World Dance Residency
In January of 2012, myself and three other teaching artists from The Vanaver Caravan Dance & Music Company journeyed to Udaipur, India. We spent a total of four weeks teaching world dance and music to children ages six to fourteen in three schools of vastly varied socioeconomic backgrounds. Udaipur, "the city of lakes” is known for its ancient Rajasthani arts traditions and its picturesque resorts and palaces. Home to one of India’s oldest arts festivals (Shilpgram Utsav) and hundreds of cutting edge NGOs, Udaipur serves as a meeting ground for intellectuals, artists, activists and world-travelers. It is also a city of intense contrasts - where a vibrant history of wealth, luxury and royalty crosses paths with massive economic devastation, inequality, and disparities. While Udaipur boasts many fine educational institutions, the literacy rate is just 62%, with little-to-no access to quality education for poor children, and very few arts programs within the city schools. It is through one of the Hudson Valley's oldest dance and music companies, The Vanaver Caravan and Udaipur based NGO, Big Medicine Charitable Trust, that this work is made possible. The World Dance Residency program focuses on bringing communities together in celebration of diversity and the many cultures of the world. It provides the space for students, teachers, parents and administrators alike to see the power dance has in uniting people regardless of social status.
The next installment of this project will take place in January 2014. In addition to teaching the children of Udaipur, The Vanaver Caravan and Big Medicine Charitable Trust have expanded the program's reach by signing New York University on board. NYU has created a winter study abroad option that is open to any student across the globe with college credits that are transferrable. Students will have the opportunity to learn about Rajisthan's rich culture through classes in traditional art, dance and music taught by Udaipur locals. This is an incredible opportunity for cultural exchange between people of all ages. It is an opportunity for global citizenship.
In the process of fundraising I reached out to communities around the globe that I've connected to in my travels and found overwhelming support and encouragement. Through local action one can create and sustain thriving communities both at home and around the world.
"Made to symbolize the magnificence of man and the interconnectedness of humanity, ONE consists of over 100 aerialists dancing together in mid-air, for one hour, suspended 150 feet above ground, and moving via high-powered computer operated winches, underneath a constructed truss."
That is the mission of the second project I am a part of, ONE. I received an email in early May of this year from an older, very successful dancer and aerialist who danced with The Vanaver Caravan and watched me grow up since the age of four. She said that she thought I might be interested in this project and should apply. Unfortunately, by the time I had read her email, the deadline to submit had passed. I e-mailed them anyway and was told to send my resume as soon as possible. I did, and two weeks later I received ten in-depth questions about my physical training, experience working in groups, and why I wanted to be a part of this groundbreaking performance. I sent in my responses excited, but not optimistic at my chances of actually getting an audition, as I had no experience doing aerial work. Surprisingly, a few weeks later I was given an audition time and date and told to show up prepared to copy an aerial routine that would be shown once. Three weeks later, after an epic journey from Charlotessville, NC to Brooklyn, NY, I found myself in a group of ten dancers and aerialists, (the last of over two hundred in New York City to audition) all equally nervous, awaiting our turn to perform for the judges. When I walked into the warehouse studio, I was met with familiar faces: the woman who had emailed me, her partner, and another Vanaver dancer who also tossed me around as a tiny five year old on many stages for many audiences. They harnessed me in, checked me twice and sent me up. Ten feet, thirty, fifty, sixty….still climbing. It was exhilarating. I was beaming so brightly, I couldn't help myself. Why was I still dancing on the ground when I could weightlessly fly like this? I knew my chances of making it to callbacks were slim, as they held auditions in nine countries. Nevertheless, I was absolutely thrilled to have given it a shot and to have tasted flight.
After the audition, I took the two hour bus trip back to Philly where I returned to a hectic schedule of commuting and working. Weeks passed and the high wore off. It seemed like a distant dream until one scorching Summer afternoon when I received an e-mail from ONE at Central Park. At first, all it said was, "Congratulations!" I was baffled. Were they teasing me? Did I get it? The rest of the message loaded and indeed, I had been chosen as one of the one hundred. Wow. I was stunned. My partner picked me up, spinning me around excitedly. I had actually gotten in, but it wasn't without the help and encouragement of my community.
ONE will premier during the Spring or Fall of 2014. During the ten days of performances, it will bring in approximately 10,000 viewers per show and 53 million via webcast. I am humbled and thrilled to have been chosen to be a part of the team that will bring this magical vision to life and into the lives of so many around the globe.
It is Sudbury that taught me the importance of community and gave me the skills needed to thrive in one. How to give and take in equal parts; the importance of a network of support.