Shawn Renee Lent is a social practice dance artist, program manager, dance educator, writer, and facilitator.

Click here to view Shawn’s CV.

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Shawn Renee Lent moves this world as both a program manager and a social practice dance artist, with experience from a field in Bosnia to a children’s cancer hospital in revolutionary Egypt. Her work is investigating embodied peace, diplomatic innovation, and the arts as a conduit for critical social intervention.

The first ever person featured on Seriously Badass Women, Shawn currently serves as…

  • -Program Director for Chicago Dancemakers Forum 
  • -Director of Dance Peace, an initiative creating dance and music education opportunities for Syrian refugees  alongside their diverse neighbors in Chicago [Dance Peace was recently featured on PBS P.O.V.] Dance Peace is a fiscally-sponsored project of Fractured Atlas and donations are tax-deductible.
  • -Contributing Editor for the Clyde Fitch Report
  • -Dance educator or Teaching Artist-In-Residence at Performing Arts Limited, Educare Chicago/Ounce of Prevention Fund, Old Town School of Folk Music, Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov High School, and Marshall Field Garden Apartments/Art on Sedgwick. 

Shawn served as the EducationUSA Egypt Advising Coordinator at AMIDEAST Cairo (through the U.S. Department of State) 2013-2015, receiving an award from the ambassador which is a rare honor for a non-embassy employee. She is honored to have been a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Egypt 2012-2013, a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations International Fellow, and the 2014 Commencement Speaker for Millikin University. From 2006-2012, she served as Arts Integration Program Specialist for Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships, and from 2015-2017 she was a writer and Alliance Building Lead for the think tank and online publication Createquity.

Shawn creates dance experiences that haven’t before existed in the world, and is becoming an artist on her own terms. Her recent works include collaboration on Global Water Dances – Flint MI 2017, years of arts programming at 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital of Egypt, and a project through SUNY Purchase bringing dance conservatory students into dance activism in Yonkers. She has spoken about her practice while a panelist/presenter at the University of Maryland, Brigham Young University, Hope College, Georgetown University, Universal Exposition Milan, Dance + Social Justice Conference at NYU, and TEDx Shibin El Kom. In 2013, her blog post Am I a Dancer Who Gave Up? went viral.


From Sydney Skov of the Dance + Social Justice Conference“Shawn Lent is a surprising force; when she leads a workshop, her calm demeanor gives way to the kind of energy that sparks excitement and encourages all involved to engage with every activity. She immediately creates a safe, communal space with her practiced and authentic facilitation skills. As a speaker, Shawn brings unique perspectives to discussions and clearly demonstrates a deep expertise of her fascinating field.”

From Associate Professor Angela Yetzke at Hope College, “Shawn speaks a powerful message and a much-needed one about bringing art into every part of our world and wearing our artist hat in every conversation, every situation. She inspired our students to dream bigger. They left her workshop encouraged and hopeful about using their art for greater things.”

From The Honorable Maged Refaat Aboulmagd, Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Chicago“Many thanks for your most inspiring activities in Cairo as well as here in America. That’s what’s most needed.”

From Cynthia Weiss, former Assistant Director at the Center for Community Arts Partnerships, Columbia College Chicago, “Shawn is the rare individual that excels at both the visionary and operational work of running a program. She is trained as a dancer and choreographer and is also a consummate, professional manager. She can access the best from both worlds and offers an expansive new model of leadership well suited to the needs of the culturally diverse global economy.” 

From the Fulbright Commission in Egypt, “As a Fulbrighter, we think your experience in Egypt has been unique and exceptional where you clicked the right note on both the academic and cultural levels.” “We’re lucky to have you as one of our ideal Fulbright alumna. Thank you for being such a great cultural ambassador to the U.S. in Egypt!”

From an undergraduate student awaiting news if she got a Fulbright Student grant, “Just know that 15 minutes of looking at your blog/website brought a sense of empowerment and good energy.”

From 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt, “As Shakespeare said,’There are no other words I can say but thanks and thanks.!!’ Your participation at our first ever camp was pivotal to its being a success. Thank you for sharing your time and great talents, seeking us out all the way from Chicago and spreading the international language of dance to our children.”

5 Thoughts to “About Shawn”

  1. Hi Shawn,
    My name is Caitlyn Baylor and I am contacting you because a friend of your friends sent me a link to your blog, knowing that I am interested in the overlap of dance and activism. I just graduated from Grinnell College last spring, and I am now doing Grinnell Corps, which is Grinnell’s post-graduate service program. The director of Grinnell Corps, Doug Cutchins, knows Jeremy Hornik and Sheila Quirke. He told me that you taught dance to their daughter, Donna, when she was fighting her brain tumor. I just wanted to make contact with you because I really believe in the work that you do with dance and because I have been thinking so much lately about what can be achieved through movement. When I was at Grinnell, I did a “Mentored Advanced Project” on dance and/as activism with Celeste Miller. We explored the capacity of dance/movement to become a form of creative non-violent dissent both in the subject matter it addresses, but also in its very nature—the implication of bringing issues and challenges and ideas into the body. My sister (also a Grinnell grad very interested in dance and activism) and I have been talking a lot lately about the role that dance may have in violence prevention. I think that dance can emulate both extremely strong human emotions and also extremely strong group bonds. What if young people at risk of being pulled into gun violence could work through their anger and group allegiance through dance instead of violence? This might seem like an overly simplistic way to address something very complex, but I believe that working through experiences by bringing them into the body can be indescribably effective and cathartic. Sorry for going off on a digression, but I guess I just wanted to hear if, from all of your experience, you have any thoughts on this particular subject. Are you still in Chicago? I’m from Rockford, Illinois, and although I’m currently living in New Orleans, I would love to (someday) start up dance and violence prevention work there. It has been great reading your blog!
    Take care,

  2. As a mother of two teenage dancers reading this made me feel more positive of the road ahead. They work so hard and sacrifice so much.. I couldn’t help but question (silently ofcourse) what all this would be for. We all have to be honest … a true star dancer is rare.. and the road is rough. I want more for them.. they love dancing.. so I try to keep positive and open minded. Still, as a middle income family, the extra training is not affordable so they will hopefully be choosing a college with a good arts program to chase that dream.. and explore the wide horizon of options we haven’t even thought of until now!

  3. Dear Shawn,

    AMEN and RIGHT ON to your post “Am I A Dancer Who Gave Up?”!!! This is what I teach my students and what we all need to encourage now, more than ever, in the arts. Yippeeeee!!! 🙂

  4. I would love you to look at my website we share so much in common. I have a program called fight flight freeze the power of instinct I have used this program in the inner-city schools for seven years in Cincinnati Ohio and I would love to discuss my work with anyone. I have just finished choreographing a spectacular experience called global water dances Cincinnati the film of the work is coming out it is Stan’s activism edits most delicious and exciting. I hope we will stay in contact.

  5. I wrote the last comment and I use dictation because I have a tremor in my hands so I made a mistake. In the last sentence I use the word activism but the words surrounding it are gibberish. I dictated it into my phone and my phone often guesses words that I have not said. And I did not check it before I sent it. That I meant to say was that my work allows a combination of activism and expressive arts and community and aesthetics and beauty. The film will be out very soon and I would love people to contact my website in order to see it

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