DJ Spotlight: Shawn Knisely

DJ Spotlight: Shawn Knisely

1. What is your partner dance background?
I originally started dancing Lindy Hop back in the Neo swing craze in the 90’s, and I have always considered Lindy Hop my base dance. I quickly added a touch of whatever I could find in my area. West Coast Swing, a little ballroom, then Blues dancing became the new thing, and I fell in love with that for a time. Once Fusion got on to the scene, I knew that was the dance for me.  

2. How did you discover fusion dancing?
When I started learning to dance, being a “connection junkie” was a thing. That has never left me, and I most enjoy that connection: to your partner, the music, the environment, the community, all of it. I believe at the heart of each dance style is a base connection and that’s what makes us prefer one style over others. When I started Fusion dancing, I found the connection and community inspired me. It is deep, intimate, and meant to move your soul. Through dance and connection to Fusion community, I have learned a great deal about myself. Every dance has something to offer, but Fusion is my favorite.   

3. How did you get started as a DJ?
I started at local house parties. The scene was small and intimate, but it was filled with so many great dancers. There was always a theme, which made it easy to experiment with different music and gain a voice as a DJ. From there, I started doing larger events and was also fortunate to have patient and amazing mentors. They introduced me to a wider range of music and helped with many of the technical aspects. I continue to have so many great mentors–the DJ community does a great job supporting each other. And I still love those house parties the best; they always seem to be filled with magic.

4. What do you find to be the biggest challenge as a fusion DJ?
I have an emotional connection to my music, but as a DJ you need to separate yourself from that and look at things with less emotion. You need to be able to read the floor and play the song that will work the best rather than what speaks most to you. It is always a challenge to find the right spot to place a song. One night everything is magic, the next night the floor is having none of it. You must adapt quickly, it is fun and exciting, but a real challenge as well.

5. What is different about how you listen to music as a dancer vs as a DJ?
I will always listen to music that moves my soul first, does it connect with me, a moment in my life? But as a DJ, I listen for what makes me want to move. How long before the song starts grooving? Does the song go somewhere? Does it give the dancers something with which to work? And I still look for something that will reach out to the dancers and move their soul. As a dancer I am much less critical. I try to support DJs if I recognize a song where I perceive the DJ is taking a risk, which I would not have noticed before I started DJing.  

6. What do you love most about being a fusion DJ?
I have always loved the variety of music you can play for Fusion and the willingness of the dancers to make it happen. Songs can create a number of emotions and allow creative expression to flow. A silly song will bring happiness and laughter, a song may fill you with pride, make you feel vulnerable, feel hurt, or feel love. However, my favorite experience as a DJ is that moment when one of the songs I connect with emotionally sets the floor on fire. It is always amazing to see and experience. I am so thankful for all the Fusion community has given me, and I hope as a DJ I can repay some of what I have so fortunately received.

7. What’s a track you’ve discovered recently that fusion dancers will love?  
Feel Love by The Knocks (ft. Delacey). Or at least hope they will love