Prepare To Avoid Compromising On Quality
Due to a last-minute medical emergency, several adjustments were made, none of which compromised the quality of the project: Mira Cook, a BDC teaching artist, was unable to participate in the project and Sean Scantlebury was substituted. Sean was involved in a DtC project in Israel that reached completion on the evening of the first day of meetings in Madrid. He traveled overnight and arrived the next morning, in time to lead his group of students in its first workshop session.
Possible Language Barriers
Extensive work was done in advance of the project to inform the Spanish partners of the ways and means of Dancing to Connect (DtC). Battery Dance Company prepared a teachers' manual, translated into Spanish, to lend structure and clarity to the process. Many of the Spanish Dance Teachers acted as translators when leading the workshops.
Through the financial and facilitative support of the U.S. Embassy Madrid, Battery Dance Company brought its heralded Dancing to Connect project to Madrid, introducing the art of choreography and a major performing experience to youth who would otherwise lack such access. The participants were low-income students from 10 of Madrid's public schools and a residence for children who have no parents or have been deemed to be unsafe in their home environment.
The Battery Dance Company teaching artists were paired up for the project with young Spanish dance teachers-in-training, who served as both translators and collaborators in leading the workshops. The Spanish dance teachers are members of Alas Abiertas, a non-profit arts organization in Spain that is directed by Mercedes Pacheco and whose mission is similar to Battery Dance Company's. The excellent results of this project have opened many doors for future collaborations.
Extensive work was done in advance of the project to inform the Spanish partners of the ways and means of Dancing to Connect (DtC). Battery Dance Company prepared a teachers' manual, translated into Spanish, to lend structure and clarity to the process. The goal of teaming up with local artists was based upon Battery Dance Company's practice of sustaining the value and impact of Dancing to Connect in each country where it is introduced by training local dance teachers who can carry it forward after the Americans return home.
Six days of 6-hour workshops took place including a Saturday. From the first moment, it was evident to the Battery Dance Company teaching artists that the youth were excited to have such an unusual opportunity and were proud to have been selected. At the same time, there was some anxiety when faced with the need to communicate in English and to work in an artistic medium that was unfamiliar. The facilities at the Centro de Danza Canal are state-of-the-art, including 10 beautifully designed dance studios, three of which were made available to the DtC project for the duration of the workshops. Centro de Danza Canal's Director, Marcial Rodriguez Otero, was very present during the program and made the teachers and students feel very welcome.
Due to a last-minute medical emergency, several adjustments were made, none of which compromised the quality of the project: Mira Cook, a BDC teaching artist, was unable to participate in the project and Sean Scantlebury was substituted. Sean was involved in a DtC project in Israel that reached completion on the evening of the first day of meetings in Madrid. He traveled overnight and arrived the next morning, in time to lead his group of students in its first workshop session. Carmen and Bafana took responsibility for handling the first meeting with the Spanish dance teachers and for running a combined warm up on the morning of Day 2 with all of the students.
The Spanish dance teachers were hand-picked and supervised by Marcedes Pacheco, a former ballet dancer turned arts educator with a wealth of experience. Each of these young teachers-in-training brought good energy and very open minds to the process. They jumped into the process, bonded with their American mentors and quickly became inextricable partners in the process. We feel that they will be able to carry the project further on their own in Spain, thereby sustaining and amplifying the meaning and value of the Dancing to Connect project.
Jonathan had designed and planned the DtC project from New York over the course of many months in close cooperation with the Embassy team of Laura Gould, Elizabeth Martin, Macarena Moreno. He arrived three days into the project (from Israel) and engaged in outreach activities, coordinating with Marcial Rodriguez Otero, Sol Llopez of the Education Department and Macarena Moreno, as well as supporting the dancers and Barry Steele (who arrived on Day 5 of the project to handle all technical responsibilities for the final performance in the Sala Verde.)
Hollander met with directors of three of the four dance conservatories in Madrid, visiting two of them and observing a performance by the graduates of the Conservatorio de Danza Mariemma. He also met with Diego Hidalgo, a Board Member of El Pais, Spain's primary daily newspaper and escorted him to the Centro de Danza Canal to observe the workshops. Jonathan attended a press conference with representatives of the radio, television and print media of Madrid. Through the good offices of the Consulate General of Spain in New York, he met with Paz Santa-Cecilia Aristu, Director of the Department of Music and Dance (INAEM) in the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Antonio Garde Herce, Deputy Director for Music and Dance of the INAEM.
The Dancing to Connect program received considerable positive press. DtC was featured on Telemadrid, Telemadrid Nightly News, and Antena 3. In print and online, DtC was covered by ABC, El-Mundo, Terra Noticias, and with feature articles in El-Pais and Elpais.com.
A Spanish language survey was administered at the start and end of the DtC program to measure the program’s effectiveness with the teenage participants. The questionnaire was composed of a mix of qualitative and quantitative close-ended questions, developed by Emad Salem, Battery Dance Company’s Deputy Director for International Programs. Most students completed pre- and post-program questionnaires resulting in a paired sample size of 55. In addition, a qualitative questionnaire was given to the local dance teachers who received training. Data analysis will follow.
Battery Dance Company is extremely grateful for the support and full cooperation of the U.S. Embassy Madrid, including Ambassador Alan Solomont, Public Affairs Officer Thomas Genton and above all, the hands-on leadership and vision of Cultural Affairs Officer Laura Gould, and the program design and implementation meticulously carried out by ACAO Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun and Cultural Affairs Specialist Macarena Moreno and the media relations effectively handled by Marta Garcia.
By way of anticipated long-term results, Battery Dance Company hopes to continue building collaborations with both Centro de Danza Canal and Alas Abiertas in Spain, as well as the dance conservatories in Madrid, and to feature Spanish dance at one of its future editions of the Downtown Dance Festival.
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