The Nelson Star is pleased to continue this column to recognize the many volunteers in our community who go above and beyond to help others. The individuals we profile are selected by a committee outside the newspaper based on set criteria. For example, the person must be volunteering over the long term, and mustn’t be paid for the work. If you’d like to nominate somebody for consideration by the Above and Beyond committee, email their name and why they deserve recognition to: email@example.com.
Thomas Loh’s passion for authentic movement with creative dance spurred him to start JusDance in Nelson over a decade ago.
JusDance is “always moving, and completely free form. We encourage you to turn, face and move in all directions… and never claim your spot,” said Loh.
The work he does for the dance community is unpaid. In his professional life he works as an architect and has designed local projects such as the Gathering Place at Selkirk College.
He started and continues to coordinate JusDance, JusFlock, and Contact Dance at the Moving Centre. Loh continues to coordinate these on a weekly basis, and are open to all community members. It is a place to explore dance and authentic movement in a safe and welcoming space for people of all ages and abilities, and free from drugs and alcohol. It’s different from a club said Loh.
“People can’t stand and watch like at a bar as it makes people self aware, a hunter’s game. Men have thanked me for providing this container and women appreciate being able to drop all of that. It’s a clean container where it’s just dance. Dance is just a movement, you can never really hold on to it. It doesn’t consume anything. We are the canvas; it does not need a frame.”
Ten DJs now take turn making the music playlists for these events, and Loh is the one coordinating, making sure that everything runs smoothly.
The only music guideline Loh has is no popular hits so people don’t recognize and repeat an old experience. As long as it’s danceable and interesting music, choices for Loh and the DJ team are wide open. Every DJ is different so there is variety. Loh plays a lot of world music and stays away from lots of lyrics so he plays foreign music in different languages and moves all around to avoid songs that mean something specific.
“I try very hard to push the edge. It’s about the energy we generate together. You’re there but as an energy.”
Jen Smith spoke to Loh’s commitment. “For Contact Dance (every Monday night), he is always the one unlocking the studio and cleaning up,” she said. “For almost every dance he is one of the first people to be there and last to leave, ensuring that everything is left looking good for the next group using the space.
“While many people contribute to the success of these events, Thomas is the one who started them and who’s investment of time and energy into the events themselves and their promotion keeps them going.”
The dances are all by donation, with a suggested amount of $5, which goes towards covering the cost of the space. During the past few summers, Thomas has coordinated several ‘JusDance’ type events at Lakeside park. These events have been free or by donation to a local organization. In the fall, Thomas leads a group that makes art in nature once a week-Andy Goldworthy style. These events encourage creative expression, community building, and time outside in nature regardless of the weather.
Smith added “Thomas is a generous, caring individual who does his best to communicate clearly with others, maintain alignment with his values, and remain humble about his many achievements.”