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Posts Tagged ‘dance’

Photo: Jorge de la Quintana
A ballerina admired impoverished acrobats performing at Lima, Peru, traffic lights and decided to offer them a better opportunity. In the photo, members of her D1 Dance Company rehearse.

Once upon a time, a privileged young lady, a ballerina with an international reputation, saw the face of aspirational poverty on acrobats performing in traffic and decided to offer them an opportunity.

Dan Collyns writes at the Guardian, “Vania Masías vividly remembers the first time she saw acrobats somersaulting at a traffic light on a visit to her home city in 2004. She was at the peak of an illustrious career as a ballet dancer in Europe – but before long, she would leave it all behind it to nurture the raw talent she found in the streets of the Peruvian capital. …

“She was so inspired by the abilities of the teenage acrobats she encountered in Lima she set up a pilot project to teach them to dance – not ballet, but hip-hop. …

“It began on the self-taught gymnasts’ home turf in Ventanilla, a tough neighbourhood near the city’s port. Masías arranged to meet them on the shanty’s sand dunes where they practised their flips. The response was overwhelming.

“ ‘I thought I was going to meet with three kids,’ she said. ‘When I arrived, there were more than a hundred kids.’ …

“In 2005 Masías formed the D1 Cultural Association: part dance school, part non-profit organisation seeking to create young leaders and promote positive social change through the arts.

“D1’s social arm, which is 85% self-sufficient thanks to the school’s private classes, works with 7,000 children and young people in the capital and has schools in the Peruvian cities of Ica and Trujillo. More than 100,000 children have passed through the programme over the years, says Masías.

“Among them is Eddy Revilla, who at 13 became his family’s breadwinner somersaulting at traffics lights in downtown Lima.

“ ‘I was earning 300 soles a week [£66/$92] and here in Peru – that’s money! I could help my family and they started to thank me,’ says Revilla, now 25.

“But after blacking out in mid-air doing a somersault, Revilla auditioned for D1, and is now a member of the group’s professional dance company.

“ ‘When we started nobody thought that you could make a living from dance. Now it’s an amazing opportunity for young people,’ says Revilla, who also teaches hip-hop to paying students at D1’s dance studio. …

“Masías acknowledges that only a few of the young students will eventually follow a career in dance, but she says that the act of dancing itself gives them the confidence to transform their circumstances. …

“Masías has encouraged her dancers to embrace their provincial roots through fusing traditional Peruvian and urban styles.

“ ‘It’s in their blood, in their veins,’ she says. Dancers who had been ashamed of their origins ‘now fight to say where they come from,’ she says.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Hartford Courant
Former US Marine Roman Baca
develops ballets that help veterans heal and help audiences gain empathy. For his Fulbright Fellowship, he’s creating a new version of Igor Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring tied to WW I.

Not long ago, Suzanne’s friend Liz found a piece of antique weaponry and asked instagram friends how it might be used in an art project or something else positive.

I said to “beat it into plowshares.”

In their own way of beating weapons into plowshares, war veterans may continue to serve the country after their time in the military. They may run for Congress like Seth Moulton of Massachusetts or establish a nonprofit like Soldier On, which treats veterans suffering from addictions.

And then there’s the Marine who became a choreographer to tell stories that enlighten and heal.

Candice Thompson writes at Dance Magazine, “When Roman Baca returned home from active duty in Iraq in 2007, he found himself having a tough time transitioning to civilian life.

” ‘I remember a couple of instances where I was mean and angry and depressed,’ says Baca. [His wife] suggested Baca return to his roots in dance. ‘She asked me, “If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?” ‘…

“Baca had to broker his transition back into dance. Earlier, he had trained at The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory in Connecticut and spent a few years as a freelance dancer before feeling compelled, like his grandfather had, to serve his country. ‘I walked into the recruiter’s office and said, “I want to help people who can’t help themselves.” ‘ Baca reveled in the rigor of the Marine Corps, which seemed like a perfect analog to classical ballet. …

“Baca served as a machine gunner and fire team leader [in Fallujah]. And while his job was one of looking for insurgents and intelligence, Baca also ended up doing humanitarian work, bringing water and school supplies to those in need. The transition from violence to aid helped him meet his original desire to defend the vulnerable.

“In 2008 … he reached out to his mentor Sharon Dante from The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory. He had dabbled in choreography before joining the Marines and had begun to write while overseas. Dante suggested [that he] focus his writing and choreography on his experiences in Iraq. The exploration led Baca to form Exit12 Dance Company, a small troupe with a goal of inspiring conversations about the lasting effects of violence and conflict. …

“When a theater in the UK reached out to him in 2016 about creating a new Rite of Spring — one that would explore the connections between the creation of this famous ballet and the outbreak of World War I, in commemoration of the war’s centennial, as well as touch on today’s veterans and current events — he knew immediately it was a project for [him].

” ‘One percent of our population serves in the military, and an even smaller number serves in war,’ explains Baca of one of the central questions motivating this new commission. ‘How do we take all of this remote and little understood experience and inspire the audience to positive action?’ ”

More at Dance Magazine, here.

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Photo: Elizabeth Hafalia, The Chronicle
Facing a need for affordable housing and arts space, San Francisco’s Mission Economic Development Agency is joining with Dance Mission Theater and the Mission Neighborhood Centers to repurpose this neglected 1919 building.

Have you ever visited San Francisco’s Mission District? A poor, immigrant neighborhood, it is nevertheless a vibrant experiment in people-oriented housing and support for food entrepreneurs and the arts. The creative energy there is tangible.

Moreover, the neighborhood’s community-development folks never stop turning dreams into reality. J.K. Dineen has an update at the San Francisco Chronicle.

“A historic but long-neglected commercial building at Mission and 18th streets in San Francisco is poised to be rejuvenated with a mix of affordable housing, child care and dance.

“The dilapidated 1919 structure, a former furniture store that was remodeled with an Art Deco flair in the late 1930s, has been on and off the market for more than a decade. …

“Finally the Mission Economic Development Agency, a politically powerful group that often opposes market-rate housing, reached a deal to buy it by collaborating with Dance Mission Theater and the Mission Neighborhood Centers, which will open a child care facility there.

“ ‘We are all going in together to do a new model of cooperative living and dancing and taking care of our children,’ said Krissy Keefer, executive director of Dance Mission Theater. ‘It’s going to be very communal.’ …

“Brokers with the San Francisco office of the realty firm Marcus & Millichap … said market-rate developers were scared off by the Mission’s anti-gentrification political environment and that ‘MEDA was very good to work with.’ …

“The building will be the group’s first home ownership project — the others are rentals — and the first targeting middle-income families rather than low-income folks. Mission Neighborhood Centers is providing some of the project funding, along with two nonprofits: Low Income Investment Fund, a financial intermediary that provides capital for community developments, and the Neighbor to Neighbor fund.”

I’m sure everyone has read about the housing crunch in San Francisco, with tech employees pushing prices up. It’s good to hear of anything designed to ease the shortage. More here.

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Do you mix up Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan? I do. But while Americans go about their business completely unaware of those Central Asian countries, a vibrant culture flourishes there.

Every once in a while, I make an effort to learn something about the “stans” — for example, when I read a Uzbek novel, The Railway, a few years ago. Even that I found hard to follow.

Tara Pandeya is an American dancer who decided to immerse herself in the traditional dance of Tajikistan. She writes at Dance Magazine, “Two years ago, I was touring the world as a principal dancer in Cirque du Soleil’s production of Dralion. But after 1500 shows on a five-continent and 170-city tour, I left the commercial entertainment world to reconnect with the art form I’m most passionate about: Central Asian dance.

“I have dedicated the last 18 years of my life to dance styles from the Central Asian Silk Road region. My fascination started when I was 13 and fell in love with the miniature paintings of Central Asian dancers and the Arabic calligraphic script I saw in museums. …

“Months after leaving Cirque, I moved to Tajikistan. I had planned to stay for one month but ended up staying for a whole year and dancing as the first Westerner in Lola, the state-funded Tajik National Ensemble.

“The other dancers were confused, cautious and curious about me. In the beginning, I felt like a complete outsider. I was new to their culture, food and environment, and could not speak the language. My daily routine after a full day of rehearsals was to also take a private class to better understand the nuances of the different styles and to push myself technically. The other dancers observed my dedication, and over time I earned their trust and respect. …

“Sometimes I had issues getting into high security buildings because of my American passport, so our director had to start carrying a certified paper clearing me for entrance. We toured within the country on poorly-maintained roads via a bus provided by the state.

“There were rarely enough seats for all of us, and often the men would stand for long parts of the journey so the women could sit. …

“During rehearsal one day, a local journalist noticed me and, thinking I was Tajik, invited me to participate in a televised dance competition which brought together dancers from every region of the country.

“I made it through all four rounds of cuts and amazingly, I won. … I was stopped several times on the street by strangers — the produce guy at my local grocery store said he was excited to see me dance so beautifully in a style from his culture, and hoped that if a foreigner placed so much value on their art forms that local Tajiks would learn to appreciate these forms more themselves.

“This year, I was selected by Forecast, an international mentorship platform, to have my work produced in Berlin … [It will] express the concepts of migration, otherness and gender inequality.”

That interests me — especially as what I know of Tajikistan today is that it is a harsh dictatorship and dangerous to minorities. Anything that builds understanding among ordinary people has to be a step in the right direction.

More at Dance Magazine, here.

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Photo: NCCAkron
The National Center for Choreography is an initiative of the University of Akron in Ohio.

There’s a national center for everything else, why not choreography? Why not Akron? This Midwest university is thinking big.

Steve Sucato writes about its new concept at Dance Magazine. “For countless dancemakers without their own space, there is no place to call home. Enter the new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron. Its mission: to support the research and development of new dance by providing choreographers, dance companies, arts administrators and dance writers access to the world-class facilities in the University’s Guzzetta Hall and other venues on campus. …

“The Center opened with the support of the University of Akron and a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. [Last] month it [hosted] its first official artist residency when it welcome[d] choreographer Tere O’Connor, July 17–28.

“The Center’s founding executive/artistic director, Christy Bolingbroke, says it needs to be adaptable so as not to impose a certain way of working on any artist.

“One way of doing that is to offer several types of residencies: space, for use of the studio facilities; research, in which choreographers can explore alongside academic scholars; laboratory, in which choreographers and dancers can work without the expectation of a finished project; technical, for dancemakers and/or production designers to experiment in a theatrical venue; and commissioning, where artists receive funds in addition to time and space. …

“Overall, the Center is interested in curating dancemakers it can support on a long-term basis. ‘We are trying to shift the paradigm from just final-product–oriented residencies,’ says Bolingbroke.”

More at Dance Magazine, here. And kudos to the Knight Foundation for recognizing that the coasts do not have a monopoly on the making of art.

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Photo: Sara Teresa
The rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme in the UK by arts and health charity Aesop will see 1,000 older people benefit.

About 15 years ago, after breast cancer treatment, I joined a hospital-based class called “I Hope You’ll Dance.” I used to call it Cancer Dance Class because anyone who was being treated for cancer or had been treated could join. It happened to have only women during the time I was a participant although men were welcome.

The dance routines were very simple, but there was something pleasant about doing them with women you didn’t know but with whom you shared something as big as cancer. I also liked the music selections, which ranged from the playful “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to numbers that were more moving, like “You Raise Me Up” and “I Pray You’ll Be All Right.”

I thought of the mysterious comfort that class provided when I read about a dance program for the elderly in England and Wales. Christy Romer described it at Arts Professional, a UK-based website.

“The rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme by arts and health charity Aesop will see 1,000 older people benefit from a new £2.3m investment.

“The programme will run for two years from October 2017, during which time 63 interventions will take place across England in Wales. These will be delivered in collaboration with health and social care providers, and arts organisations including Yorkshire Dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet. …

“Previous Aesop research showed how the Dance to Health programmes could address a problem that costs the NHS £2.3bn a year, as the rates of completion for dance-based alternatives to NHS exercise courses are 55% higher.

“An evaluation of the Dance to Health pilot programme in February 2017 also concluded that dance artists could be trained to deliver classes which were an enjoyable artistic challenge, faithful to healthcare objectives, and would deliver measurable reductions in loneliness for participants. …

“The expanded programme will receive support from ‘Dialogue Partner’ organisations, including Age UK and NHS England, and collaborate with eight Arts Council England-funded dance organisations. …

“A formal evaluation of the programme will be conducted in 2019, ahead of an anticipated national rollout in the coming years.” More at Arts Professional, here.

Romer mentioned the effort to address loneliness through the dance classes, but I imagine that the way physical motion improves thought processes is a big piece of the health benefit. And what about improving balance? That’s a concern for me, and a reason I take both tai chi and Essentrics when I’m not on vacation.

But I’m on vacation. So I’ll sign off now and go practice standing on one foot.

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Photo: Travel Blog
Crow Hop dance, one of several being adapted for exercise classes on the reservation.

A fitness program for members of a tribe in Idaho is showing results with its combination of exercise and spirituality.

Emily Schwing reports at National Public Radio, “In Indian Country, a gym membership is not a cultural norm and the incidence of heart disease and obesity are high. Native Americans are 60 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. The Coeur D’Alene tribe, whose headquarters is in northern Idaho, is trying to combat the problem by incorporating culture into fitness programs.

“The tribe has created an exercise routine — called ‘Powwow Sweat’ — based on traditional dancing. The program features a series of workout videos that break down six traditional dances into step-by-step exercise routines.

” ‘Drop the pringles and let’s jingle,’ commands Shedaezha Hodge, as she demonstrates the steps that make up the women’s ‘Jingle Dress’ dance.

“High steps, box steps, cross steps and kicks combine into a routine that would give any Zumba class a run for its money. …

“All the dances in the exercise program are typical at powwows, including the ‘Men’s Fancy Dance’ — which features four basic steps and a hip move. The hip move involves lifting your knee up, then circling it out to the side, all the while bouncing to the drum beat.

” ‘I lost 13 1/2 pounds,’ says Ryan Ortivez, who attends the weekly ‘Powwow Sweat’ classes at the Coeur D’Alene Wellness Center, in Plummer, Idaho. …

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has given the Coeur D’Alene tribe $2 million to develop ‘Powwow Sweat.’ It also supports a community garden on the reservation and a project that stocks the gas station market with healthy food options. …

“Mainstream fitness and nutrition programs don’t meet the needs of tribal members, [LoVina Louie, director of the tribe’s wellness center] says.

” ‘What they lack is spirituality,’ says Louie. ‘Most programming is only physical, or it’s only nutrition. It’s in these compartments — whereas we’re more holistic,’ Louie says. …

“It’s this combination of tradition and exercise that keeps tribal member Ryan Ortivez and his neighbors coming to class each week, to watch the videos and dance alongside each other.

” ‘It’s a lot more attractive than doing jogging or the bicycle for me, because it also relates to my culture,’ says Ortivez.

I’m in love with my community, first and foremost,’ he says. ‘My people. I love to see my community get involved and get active and be healthy.’ “

More here. Be sure to see the great little videos.

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