The Shuffle Challenge

Creator, Organizer, Host

Music and dance. Remixed. The Shuffle Challenge is a music and dance event in New York City and Los Angeles. At face value it's a night of entirely improvised performances that is designed to challenge performers, pushing them to the limits of creativity. At a deeper level it's an opportunity for dancers, and their audience, to share the process of creation. As the host I draw prompts from the audience for musical genre, narrative and themes then the band and dancer, or dancers, collaboratively improvise around those prompts. It's a laboratory for creative social experimentation and since the show began in 2012 I've used the performances as an opportunity to reinforce the message that we are all stronger, more creative through nonjudgemental collaboration.

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The History

The idea came from an exercise my wife, Kaeshi Chai, would do as a warm up when rehearsing with her dance troupe, Bellyqueen.. She'd plug her iPhone into the sound system and set music to play on shuffle. Sometimes she'd show me video of these warmups and I loved that, in this exercise, her dancers stopped performing and simply danced. It was joyful, non-cerebral and energizing.

In its early stages the show was performed to an iPhone playlist set to shuffle exactly like she did in rehearsal. I only added alcohol, a curated playlist and a microphone.

The Philosophy

Very deliberately, I try to blur the line between the performer and audience. Both have enormous power and influence over the night. The performers are reminded that the space is safe and experimentation is encouraged. Honesty and risk are more important than technical ability. I begin the show with a short monologue and often remind the audience that the greatest gift we can offer is our attention. This Attention Economy is what fuels the night. The performers will give everything they have. Offer them attention and support and they'll have even more to give. Its a reciprocal relationship. 

The Performers

The dancers come from across disciplines - ballet, contemporary, modern, bellydance, martial arts, hiphop and more. Many of the dancers are people I've been fortunate to collaborate with in other contexts, many of them have been recruited by my wife (who is a dancer) and others have found our family of madness through past participants. The band regularly features Carmine Guida (bass), Andrew Potenza (drums), Steve Woodzell (guitar), Rob Mastrianni (guitar), Pete LIst (beatbox), Fung Chern Hwei (violin) and Daniil Davydoff (violin). The video's above also feature special guests: Harry Einhorn and Mark Weismantel. Guest dancers and musicians are regularly pulled from the audience for some spontaneous collaboration.