Year » 2010


Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany
2010

The Theme of Inclusion/Exclusion was first posited by Inka Thunecke, Director of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung-Brandenburg, over lunch in a French cafe in the jewel-box city of Potsdam.  This was in October, 2009, at the end of the earlier iteration of [Dancing to Connect][2] that was centered on the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.  Inka had seen Battery Dance Company’s and Drastic Action teaching artists working with children of Turkish immigrants in Berlin and learning disabled jobless youth in the depressed town of Eberswalde, and had witnessed how the dancing project had injected a spirit of optimism, empowerment and self-realization for these ‘have-nots’ of German society. 

Given German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s declaration on October 16, 2010, that the Germany’s so-called multi-cultural society had failed, Battery Dance Company’s theme of Inclusion/Exclusion was a powerful demonstration of the opposite.  Over a period of 38 days, in nearly 25 schools among 4 German States, Battery Dance Company teaching artists gave students the opportunity to reflect on this potent theme as it impacts them and their communities.  These students were from various disenfranchised sectors such as Turkish, African and Central Asian immigrants, the learning and physically disabled, residents of the former East German States, unemployed youth and others._
 

For more information, please see Germany 2010 Overview.

To see performance footage of one of the schools, Otto-Hahn-Schule, that DtC worked with during their time in Frankfurt, Click here

Germany_2010

Brandenburg, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany
Otto-Hahn-Schule
Wiesbaden, Germany
Hessen, Germany
Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Germany 2010 Overview
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Otto-Hahn-Schule

Frankfurt, Germany
2010

Otto-Hahn-Schule was one of the Frankfurt Schools where the group taught and performed. We were very happy to return after having staged a performance and master class there in 2007.

Mayuna & Sean, Teaching artists of Battery Dance Company taught 15 girls and 10 boys (ages 12 – 18) how to create their own choreography on the theme "Inclusion/Exclusion".

PERFORMANCE at Otto-Hahn-Schule

In these videos, Jonathan Hollander, Artistic and Executive Director of Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect and Gabriele Telgenbuescher, Deputy Principal Otto-Hahn-Schule in Frankfurt, speak about the importance for the school and for the students of such ground-breaking cultural initiative.
 


Germany_2010

Brandenburg, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany
Otto-Hahn-Schule
Wiesbaden, Germany
Hessen, Germany
Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Germany 2010 Overview
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Videos

Mqdefault Play_overlay_button

Wiesbaden, Germany

Wiesbaden, Germany
2010

Make yourself uncomfortable - stretch to the limit - it just might produce the results you need:

In 2009, we applied for the second time to the German Federal Government via the Ministry in Bonn that looks after the Trans-Atlantic Program, for funding of Dancing to Connect. Having hit the jackpot the previous year, we had no idea whether (despite DtC's  success) we could succeed a second time.  Beyond that, we had expanded our reach from 1 State in 2006 and 07 to 3 States in 08 and 09 and now -- lunacy -- intended to work in 4 States in '10. Even though our plans were grandiose, we were attached to each and every element and wouldn't hear of jettisoning a part of it.

So, there was only one thing to do in case the Bundesmin. failed to materialize: Plan B!

Through a contact of a contact, I found the name and e-mail address of a key person in the Education Ministry.  Though I was told that Germany is highly decentralized, and States make up their own mind vis a vis educational programs, I had nothing to lose.

I made my way to Germany 6 months prior to the start of the project -- luckily, the US Embassy in Berlin agreed to bring me over on a Speaker Program.  

I was on my own, spending two or three days in each State, meeting with potential partners from morning 'til late at night, and then jumping on a train to the next city.  I phoned the Education Ministry and spoke to Madame X (I shall refrain from using her real name to protect her identity but for any good detectives, don't bother -- she has just retired!)  who agreed to meet me that evening!   One problem:  Madame X was in Bonn and I was at the other end of the State of NRW, in the small town of Witten, in a very important meeting that ended at 5 pm.  "If you can make it", she challenged, "I'll pick you up at the train station and you can join me at the opening of an exhibition followed by a formal dinner."  

