SHIFTER had the opportunity to profile dancer Artin Avaznia following the release of his film The Velvet Rope: A Dance Short Film celebrating 20 year anniversary of Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope album. For more profiles visit www.shiftermagazine.com/creators.
Biggest accomplishment so far: My biggest accomplishment to date, would most definitely have to be my dance short film, The Velvet Rope: A Dance Short Film. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope album and with its universal impact, as well as its impact on me personally, this film was created in homage. The film, which was released on October 7th 2017 – a tribute to the original release date – takes you along my personal journey with the Velvet Rope and how it has influenced my life.
With four months of preparation, rehearsals and following a rigorous shooting schedule, the short film has been by far the biggest project I have put together. Not only testing my limits as a dance artist/choreographer but also as a director and editor. With the help of some very dedicated local videographers and photographers – Sofia Snook, Tina Sol and Kalin Anguelov – I have been able to showcase the role that the Velvet Rope has played in molding me as an artist and overall as a person.
What creativity means to me: I like to think of creativity as a state that allows you to be as liberated as possible. A make-believe place that only exists in the mind, which grants you the opportunity to explore matters free of conformity, restrictions and censorships. When I’m in the zone, my objective is to always defy what is the conventional and introduce a new perspective.
Past and present creative icons (who inspired you creatively): As a self-taught and self-trained dancer, my experiences differ from those who have been professionally trained. My introduction into the world of performing arts first stemmed from my fascination with mainstream music videos aired on MTV and MUCH Music. With the likes of Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson dominating the scene, I dedicated days and nights replicating what I saw. Because of this, I’m often dismissed as a legitimate dancer, but I argue that I’ve been indirectly trained by some of the best dancers of our time. Their influence on me however, goes beyond dance. By using their framework as a form of guidance, I have also been able to not only teach myself the fundamentals but have gained a profound understanding of editing and directing my own videos.
The place where I feel the most creative: I honestly could not pick out a single place where I feel the most creative. For me, creativity comes at whatever time it pleases, whether it be while I’m trying to fall asleep, driving or in my studio. An “on” and “off” switch doesn’t seem to exist, however when I do come across some sort of creative block, my room is the first place I go. With an entire wall plastered by records and albums of my biggest influences, simply staring at their evolution and growth as artists gets my creative juices flowing again.
Favourite creative outlet: Dancing, without a doubt. When I dance, it’s a lot more than just organized movements; it’s a time to completely embody the music and tune into another energy. It is my opportunity to let go of the physical world and enter a metaphysical side that only I can see. Its music personified.
What inspires me to create: It’s all about the movement. The motive to change the perception of dance. Through my personal experiences, dance has always been presented as a background element or as a prop to highlight someone or something else. With this portrayal, I feel as though there has been a sort of delegitimization of the art form to stand on its own. This idea of being a solo dance artist sounds almost absurd and maybe it does to a lot of people, but I hope to change that.
If money was not an option I would: As a dance artist who makes dance visuals, copyright laws have been biting me in the ass for years now. I think it’s evident that music plays an essential role in dance, but with strict copyright laws and restrictions being implemented across all social media platforms, the art form is becoming limited. For example, after the first two days of being released, The Velvet Rope: A Dance Short Film is now limited to only being viewed on laptops and desktops due to copyright claims made by Universal Music Group on behalf of Virgin Records. What makes it even worse is unfortunately YouTube’s copyright system is automated, and half of the claims made were not accurate to the songs used in the short film. Therefore, if money was not an option, buying rights for the non-commercial use of music would not exist and I could make dance visuals to any song I please.
Bio: Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, at 21 years old, I am your basic cliché artist; starving, broke and a university drop-out. With an objective to ultimately change the representation of dance, I don’t plan on slowing down. The journey has just begun, and I hope you choose to follow it with me. You can follow my journey as an artist and music lover on my YouTube Channel: Artin Avaznia.