Danielle Swatzie emerges from creative cocoon as her career takes flight

Swatzie, with eyes cast downward, elegantly glows against a rustic white and beige brick background. Her upper body twists delicately over a deep lunge, balanced effortlessly on the smooth hardwood floors.
Credit: Eppsshotme

October 31, 2020
Volume 2 Issue 1
By: Edward McNally

“I aim to revolutionize and liberate movement art to connect to my truth, to raise awareness to the present times, and to imagine the future.” 

With these goals in mind, movement artist Danielle Swatzie made her Atlanta debut this summer as a choreographer participating in the first-ever Dance Canvas Residency at Atlanta Contemporary. The two-month residency provided resources and a platform for eight choreographers to create and present works in response to COVID-19 shutdowns and the continued need to address racism and inequality in local communities. While safely adhering to social distancing guidelines, Swatzie worked with one other dance artist to present a first look at cabin fever, a work in progress about the yearning for connection in a time of forced separation.

“I wanted to convey my relationship with restriction and the discomfort of personal transformation that can emerge from confinement,” says Swatzie. “Quarantining this year has been like a cocoon for me. Being able to work again and collaborate has allowed me to emerge again, to feel the freedom and the joy of a butterfly. I have a new perspective now. I’m definitely ready to move on to a new chapter in my life.”

cabin fever is a reflection of what I’m actually feeling and seeing,” says Swatzie. “I’ve laid childhood to rest, and I’m embracing womanhood. I am stepping inside what it means to embrace the power that is Black femininity.”

Swatzie stands in the back of the room observing as dancers Morgan Burns, Patsy Collins, Takia ‘Tiki’ Hopson, Virginia Spinks, Brianne Sellars, Jada Willis and Brionna Williams rehearse her work, growing roots through concrete. The dancers, all masked, stand in the center of the shot, bracing themselves against each other in an intimate clump and standing firm atop shiny, black Marley panels.
Credit: Eppsshotme

Next month, Swatzie will premiere her newest work, growing roots through concrete, as a dance film during this year’s virtual Modern Atlanta Dance Festival (MAD) November 13-14. Other featured choreographers include Dance Aegis, Kendall Alexander, Corian Ellisor and Julio Medina. For MAD, Swatzie will restage her senior thesis project from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she earned her BFA last year. “This work reflects what I observe, how I experience them, but also identifying how I navigate through these experiences.”

Swatzie, an Atlanta native who grew up in Stone Mountain, studied dance at the DeKalb School of the Arts and DanceMakers of Atlanta. Her first choreographed work, Together Underneath, won the Best Student Choreography Award at the Regional High School Dance Festival in Norfolk, Virginia. She also choreographed two works during her first year at UArts. 

After earning her BFA, Swatzie returned home last year and wholeheartedly immersed herself into the industry. Within a year, she interned at The Movement Lab ATL Home of T. Lang Dance, performed with the Komansé Dance Theater and began collaborating with WaheedWorks, founded by Tommie-Waheed Evans. She also found work in film and TV projects including Step Up: Highwater, BET’s Boomerang and the feature film AVIVA, where she worked with choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith. 

“Atlanta has always spoken to me,” says Swatzie. “But as a young dancer, growing up in Stone Mountain, my experience of the local dance community was centered around DeKalb School of the Arts, DanceMakers and attending some exciting performances at KSU. After four years away, I came back and began to really appreciate the amazing range of dance talent and professional opportunities Atlanta has to offer.”  

Swatzie believes that the explosion in film & TV production has played a major role in that. “So many types of artists are moving here and working here now. And they’re very eager to collaborate in exciting ways.” She adds, “I really love film. I’m ready to study cinematography and begin making my own dance films. Thanks to the connections I’ve made, especially through my Dance Canvas residency and the support of the Modern Atlanta Dance Festival, I’ve acquired many new creative tools this year. I’m more ready than ever to explore and to play!”

After a surprisingly full 2020, Swatzie is poised to be busier than ever in 2021. “2020 provided me the ability to collaborate with musicians and videographers. I am excited to see the newness that 2021 brings as my knowledge continues to evolve into this upcoming year.”

Follow Swatzie on Instagram or visit her website to learn more and keep up with all of her future adventures.

Swatzie stands boldly facing away from the camera, adorned in a black top with crisscross straps and loose, khaki pants. Five other dancers stand blurred in the background past Swatzie’s line of sight. Downward beams of light give the room a warm atmosphere and highlight the red squares taped on the floor for social distancing.
Credit: Eppsshotme

Edward McNally is a lifelong patron of the dance and theatre arts in Atlanta, having served as an advisor or boardmember for Fly On A Wall, Zoetic Dance Ensemble, 7 Stages Theatre, PushPush Theatre and the Atlanta Fringe Festival, among others. “Scenes & Motions”, his regular podcast / monthly column about the performing arts appears in Creative Loafing. Edward has also appeared on stage as one of the dancers in gloATL’s “Cloth/Tower” featuring ASO Artistic Director Robert Spano.

More from Edward:
Triple Step Studios Is Bringing Back The Swing!
Atlanta Artist Relief Fund is artists helping artists

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