At 15 years old, Nicole Johnson produced and choreographed a show that raised more than $2000 to benefit the autistic community, of which her younger brother is a member (find out how she was able to raise so much in the first part of this interview). Though she had moved to New York to pursue a performing career, the experience led her to feel more inspired to work on her production company -- and providing friends with an uplifting, nurturing platform for dance -- than she felt through her own auditioning. “That wasn’t my original intention at all!” She developed her organization, MOVE, into an increasingly well-organized program, experimenting with different formats, refining her creative process, and expanding internationally.
When Nicole was 17, she was invited by the United Nations to create a piece to perform at the General Assembly in honor of 2010’s UN youth program theme, “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding.”
Nicole and a group of young artists from different backgrounds, between the ages of 12 and 19, began the project by discussing what the theme meant to them. “We sat in a circle and talked about what diversity meant to us. It was a revolutionary conversation for us all. We were all very young and a lot of us had been very sheltered. Some of us felt like we’d done a lot for out communities, but we all wanted to do much more. We tried to think about what we wanted cultural diversity to be.”
The discussion was recorded, and Nicole layered segments of the recording over music by Philip Glass. She set choreography to reflect the ideals the young artists had expressed, as well as the music, and the result was watched by ambassadors from all over the world. You can watch a video clip here (scroll to the bottom of the page.)
The experience inspired Nicole to tackle more international causes. “My ideas had been originally moved by the idea of being my brother’s keeper, from the Bible. But I realized that I can be anybody’s keeper, that I could amplify my morals through my organization. My dancers respond to that too, even if it’s not from the same religious perspective. There’s just this universal idea of wanting to help people, and people really want to be involved.”
If you’re in New York this month, you can catch MOVE’s first performance of 2013 and contribute to a terrific cause. Proceeds from this year’s shows will go towards a solar energy project in Nemiah, Liberia. The event will take place at 440 Studios, at 440 Lafayette St. in Manhattan, at 8 pm, on Saturday, January 26. “It’s going to be a busy year,” says Nicole. “We’re taking the idea of being a warrior for serving the community and will build on it throughout the year.”