Press & Media
Three members of Battery Dance Company conducted a Dancing to Connect program in Bucharest, Romania, as a collaboration with Tangaj Dance and Policy Center for Roma and Minorities. This program built on the partnerships that have been established with these two Romanian institutions and included both workshops and performance elements.
Two workshops of 20+ hours each were conducted with students from School 136, School 148 and Trouble Crew that resulted in the creation of two original pieces of choreography that were performed at the WASP space.
The teaching artists of Battery Dance Company, Mira Cook and Clement Mensah, worked with a split groups of youth. One half were ages 11-17. Many had some experience with hip hop and some had none; none of the students had taken part in contemporary dance training and/or creative dance. Several of the participants identified themselves as "Roma". The younger students were joined by older members of the Trouble Crew, a hip hop team, mostly in their early 20s. The situation was ideal because the older students were willing and able to mentor the younger ones.
Tangaj member Razvan Stoian partnered with Mira Cook, assisting her with translation and running the workshops, and learning the techniques and strategies of the Dancing to Connect methodology which Battery Dance Company has implemented in over 40 countries to date.
Mira Cook reports: ‘When I asked some of my young students why they chose to dance, one 12-year-old boy said that he had seen Mati (one of the Trouble Crew dancers who was in my workshop) perform, and had been inspired to start dancing. He ended up doing a duet in the performance with Mati and so was able to work directly with his idol. The group was very positive and I feel like we were able to bring out the best and most motivated sides of each other. We had fun and worked hard.’
In addition to managing the workshops, Battery Dance Company Vice President Emad Salem also engaged in meetings with the leadership of Tangaj Dance and Minority Center, exchanging information, strategies and visions for collaboration in the future.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed here in 2013 with support from The US Embassy Bucharest
Media and Press
The Company was greeted at the airport by U.S. Embassy Bucharest’s CAO Edwina Sagitto and FSN Isabella Alexandrescu who accompanied the team to the InterContinental Bucharest. After quickly dropping off the luggage, the Company visited Trouble Dance Studio, where Roma dancers performed a number of acrobatic street dance numbers. The following day, the Company and Embassy team visited and inspected all of the workshop venues and met with local partners.
Over the course of 5 days, 85 youth and young adults came together in the workshops for 6 hours each day, including 1 hour for lunch. BDC’s Mira Cook led a workshop with 20 young ballet students from the Place of Youth on-stage, while Robin Cantrell led a workshop with 20 dance experienced and non-experienced young adults from Romanian public high-schools at WASP, and Clement Mensah led a workshop with 18 young adults at the George Cosbuc Bi-lingual School. The choreography created from each group was emotionally powerful and complex and delved into their life experiences and difficulties. The youth from the George Cosbuc School included a rendition of ‘Every Time I Close My Eyes’ altered to talk about their dreams.
BDC’s Sean Scantelbury led a workshop with Roma youth from the villages, city, and Trouble Dance at the smaller studio at WASP. While ordinarily BDC requires that participants volunteer for the Dancing to Connect program, the history of exclusion felt by the Roma community has resulted in a culture in which Roma do not volunteer to be included. This coupled with the expectation by some that they would be learning hip-hop moves led to the disengagement of some of the youth on the first day. The small studio and poor discipline by some of the remaining youth, who disturbed the workshops and distracted others, threatened to derail the workshop and the ability of the students to create a piece that could be performed on stage. As a result, the workshop was moved to a larger studio at the Palace of Children and a few young ballet students from the Palace joined the Roma workshop group to make up for those who had dropped out, leaving the total number of participants at 14. Those ballet students quickly created close friendships with their fellow participants. After inspiring the students by showing them the stage area and telling them that all the seats had already been reserved, a 180 degree shift in attitude took place amongst most of the students. The lead troublemaker soon also joined in after her fellow students began ignoring her antics and instead urged her to take the workshop seriously. Amazingly, some of the strongest emotions after the final performance came from this group.
Special Needs Workshop
BDC’s Carmen Nicole led workshops with participants suffering from Down syndrome and other mental handicaps at the National Palace of Youth. While the workshops were planned with higher capacity students that had some prior experience with dancing, the 1st day of workshops included a group of participants with extremely low cognitive and movement capacities. After consulting with local partners on the possible strain of the workshops and stage performance on the physical and mental health of the least capable students, it was decided that the originally planned contingent of higher capacity students be brought in to supplement the more capable participants already attending. Nevertheless, the few participants who would not continue with the workshops were very thankful and happy with their one day experience. Total number of participants for Carmen’s workshop was 13.
In lieu of questionnaires, BDC conducted interviews with the special needs students before and after the performance. Throughout the duration of the workshop week, the parents of the youth would sit or stand to watch.
With an overflow of people and emotions, Battery Dance Company and the five Dancing to Connect groups performed to an over-capacity crowd that filled the theatre with people sitting in the aisles. Prior to the performance, a slideshow of the week’s activities was displayed for attendees. At the conclusion of each group’s performance, the audience showed immense support. Most touching was the outpouring of cheers for the mentally challenged group and the Roma group, exemplifying the breaking down of barriers achieved, and the success achieved through the workshops despite the difficulties faced at the beginning. At the culmination of the performance, the audience provided a nearly 5 minute standing ovation. With emotions high back-stage, participants and local partners alike cried with one another over the joy of what had been accomplished. View performance here.
Deputy Director Emad Salem gave a lecture on Arts Administration and Fundraising at the National Academy for Theatre and Film to over 20 students, while Technical Production Supervisor G. Benjamin Swope provided Lighting Design master class to 20 participants at the George Cosbuc School. Both Emad and G. Ben gave additional lectures at the American Corner to over 15 participants. Meanwhile, the dancers held a 2 hour master-class and discussion on the life of a dancer in NYC to over 30 participants at the National Academy.
On BDC’s final day prior to leaving Romania, the Company took in the sights and sounds of Transylvania, visiting the beautiful Bran Castle after a winter blizzard had coated the countryside. BDC also visited the town of Brasov and the Black Church, before having lunch with Embassy driver Dany.