by Angelina Perino
“Being a muse to someone else helps me be a muse to myself.” —Shuaib
Hey you guys, Ang here! Meet Shuaib Elhassan — 6’4″ and a dancer with Alonzo King LINES Ballet right here in San Francisco. An amazing and fun spirit, this one. He was cool enough to meet up with me one afternoon in an empty studio at LINES after the company finished rehearsing for the day and move around a little bit more as I filmed and photographed him. Be sure to watch the short video above that I made featuring Shuaib and scroll down to read his artist interview (as beautiful and authentic as his dancing). I’ve also included plenty of photos below that truly capture his one of a kind essence.
If any of you are ever in the bay area and are considering catching a LINES performance during their home season, do. It is life changing.
Big thank you to Shuaib! Keep inspiring.
A: How old are you?
S: I am 23 years old.
A: Where are you originally from?
S: I was born in NYC. The lower east side of manhattan.
A: When did you begin dancing? Have you always known it was for you?
S: When I was 13 I started my training at the Ailey School. I was more into hip hop before that and even after. It took me a while to fall in love with other styles of dance. It wasn’t so easy being in high school and dancing ballet as a young boy. Not only did other people pick on me but I even made fun of myself. It’s an amazing feeling now to move.
A: What inspires you as an artist and as a human?
S: Humanity and art keep each other strong within myself. They work together. I don’t think I’d have one without the other. I see art in being human. To feel emotions (to see someone cry or to experience it yourself), that’s being human and an artist. I see humanity in being an artist. To partner (trusting one another, and staying sensitive to the other person), that’s being an artist and a human.
A: Where do you get your personal style inspiration?
S: Flowers. Constellations. Life. Love. Hate. The world.
A: Why LINES?
S: When I auditioned for LINES it was also my first time meeting Alonzo. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I wanted to approach the audition with integrity and an open heart. I was ready for a change I said yes to joining the company.
A: How long have you been with the company?
S: I joined LINES in 2014.
A: What has your journey been like to get to the professional level you are at now?
S: My journey getting to where I’m at now has been filled with joy, sadness and all the in betweens. I had no idea this is where I’d be when I first started to dance. I lived across the street from the projects where crime was normal and almost necessary. I was raised by my neighborhood. Dance saved me from doing things I’d regret, gave me something to be proud about. As for the professional level, I feel it applies based on care. I care a whole lot about movement and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I’ve fallen in love with dance more and more on this journey to the now.
A: Were there hard moments as you were developing within yourself as an artist?
S: I’ve been picked on, yelled at, told I was not good enough. I’ve been fired from jobs. Defeat, insecurity and soul searching are my best friends.
A: What do you do when you have moments where you feel like giving up?
S: I try my best to stay soul searching. Life is full of drama and I try to make sure I always push through. Giving up hasn’t been something I’ve ever been good at. I was and still am a very stubborn person. I think we have to know what we appreciate about our work as artists to get through the hard times that are bound to join the ride. Have faith.
A: Describe the feeling that you get from dancing.
S: I get many feelings from dancing. I honestly want to say there isn’t one feeling I haven’t felt while dancing. I could be wrong, so I’ll say some feelings that come to mind! Flying, falling, sadness, joy, anger, happiness.
A: What is it like to be the muse? What are your thoughts on finding inspiration versus being someone’s inspiration?
S: Being a muse to someone else helps me be a muse to myself. It’s interesting to trust someone else’s idea and really try your best to make it work. I sometimes have doubts and even moments where I decide it won’t work, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be surprised when an idea feels good.
A: Let’s talk a little bit about Mr. King. What is is like to work so intimately everyday with one of the most iconic figures in the dance world? Why is his process unique?
S: Alonzo opened up new possibilities for me. Before being here I couldn’t find the beauty in moving in an “ugly” way. I thought ballet was ballet and jazz was jazz and so on. I feel like once I got here I fell into the world he creates for us and it was a world with endless possibilities. I’m in a contemporary ballet company where contemporary and ballet are not boundaries.
A: What is it about San Francisco that you love the most? Do you have a favorite spot in the city that you like to be when you’re not at the studios?
S: Being raised in a city surrounded by concrete, I really appreciate all the greenery and hills here. My very first view was Twin Peaks, which for now is still my favorite place.
A: If you could live in any city in the world, where would that be?
S: Right where I am.
A: Is there a quote or words that help keep you grounded?
S: “Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive who is you-er than you.” -Dr. Sues
Thanks for reading, loves! You can find out more about Alonzo King LINES Ballet and their upcoming performances at linesballet.org!
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