a work, but the creative genius and heightened respect I have for whoever is the being at the front of the room. Creating a work is something that takes a unique amount of brain power to complete successfully that I am unsure if I possess yet. But like all experiences, there is no final destination or end game to have made it. This uncertainty offers a unique fire of motivation, reflection and investigation for myself; I never want to be in a place where I am no longer learning.
This investigatory personality has helped fuel my passion for movement. Whether I am embodying the experience of a different choreographer or creating an experience through my work, I want to create art that helps the audiences, dancers, and myself realize that although we may all have different experiences, we all have human experiences, and we all are human.
don't just take my word for it...
Jen Guy Metcalf
"I have known Shelby since the fall of 2016 when she began her college career at Elon University. I worked with her in multiple classes and in rehearsals. She is always prepared and eager to learn. She is an individual who graciously welcomes all feedback and then thoughtfully applies it. I have observed her to be a person who always go beyond what is expected in her creative, technical and theoretical work. In rehearsal, she displays an outstanding work ethic and creative energy. I truly appreciate how she contributes to the creative process. One semester, Shelby was not eligible to be in my piece because she was going abroad to Italy. However, I really wanted to work with her, so I invited her to join me in the studio as I generated new material for my rehearsals with the cast. I will remember that time as one of my favorite rehearsals and that was because of Shelby. She is so quick to grasp/embody new material, makes meaningful contributions to the process, collaborates well with anyone and is just a dream to work with."
"Shelby’s performance more than met my expectations. She was professional, punctual, thorough, and creative. She had great suggestions for our project and the end product of my YouTube channel is beyond what I had hoped for. Shelby has a wonderful work ethic and I appreciate her hard work very much."
"I have known Shelby for four years as her teacher in modern technique and choreography, a choreography mentor, her academic advisor, and as her choreographer in an upcoming project we worked on together. Not only does she possess the intellectual curiosity to make significant contributions to the field of dance and choreography, she also embodies the ambition, organization, persistence, and administration and technology skills necessary for a strong company member. She has proven herself to be an exceptionally engaged student who inspires her fellow classmates and faculty with her authenticity, commitment to excellence, and risk-taking. Shelby is proving to be a gifted and curious leader in her class, as she is able to easily access the connections between artistic craft and the systemic emotional complexities her communities regularly face. Shelby is a self-motivated, goal-oriented leader who values research, artistic craft, and time management equally."