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In The Spirit of Relevé

by | Nov 3, 2021 | Articles, Performance & Companies

Hello Dancers! How are you all, my friends? With the change of season, I am trying to find new projects that keep me fueled. What has been energizing you? Are you dancing? I have updated my shop for the holidays and have some new designs that include my latest work, using the word Relevé. I hope you like it and as always, thank you if you have ever ordered anything!

Now back to talking about dance…I want to share a project that I did with a local poetry group. The collaboration paired one poet with one dancer with the end goal of making a short video that had an original poem and original dance. The theme was on “Relevé.” I loved thinking about the spirit of Relevé and it’s concept, which means “to rise up.”

At first I was excited to be meeting new creatives and connecting with other artists. We had five pairs total. Even though, ugh, a few more Zoom calls, it worked very well with schedules & with “life” to meet this way. It was also FUN. What is that? I have noticed I consider “fun” doing something like building Ikea furniture for my son’s bedroom or cleaning out the garage. Doing a little show was something I thought would stress me out because it would take too much time away from my family right now. However, I learned quickly, many of these adults were even busier than me. Doing a remote project was a great idea.

Here is the timeline we used for our collaboration:

  1. Group meeting
  2. Got paired- dancer and poet
  3. Brief intro -bios with samples of creative style, rough idea of how to begin working
  4. Reviewed technical experience & schedules- best ways to work together & communicate
  5. Expressed broad ideas for project 
  6. First draft of poem
  7. Draft response with dancer story/location stills
  8. Midpoint group Zoom meeting- cohesive guidelines for series 
  9. Filming & rough edit with text
  10. Zoom to review
  11. Zoom to work on final edits, file prep and uploading to poetry drive
  12. Project launch
  13. Final critique 

releve filming - camera viewI put painters tape on the floor to mark where I could dance and still be in the frame.

I have never done a virtual performance and did not feel in shape enough to do anything. So, I needed to focus on what I could do dance-wise. I made my dance be more of a performance piece, aka dance theatre. I am also not a choreographer and so making up a dance was not as FUN for me as telling a story. I used my favorite fixed lens to make a cohesive visual with a cinematic quality. The project was given the summer to complete with a due date. The shooting took a half day and had two of my best artist friends over to help. We used available window light and one key light to shine on my feet. It never felt like enough or the right time of year but now I see that making time for my art is so needed. 

After hearing the first draft of the poem, I printed it out and worked to fit in dance scenes and locations. I’ve had a pair of never worn, red satin shoes from BalletBeautiful.com and they are, well, just beautiful! Paying homage to Hans Christian Andersen, my inspiration was The Red Shoes. When my partner, Mike saw the dance sequence from The Red Shoes, he said he felt it “pull you into its world, and the whole idea of being out on the street.. and this whole surreal, circus-like atmosphere resonates with going back into public these days.” 

Our exploration of relevé touched on being lifted, and the energy of dance, especially the feet. In exploring the highest tiptoe, dancing in pointe shoes elevates and gives the experience of feeling enlightened. We didn’t necessarily want it be about the pandemic, but in the end it was what was expressed by both of us. 

dancer tying pointe shoes with dog watchingMy Frenchie, Nellie, joined us on the set but didn’t make the final cut.

A few last tips for everyone to keep dancing:

  1. Consider a virtual performance
  2. Consider collaborating with other art forms
  3. Focus on what you can do
  4. Dance with joy in mind

I would like to continue to find time for performance in my life. Doing something from home and virtual was more fulfilling than I ever expected. I would recommend giving it a try and also, don’t forget to have fun!


Rewired Reflexes
When you’re living through a strange fairy tale (and you are) sometimes you have to lean into it. This piece threads together raw emotions with iconic images.

Dancer: Nicole Chelini Ozment   Poet: Mike Chernoff 


The world, razed,
cracked open, exposed.
A year’s worth of dust
hangs on your clothes.
You try to blend in,
slow breath through the nose.
You’ve been waiting for this
since a lifetime ago.

Welcome to the
grand re-opening.
As you climb out from
your carry-out carton fortress,
real life streams out
the end of your watch list.
This well-worn world
should be natural
as swearing in traffic.
But it’s hard to shed distrust
of door handles and public laughter.
Suspicious motives
muttered under each breath,
“Grande nitro cold brew, with a shot of espresso.”
One foot anchored safely,
the other flexed
in a tiny mutiny
of rewired reflexes.

Re-navigating sidewalks,
shaking off rust,
re-trusting muscle memory,
a city reborn in brake dust.
Sparkling store fronts promise
your old life.
If you still have the receipts
the latest summer fashions
could be fastened to your feet.

Your body raised,
circumspect, inspected,
exuberance and grief,
an equilibrium so delicate.
It’s too tempting to lean out,
fast forward forget,
disinfect the memories,
your head spinning like roulette.

But instead, you steady focus
in tight alignment.
The body, a conduit,
thoughts, coiled and magnetic.
Arbitrary elements
distilled down to clear intent.
Sparking up through your arch,
arcing over circuits.
Current racing
through the spine
in controlled explosion.
No path back to old habits,
no normal on which to rely.
You amplify the signal
returning lightning to the sky.

(Rewired Reflexes was written as part of “Relevẻ” – a Dance Poetry collaboration presented by Atrocious Poets and Christine Chernoff. Rewired Reflexes is performed by Nicole Ozment and Mike Chernoff, Poem by Mike Chernoff)

To see the full collaboration series and complete poems, please visit atrociouspoets.com/releve.


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in the spirit of relevé, to rise up

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Hi I’m Nikki, The Last Dancer. My whole life has been influenced by dancing and this shop focuses on items that speak to a dancer’s entire lifestyle. If you found yourself here, my hope is that this website offers you inspiration too. The shop contains my own products and the blog is original content.

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