Remembering S.T. Shimi

December 11, 2020  •  3 minute read

A tribute by Steve Bailey

In the Garden by S.T. Shimi

S. T. Shimi was a creator, performer, writer, dancer, stage manager, pole dancer, fire eater, burlesque performer, belly dancer, aerialist, administrator, teacher, academic, organizer, student, activist, and connector. One of the ways I think of Shimi is as a Venn diagram. You know, those intersecting circles showing how people are connected. Shimi stands in the center, in the middle of so many circles representing all these worlds. She brought all those worlds into one artistic practice, one body, one life. Shimi expressed every aspect of herself in all aspects of herself—the art, the politics, the analysis, the critique, the sexuality, the joy, the anger, and the love.

On Wednesday, December 2, Shimi was struck by a car and killed. She didn’t drive and was an avid walker, striding down the street with purpose and resolve, fending off harassment and owning her space. We at NPN deeply mourn her loss, just as we celebrate so many relationships that she was central to. 

Shimi was from Singapore and of Tamil descent. She was raised evangelical Christian. As a young teen, she was actually exorcised. It didn’t work. She graduated from Dartmouth College and, more recently, enrolled in the Writing and Social Justice program at Our Lady of the Lake University.

Right after college, Shimi came to Jump-Start Performance Co., a past NPN Partner organization, as an intern. She moved to San Antonio, knowing no one, and created a rich life and a lasting artistic practice. She eventually became artistic director of the company and co-director of the burlesque troupe Stars and Garters.

Shimi created hundreds of performances, from full-length, solo works to pole routines, burlesque acts to site-specific happenings. She collaborated on hundreds more, working with countless artists in San Antonio and across the globe. She performed, choreographed, or worked backstage on so many more. Girl was busy.

Shimi worked as an arts educator for decades, teaching literally thousands of kids over the years. She also taught adults with chronic illness, traumatized youth, unhoused people, elders, and many other community members in her technique classes. Her teaching touched so many lives.

In addition to Jump-Start and Stars and Garters, Shimi worked with Alternate ROOTS, Art2Action, Divadlo z Pasaze, Jump-Start, NPN, San Antonio Dance Coalition, South Dallas Cultural Center, Stars and Garters, The Theater Offensive, Wayward Girls, numerous pole dance and burlesque groups and competitions, and many others.

Almost every conversation with Shimi, especially after a few drinks, turned to politics. She was passionate about it, to say the least. She was a femme feminist. She was fiercely antiracist. She was internationalist and would not tolerate nationalism. Sexuality wasn’t separate from these politics. She performed and lived her politics. Her body carried those politics. 

Shimi came to several NPN meetings over the decades. She was Jump-Start’s NPN liaison at times, but more than that, she was the cultural worker who made artistic residencies run. With dozens of visiting artists, Shimi helped decide which artist would be a fit for her community. She ran their tech, she took them to teach in Jump-Start’s education programs, she hosted the after-party at her home, sharing a drink or a joint. She even housed them, when needed. Shimi made the connections between a visiting artist and the community deep and meaningful. She was the type of worker who makes a network function and flourish, not always gaining the glory but always glorifying the exchange.

Shimi was loved by so many—her friends, her family, her colleagues, her students (past and present), her audiences, by me, and most of all, by her beloved partner and husband, Oscar. There is a hole in our community, our network, our universe, and our hearts.

About the author

Steve Bailey is NPN’s chief operating officer. He was the producing director at Jump-Start Performance Co. in San Antonio, Texas. Over the past forty years, Steve has created and/or directed over fifty original productions that have been presented across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. He is also an arts educator and has worked with numerous youth and adult groups in a variety of community settings.