Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Science, innovation, and dance come together with dancer, choreographer, and producer Gabe Stone Shayer
By: Patrick Duffy
Born in Philadelphia in 1993, Shayer was 14 when he first traveled to Russia for ballet where he attended the historic Bolshoi Ballet Academy, where he became the 250-year-old school’s first Black male graduate.
After this monumental and historic achievement, Shayer returned to the U.S.A. in 2011 where he joined the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre and was promoted to soloist. But the boundary-breaking artist goes beyond the stage and has created a new narrative for the dance world through his positive impact-focused projects that create awareness around the issues we face as a global creative community. Shayer is collaborating with brands, artists, and media giants like Chanel, Alicia Keys, and Vogue to empower communities and inspire positive change.
His most recent project focuses on the climate catastrophes that lie under the sea for UN World Oceans Day via his collaboration with Pangaia, a fashion brand that doubles as a material innovation company and residency at the luxurious Palm Heights in The Grand Cayman.
Shayer met pioneering fashion technologist and scientist Dr. Amanda Parkes, the mastermind behind the science which makes Pangaia more than just a sportswear brand. The pair conspired by bridging the worlds of science, innovation, and dance together while furthering the efforts for inclusion of Black voices in the ballet world and beyond with his non-profit Creative Genesis.
WHO are you? I was born and raised in Philadelphia, at a young age, my mother would take me to see art exhibitions, gallery openings, and every sort of performance art you could see. It was that which laid the tracks for me to pursue the life of an artist. At the age of 14, I moved to Moscow to finish out my training, there I became the first African American male to ever graduate from the Bolshoi ballet academy in its 250year plus, history. It’s always been a passion of mine to live my life to music and to interpret perspectives, ideas, and experiences through movement. It’s exhausting yet so fulfilling to be both the artist and the manifestation of my own creativity.
WHAT got you so interested in the Oceans? From a young age, my family and I would spend our summers at the beach. I learned very early to be careful while swimming, as delicate as the waves may look, sometimes the hidden current to take you under. I think that juxtaposition has always played a part in how I like to move and something I draw a lot of inspiration from. I like to say Ballet may look effortless but it takes strength to be graceful.
WHEN you create your work, you have a limitless way of looking at productions. Your recent collaboration with Pangaia while at the Palm Heights residency inspired…I do like to approach my work from many different perspectives and starting points. My collaboration with Pangaia led me to think about how ballet can add to our collective journey towards sustainability and in turn (or circularity) how the cultivation of these materials can inspire new narratives surrounding ballet.
WHERE do we need to go from where we are now? How do you want to help us get there? In recent years I’ve seen a lot of difficulty in incorporating sustainability with our consumer culture. I feel that as artists and innovators it’s part of our job to draw awareness to these issues and also imbed it into the DNA of what we do so that people will recognize the importance of what brands like Pangaia are doing globally.
WHY are you so passionate about creating a positive impact through your work? And WHY Oceans? The discussions that I have with people are the discussions I what to perpetuate through my work. When I create new work, I try to create a live dialogue for whoever is watching. Our oceans need protecting, if we neglect that fact for too much longer, it will end up affecting us. I want to manifest harmony between humanity and nature. Why not the Ocean?
Explore Pangaia Oceanic Collection HERE
Photo/Video: Johanan Eugene
Shot on location at Palm Heights Grand Cayman