Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company Builds Vibrant Contemporary Dances To Gain A Deeper Understanding Of The Challenges Attributed To Mixed Heritage.

#theRona Chronicles | with Ashley Smiley

#theRona Chronicles invites the performers, collaborators and staff of The Motley Experiment to reflect upon its postponement from its original March 2020 premiere to February 2021. Created in residency at Bayview Opera House, set to live music by Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids, Raissa Simpson’s The Motley Experiment, and the collaborators who bring the project to life, are adapting and moving along with changes in the time of the COVID-19 (Corona Virus) pandemic.

What were you doing before the COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place order?

I was assisting with the Production aspects of Motley so working with Z in getting dimensions for the space, assisting with sourcing designers and consultants for the technical aspects of the performance.

Photo by Alexa Treviño

How did you feel when The Motley Experiment was postponed until February 2021?

I was disappointed and saddened. I had the pleasure of being able to watch the development/rehearsal process and to not see it come to fruition was a blow, BUT, at the same time I felt like it was a great opportunity to further develop the production and ensure the audience and promotion that the piece deserves.

How are you practicing your craft during the pandemic?

This time has allowed me to focus more time on my artistry. I’ve been taking dance classes and learning guitar, but also my performance collective meets every week to share work in development. I also have been able to create a weekly webseries called The New Normal for BVOH.

What do you look forward to doing with The Motley Experiment when the order is lifted?

Honestly I look forward to seeing the dancers come back to the space and activate it with movement, watch as the piece layers in music, costuming, lights and audience. Especially after sheltering in place and being so separated, I’m excited to see how the dancers and the audience interact.

What is a current grounding practice you are using right now?

It’s been really important to take a moment outside, either on my patio or near home and breathe. Even if it’s just 15-20 minutes, step outside, light some incense, breathe and listen to the birds. 

Ashley Smiley aka Smiley is a born and bred San Franciscan. While receiving her B.A. in Performing Arts and Social Justice from the University of San Francisco and her M.A. in Drama, Smiley cultivated a career as a Production and Stage Manager and became a member of the Campo Santo performance collective where she has developed her original play Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad which is set to premiere in the Fall of 2021. During the current #shelterinplace order Smiley has also began writing, directing, filming and releasing an original ZOOM-inspired series called The New Normal as a part of BVOH’s #SixFeetApart project. Smiley also assists in the marketing and promotion of the SixFeetApart Harry Potter Story Time that happens on the BVOH page every Friday evening. 

To learn more about PUSH Dance Company’s response to COVID-19, and how you can support our Artists, Teachers, and Outreach program, read our statement here.