REVIEW: National Choreography Month (NACHMO) Overview

National Choreography Month (NACHMO) Overview

by Kacie Peterson

Eat. Sleep. Dance. Repeat.

For the 18 artists participating in National Choreography Month (NACHMO), this is their January schedule.

NACHMO got its start in New York in 2010 and was modeled after National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which challenges writers to write a novel in just 30 days. With that concept applied to movement, choreographers have just 31 days to create dance.

In 2015, NACHMO was brought to DC by a partnership between Glade Dance Collective (GDC) and Shannon Dooling-Cain of New Street Dance Group. Dooling-Cain has since moved out of the area, but NACHMO DC continues to thrive.

Eight choreographers participated that first year. Then 12 in 2016. Which brings us to 2017, with 18 choreographers. Of the 18, 14 will present during the Studio Performance at Dance Exchange on February 10, and four will present site-specific works during Petworth First Friday’s a week earlier on February 3.

“We were trailblazing the first year,” said Shauna Edson, NACHMO DC co-coordinator and a dancer with GDC. “And after it was over, we said, ‘How can we make it better for next year?’”

The beauty of NACHMO is its accessibility for everyone; from those who have little to no choreography experience to professionals. After noticing that many of the same choreographers were applying and presenting in showcases around the area, Edson realized that NACHMO is “for the people in between.”

“It’s for the people who can’t get their work into a showcase or don’t have a venue to perform,” Edson said. “NACHMO is the niche gap that we needed to fill.”

With just 31 days to create a work, Edson said the choreographers are on an honor system. While they might have a spark of inspiration going into January, the bulk of their movement must be created during the month, she said.

Take Edson for example. In 2015, the first year of NACHMO DC, she created a quartet that was 19 years in the making. Inspired by her 11 year-old-self in a modern class, Edson was able to create the vision of dancers she’d had when her teacher turned on the song, “Fairytale” by Enya.

“It was exactly what I envisioned the dancers looking like with the music,” Edson said. “It’s not something I would have pushed hard to create, but I had the opportunity with NACHMO.”

This year, she’s creating a duet to honor her mentors.

“I plan rehearsal to the nth degree,” Edson said. “Now I can go back and edit what we have and change movement.”

Also, to change it up this year, NACHMO DC co-coordinators Edson and Betsy Loikow (also of GDC), brought in two new performance opportunities – one for youth choreographers and another with site-specific works.

Two youths are participating and will perform their work during the studio performance.

“This is a chance for [youths] to focus and work on their choreography,” Edson said. The youths participating are also encouraged to audition their work for the Joy of Motion Dance Center Youth Dance Project, for another performance opportunity, Edson said.

The site-specific works came about through a partnership with Petworth Arts Collaborative (created by Sara Herrara Kopetchny) and GDC. The four performances will take place at Upshur Street Books and Annie’s Ace Hardware (Georgia Ave and Upshur St. NW in D.C.).

Loikow is one of the choreographers presenting site-specific work. Hers will take place in the bookstore.

“I work collaboratively, I don’t come to rehearsal with choreography ready to teach,” Loikow said. “I’m rather impulsive with my choreography.”

With just 31 days to create a work, Loikow said she doesn’t feel pressure, but will spend time in the bookstore to gather inspirations from the space and what the dance will mean to her.

With the bookstore, there are different challenges and opportunities, Loikow said.

You don’t need to be registered with NACHMO to participate. Every day, NACHMO and NACHMO DC provide daily prompts to get those choreographic juices flowing.

Edson is behind the daily prompts from NACHMO DC – a popular one suggesting people move from their bedroom to their bathroom without walking. She also posts choreographic tools suggested uses of space and groupings, to get people thinking outside the box.

Anxious to see what these choreographers have cranked out in January? Get your tickets to the studio showing on February 10 from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. (at Dance Exchange) or the site-specific showing February 3 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. (at Petworth First Fridays).

If you plan on attending the studio performance, audience members will be asked to provide feedback to the artists, as most of the works will still be in progress. Audience members will be given four response cards – two white and two of a different color. The white cards are to be filled out for the dances of the audience member’s choosing. The colored cards will be assigned to a specific piece that the audience member will respond to. Be prepared to answer the question, “What are you craving?”

Tickets to the studio showing:

Information about the studio showing and a full listing of participating choreographers:

Site-specific performance is free to attend. Information here: