Three of Three For the New Year: #Roots

‪#‎Roots‬ deeper depths, expansive growth.

Tree Roots image by Paul Cannon
Tree Roots image by Paul Cannon

Excavating my roots: this is the core of why i began creating work through D UNDERBELLY.  i sought to understand culturally who i was. my blackness, my queerness. my ability. i recognize that these “roots” are rich and fertile. they are also massive and weighted. with tenderness, i will cultivate them. allow each one of them to grow deeper into the earth.  through time, effort and sustenance  –  like the tree roots vividly captured by photographer Paul Cannon – they will intertwine, reach out, and form a  strong foundation. in union with others, they will ascend and thrive.

#BlackIsBold  #ThreeWordChallenge

Living the dance part 2: Multiple Bodies, Multiple Voices…A unifying language

Today they prepare.

Tonite they perform.

Community has formed.

Some have left.

Others still arriving. ..

More exchanges to occur.

Multiple bodies signifying multiple voices unified through moving language.

This evening

We will witness them ‘living the dance’.

…Janet has a solo! From just having one nite’s rehearsal ‘under her belt’ to now proving how wonderfully individualized is the experience of being a community member of  Bolero Chicago,  she gets to have a ‘moment’.  It’s one of  many moments individual Chicagoans will have as part of the process of being a ‘dancer’ for the Chicago Dancing Festival premiere of Larry Keigwin & Company’s inclusive choreography.  Janet will ‘put the button’ on the end of a phrase. The ‘button’ being a jump as fleeting yet signature of her vibrant persona onstage.  She finds it refreshing that “so many [kinds of] people are moving together…A testament that everyone can dance.”

For some of the  Bolero Chicagoans, this has been an extension of their dance lineage.  For others simply pure expression of their love of moving.  Veronica embodies both.  20 years of age, she has been dancing for 15 of them.  It takes an hour & half to travel to rehearsal from Garfield Park, her current residence.  Veronica is nonplussed; focusing on the  intention of each move and how to “hit that beat“.  Her connection to beat, to rhythm, stems from her earlier experiences and love for Jazz dance.  She’s currently involved in Hip-hop but feels equally at home learning how to become a fluid ‘character’ inside Bolero; living the dance as one ‘type’ of Chicagoan inside a shifting urban landscape.  “It’s about natural movement, taking the everyday” [and performing it] with flair.” i see this in the way Veronica ‘hits’ certain moves during last Wednesday’s rehearsal.

i also get to witness others move in ways that suggest their lineage as well.  One Chicagoan, in a striking ‘pas de deux’ with her partner, shows her attention to detail, the lines in her body that have clearly been cultivated by years, if not decades, of training in ballet or contemporary technique.  Another in the choice of footwear and how this dancer places them on; a symbol to anyone in the rehearsal, that she has danced before! Indeed each community member shapes the dance with their individuality, offering up mutable ‘characters’ or interesting personas.  To me, this further suggests not only their quest to find the “character inside the dance” as Veronica puts it, but the ‘character of Chicagoan’.

What signifies the character of Chicago? Its uniqueness? and How will the “everyday Chicagoan” emerge from Bolero?

Tonite, we shall see what Larry, Ashley, Gary,  {Chicagoans}Veronica, Janet, Ira and other community members of Bolero Chicago offer up for ‘answers’….

Bolero Chicago will be part of the exciting lineup for ‘Chicago Dancing’ , 7:00pm at Harris  Theater, part of Chicago Dancing Festival. Featuring local companies alongside national artists; in particular, will  also be blogging about Nicholas Leichter’s Touch of Soul, choreographed in collaboration with After School Matters/Gallery 37 dancers.  below is  a preview of  Touch of Soul dancers in rehearsal.  Hope to see you tonite! 

Gateway to dance: exploring possibilities of communal exchange within the Chicago Dancing Festival

Dance has always been part of the vibrant cultural landscape of Chicago & my communal upbringing as a young person living on the south side in the 70’s & 80’s.  Upon returning here after a 20 + year hiatus, i am excited to begin looking more closely at how dance has permeated the everyday culture of this distinguished city.  What are the multiple ways in which dance can be experienced here?    How can Chicagoans explore dance as a communal exchange?   Enter Chicago Dancing Festival:  “From August 20-25, 2012, the Chicago Dancing Festival will present six days of FREE dance programs by artists from Chicago and across the country, to an anticipated audience of 20,000!   [The] mission is to elevate awareness of dance in Chicago and increase accessibility to the art form by presenting a wide variety of excellent dance that will enrich the lives of the people of Chicago, provide aspiration for local and future artists and raise the national and international profile of Chicago, furthering Chicago as a dance destination.”

Oft the most valued exchange in this contemporary society involves money. Communal exchange asks that one is not consumed with the expectation that they get their money’s worth, but look to the possibilities of what is being reciprocated, offered and experienced. With Chicago Dancing Festival providing an exciting array of  events at no charge, this opens up the possibilities that any and every Chicagoan can experience dance in multiple ways; without the money variable.  My particular focus will be on three interactions that highlight compelling dimensions of communal exchange:

Bolero dance Chicago, Larry Keigwin & Dancer’s ultra community collaborative project that includes the ‘everyday Chicagoan’ will be presented as part of the festival’s opening program, “Chicago Dancing” at the Harris Theater, Monday, August 20 & again as part of the Festival’s grand finale program, “Celebration of Dance” at  Pritzker Pavilion on Saturday, August 25.

Bolero Chicago prepares
Bolero Chicago prepares

– Choreographer Nicholas Leichter’s intriguing work with select young dance artists from the Chicago community program, Afterschool Matters, showcases alongside Bolero and other Chicago based companies including Giordano Dance Chicago, opening night of the festival,  Monday August 20th at 7pm.

After School Matters prepares

“Dancing Under the Stars” open community space, where ‘you can dance if you want to’ with a live orchestra’  immersed in the beautiful surroundings of Grant park on Thursday, August 26th at 6pm. Polka!

i would also like to take note  of the “Chicago Now”  discussion on the current state of dance in Chicago, Friday August 24th at 6pm.  Moderated by journalist and former dancer Zac Whittenburg, it features : Lane Alexander(Chicago Human Rhythm Project)Ron De Jesús (Ron De Jesús Dance)Carrie Hanson(The Seldoms) and Julie Nakagawa(DanceWorks Chicago). The program will also include brief performances by The Seldoms, Ron De Jesús Dance and FootworKINGz.  This evening complements the concept of communal exchange by giving essential insight to the artists’ experiences and process in ways, an audience may not get to learn of by just witnessing the work.

In looking at these multiple opportunities to experience the dance through communal exchange,   implicit is the cultivation – even inside just the act of witnessing a performance – of a meaningful relationship. Temporally this may only last an hour or two, but nevertheless both artist and audience participant are left with  lasting impressions. These moments go deeper into other aspects  & possibilities of communal exchange for Chicagoan to experience.

How might one  further define communal exchange?

For the past two decades i have been exploring communal exchange through my performative work with D UNDERBELLY, a network of artists of color from a vast spectrum of experiences.  Within the core of this concept is consideration for  the deepening of a vital relationship that draws upon the aspects of equity in which there are certain expectations to be met,  governed by our responsive energy to each other and cultivation of a shared space for thoughtful interaction.

If one becomes part of a communal exchange there is a illuminating experience where both audience/participant and performer are active and vital. building of a community takes place surrounding a common thread – in this instance dance.  We come to actively witness the process. We may get opportunity to learn ‘hands on’ from the artist the particular aesthetic or tradition;  allowing us to embrace its complexities and feel the flow of its moving force.  even dance the dance.

How might Chicagoans experience this communal exchange?

From now til the end of the festival,  i will be exploring more in depth discussion on what it means to be part of a  communal exchange inside the landscape of Chicago Dance Festival through witnessing & conversing with those involved in  Bolero dance Chicago, Nicholas Leichter & After School Matters, as well as  community members who wish to dance the Polka “Dancing Under the Stars”.

Returning back to my youth experiences on the southside, communal exchange was the gateway to dance for me; getting to witness the community i lived in construct performances, learn dances not from a ‘technique’ point of view, but ‘a-community-gathers-&-just-celebrates-moving-together point of view, dancing on stage to Gloria Esteban/Miami Sound Machine for “Footlites”, be simultaneously embarrassed yet inspired by my mother dancing at church functions and trying my hand at choreographing. It was such an important part of my upbringing, informing my professional inroads into dancing and art.  It allowed me to understand how dance can be part of the ‘everydayness’ of culture.  Chicago Dancing Festival can/may be that for many Chicagoans… A gateway…

Re-Frame: A Gathering

Across cultures. Across disciplines. Engaging thoughtful discussions within the community of artists, neighbors, anyone witnessing. Inspiring collaborations. Listening. Creating consciousness surrounding the beauty & insights from the creative process… 
Facilitated by award-winning performance artist Baraka de Soleil & co-facilitated by multidisciplinary artist Awilda Rodriguez Lora Re-Frame: A Gathering is a two-fold communal workshop  for artists at variant stages of creative development. We want to provide a sustainable space for active witnessing, supportive feedback  and rigorous crafting AND a laboratory for experimentation through interdisciplined explorations and cross-cultural discussions. Re-Frame: A Gathering focuses on the ‘practice of process’ – what is discovered in the act of making work is valuable and should be experienced as well, by other artists, by the larger community.

