Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shimmy Exclusive- Movmnt Is Coming!

When I was about fifteen years old my girlfriends' and I would pour over teen magazines. It was back in the mid-80's and everything was bright, bold and above all else, it was colorful. We would venture into the grocery store once a month and buy a copy of everything, then share custody of the newest issues. One day I walked into the store and found a new magazine called Sassy. It was aimed at my age but even the cover was different. I couldn't tell you why, it just was. I bought the issue and loved it from one end to the other. I never missed an issue after that and when they arrived I poured over every inch right down to the binding (There was always a message on the binding!). Did they deal with teen issues? Sure, but the approach was different. It was like a peer was talking to you. Did they do fashion spreads? Absolutely, but there was always a deeper message behind the clothes and setting. In a nutshell, Sassy made me think.

It has been twenty years since I've had that reaction to a magazine. One where you just absorb every ounce and still keep it tucked away on a shelf for fear you missed something that you'll be overjoyed to discover on some random day. This week for the second time in my life, I've had that same reaction. This time the publication that took me by complete surprise is called Movmnt. The latest issue includes a sit-down with SYTYCD fan favorites' Sabra Johnson, Danny Tidwell and Neil Haskell that actually puts readers at that table. Forget everything you already think you know about these three and just listen to them banter. The dance-fashion-in-action will blow you away and have you even heard of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings? Vintage Motown sound for a brand new generation of listeners. If you are not a subscriber already then you need to pick up a copy next week when it graces' Barnes & Noble shelves for the very first time.

David Benaym is the brilliant guiding force behind this innovative new magazine and he was kind enough to give Shimmy a bit of his time this week. What follows is a glimpse into how love of dance and journalistic vision collided in the form of Movmnt.

How did I find myself involved in the dance world? Well like many stories it is a love story. I grew up in France so I was familiar with performances, the ballet world, the Arts in general are really part of the everyday culture there. I grew up watching Maurice Bejart performing live on prime time TV. As a journalist I also specialized in the media and entertainment world. I covered the Oscars as well as the Cannes Film Festival many times. But I was never involved with the Dance world. While covering the 2004 Presidential campaign in New York I met Danny Tidwell. He really is the one that introduced me to the dance world, as he was a performer with ABT at the time. His knowledge and passion for the dance world, its history, the choreography, the technicality as well as the quest of sense in performances. I was hooked, so we worked together along with choreographer Lauren Adams, on a project called Moving Still. Mixing performance, photography and fashion, we created a show and book. At the time I really started to dive into the dance world, watching performances as various as classical ballet at the MET with ABT, contemporary pieces from choreographers Lar Lubovitch, Ohad Naharin, and even intimate workshops by Mia Michaels (that was even before she started to judge on So You Think You Can Dance). So it was a very sudden, learning, breath taking initiation to the dance world, and the involvement came naturally. It's one of the rare places where there is no language barrier. The emotion is pure, there are so many layers of emotion, understanding and interpretation that if you ask an audience members what they feel at a certain moment of a performance, you might not get even once the same answer. My education, my passion as a journalist has always been about words and phrases. So coming from a different background, culture, with a different accent, I just let myself immerse, I am a child when it comes to watching a show. I forget as much as possible everything that makes me- me in order to feel, candidly, rediscover every time the beauty of a pirouette, the emotion of a silence... By doing this, I always discover more about myself. Even the worst in life is never disappointing.

Moving Still was a great success, and we kept on hearing from dancers how much they loved the photography, how different it was from everything they had seen before. At the time we were already talking about working on a different dance magazine. The book started to sell well at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and I succeeded in selling some pictures from the book to Flaunt, a fashion magazine that loved the feeling of. But just doing a fashion dance magazine was missing substance, and we are all about the quest of sense, and definitely have the ambition to talk about issues for a generation that gets more coverage about Paris Hilton in Jail than any 'real' story. I mean I can't even dare to talk about conflicts in Africa, hostage situation in South America, or Health Care in America...

But there are many other ways to do so, and dancers, performers, have this capability to convey messages, ideas, changes. Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, The Bolshoi, they all were methaphores to talk about subjects that mattered at the time that they were written. I was looking for a new project at the time, particularly as a publisher (I launched two magazines in Europe 2 books in the US). Danny Tidwell and I analyzed the dance magazines that existed already and realized that they all were very technical, or targeting a very young audience and their parents, but the 18-35 year old generation, the dancers themselves, performers, musicians, entertainers in general did not have a publication that echoed to what they live and love.

These artists are trend setters, they create, innovate, they are very often in advance with the rest of the society, and yet, interact with the real world. With them there are a lot of young adults that we identified as the pop culture generation that are passionate about the art and want to know more than just what these artists have to offer on stage. With Movmnt, we wanted to give fashion photography both motion and emotion. Seeing the clothes in action, sometimes to the fullest, and still portrait dancers in editorials that make sense to who they are. With this new issue, with Neil, Sabra and Danny, I feel that we are starting to really get there.

Yes the pictures are gorgeous, but there is also a meaning to every single one of them and an article on the side for the journalistic aspect of the magazine. We brought together all these different aspects, fashion, dance, music, social issues and Movmnt was born. Each issue has a general theme, a feeling, it is never obvious, never written in a big way because it is not about education, but about experiencing a learning process. We have a wake up call in each issue. It's a double page spread featuring a different feeling that happens around the world. Last issue it was about the graffiti world, very colorful and yet historical. It encompasses the political murals in Nothern Ireland as well as the anti-poutine grafs in Russia, or the cultural revolution in China.

We want Movmnt to be entertaining, yet with meaning.

In the future issue we might look back at the 80's... I believe that our generation, the pop culture generation is missing a link. There is something about these years that has a huge impact today, plus the heart of our readership was born in the 80's and it might be nice to sing along and ask ourselves if video really killed the radio...we are going to look for Roxanne, live in a box, dance la lambada, wow, maybe not after thinking about it! We haven't approached ballroom really at all... not by snobism, but because we've yet figure out how to approach it the right way. I want to understand how Russians can be so incredible at latin dance and understand the passion of the fox trot. I'd love to do a shoot with some of these dancers but challenge them as individuals, see them away from the partner that they always rely on.

Next week when Movmnt comes to newsstands it's our first goal of course, to reach a wider audience. We want to bring the Movmnt family to dance lovers, and performers themselves. But personally, if I could touch just one person, to fulfill their dream. Just inspiring someone to reach and accomplish their passion, that would bring me a tremendous amount of joy

Visit Movmnt online HERE.
Subscribe To Movmnt

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