Baraka de Soleil and Awilda Rodriguez Lora initially met in Chicago. He was curating a unique multidisciplinary series “Studies n Black” for Links Hall and she produced an award-winning film STILL BLACK: a portrait of black transmen that premiered in Chicago. Since meeting, they have worked together on numerous creative endeavors including S’Kin Deep and most recently co-facilitated Agua/Tierra: A Listening Project in Panama in 2010.

Re-Frame: A Gathering is an initiative of D UNDERBELLY, a network of artists of color, seeking to create a  communal space for rigorous experimentation and investigation of an expansive performance aesthetic.  One that can serve as a model for creative process within community that can adapt and shift to various areas throughout the country &  internationally.   Through both invitation to select artists within the experimental art community and an open call, we will seek out a diverse group of 7 -10 with wide-range of disciplines who have a creative lineage (how they have been making work), a piece to ‘excavate’ and a desire to be part of a contemporary practice. Re-Frame: A Gathering will start with the artistic community of Chicago.

Our current vision:

The workshop process will begin in November with weekly Re-Frame sessions where Baraka will lead artists participants through a series of techniques in order to cultivate: communal consciousness around witnessing & offering feedback, excavation of themes/pieces brought by each individual artist and potential collaborative groupings. This leads to the beginning of December where Awilda will join the process as co-facilitator, to take artists through an intensive journey towards deepening the practice of the developing works.  Mid-December at A Gathering with the larger community, artist participants will share their developing work, engage in conversations and share food for thought and body!

Re-Frame: A Gathering’ Key Objectives

To provide:

– a reduced cost or free opportunity for artist participants.

– a platform for creative process that can be molded to whatever communities it travels to….

– a unique opportunity for experimentation, to ‘dig deep’ & try things out with developing work or already-created work that may need ‘re-framing’.

To support:

– artists at whatever stage in their career.

– exchange and community building

– sustainability for the active creative process

To enhance:

– a multidisciplinary network of artists within the Chicago experimental aesthetic community and beyond.

– an expansive & diversified cross-pollination of collaborative possibilities.

– visibility for process-driven models with thoughtful intercultural community engagement.

Funds from this campaign will support the vision  in multiple ways beyond the costs associated with creating work.  We deeply believe that with your support, Re-Frame: A Gathering will impact not only the artist participants, facilitators and community of witnesses, but the larger discussion on the value of the creative process.

THE IMPACT
For Re-Frame: A Gathering, we are seeking to raise funds to support space rental costs, materials for the workshop process, honorarium for the artist participants and facilitators involved.

More specifically if we reach:

  • $1500, this amount will cover rental & production costs associated with the space; both for workshop process & performance showings
  • $2000, in addition to covering rental, will support any materials for the workshop process, ‘bare-bones’ production elements for the showing & travel for one artist facilitator
  • $3000, in addition to the above, secures a no cost opportunity for all artist participants and provide honorarium for both artist facilitators &
  • $4000, in addition the above funds, will provide  honorarium for each of the artist participant

In alignment with this campaign, we are working to ensure Re-Frame: A Gatheringhappens, even with the smallest of funds including:
  • soliciting in-kind contributions from organizations to reduce the cost for rental of space.
  • box office contributions from A Gathering‘s three showings.
  • barter/trade of services in order to promote/market the event.
  • based on amount raised, seek financial investments from artists who wish to participate in the process.
  • re-configuring the model so that it will reduce costs but still honor the artists & the process.
  • cooking meals that can be purchased at the showings.

THE EXCHANGE
We want to you to know that we value whichever amount you pledge. In exchange for your support, Baraka de Soleil, Awilda Rodriguez Lora, artists participants & D UNDERBELLY will acknowledge you through the program, online, via phone, with hand-made art, original designs, through complimentary tickets, invitations to A Gathering and future projects. You’ll notice on our perks list what kind of acknowledgement each tier of funding support will garner.

Other Ways You Can Help

If in Chicago, come to A Gathering.  Join us for food, art, dialogue and community building….this will further support the artists & future opportunities for more gatherings…check out our site: http://reframeagathering.blogspot.com/  for the updates. Current dates  December 16th – 18th, 2011. A gathering will offer a unique experience with up to 3 different artists sharing their process each nite.

Spread the word by putting this campaign on your facebook, twitter or other social network site.

Email blast your networks.   

And be part of the discussion: What has been meaningful to you as an artist in the creative process? 
Whether you may consider yourself an artist or not, your thoughts will be appreciated and expand the discussion on why people should support the creative process of artists.