A formal dinner in Bonn was not my idea of a fun evening, considering that my hotel was in Düsseldorf, an hour by train from Bonn, and I had a plane reservation to fly to Berlin the next morning at 6:30 a.m.  

Here's where the stretch came in....

Fortunately, German's love their cars and love to drive fast.  So I hitched a ride to Cologne with Frank, a PR executive who loved the concept of DtC and was part of the group meeting in Witten.  

I had to close my eyes as he sped at top speed on the Autobahn in his deluxe vehicle.  

I sprang out of the car as we reached the train station and boarded the next train for Bonn, arriving exactly on time to be picked up by Mme X.  

By this time, having been in meetings all day in 4 different cities, I was exhausted. Fortunately for me, Mme. X was in the same state, and after we saw the packed crowd at the exhibition, we both agreed that a quiet supper was the best choice!  

We found a table at the adjacent restaurant and dug into some wine and an unexceptional meal.  The exceptional part was our conversation:  We hit it off in a big way and were carrying on like old friends.  

On the way back to the station, I heard the words I had only dreamed of:  "How much do you need?"

Fast forward:  we got the grant from the Bundesministerium, minus about 25% that had been an across-the-boards cut mandated by the government in keeping with the recession.  I contacted Mme. X who promptly filled in the gap and we were off and running with DtC 2010 in all 4 States.   

The take-away lesson here is obvious:  Never turn down an invitation from a potential funder even if it means 3 hours of sleep and indigestion!

For more information, please see Germany 2010 Overview

Germany_2010

Brandenburg, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany
Otto-Hahn-Schule
Wiesbaden, Germany
Hessen, Germany
Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Germany 2010 Overview
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya
2010

Dates

  • October 12 – October 16, 2010

Sponsors

Project Activities

  • 2 Dancing to Connect workshops with a total of approximately 50 participants aged 17-28 in Nairobi
  • 1 Dancing to Connect Performance, Nairobi

Partners

Venues

• Malaria medication (Malarone) is available in African pharmacies at a fraction of the cost in America. Purchase only enough for the starter dose in the U.S. and purchase the remainder on tour.

• Dance is a powerful vehicle of bonding across social and cultural borders in Africa

• American artists are treated with respect, fascination and open-hearted hospitality

• Security issues are important to understand in each country. Walking down the street in garments that might be considered disrespectful can spell trouble. When in doubt, get a security briefing from the Embassy and cover up.

• Internet connectivity is inconsistent; and so is access to reliable ATM’s

• Many theaters in Africa are not equipped with Western-standard lighting instruments and technical crews are often hard-pressed to support a full dance plot. Be ready to adapt and bring a resourceful production director with you.

• Think ahead about ways in which you can follow-up, once your program is complete. The thirst for high quality dance instruction and performances is greater than a short visit can quench.

• Bring plastic hangers, Woolite, Febreze and white tissue paper (to deal with damp costumes when you are on the run)

• Budget for excess baggage. Airlines baggage policies are not dance company-friendly.

• Engage the community in any/every way possible. Use all of your communication and teaching skills and think broadly and creatively about outreach. Our strongest suit was our Dancing to Connect program that brought us up close and fully teamed up with our African counterparts, and the fact that our final performances were shared with locals –our students and professionals.

• Determine which countries require visas to be obtained before leaving the U.S. and which can be left until arrival at the airport. Create a timeline for the visa application process. As we found out, the more countries you visit on a tour, the more complex the procedure becomes

ADDITIONAL NOTES

In October 2010, as part of a five-country series of workshops in Central and East Africa, Dancing to Connect performed and taught in Nairobi. Here is an excerpt from a letter from one of the students:

"After my fathers death my life has never been the same again. I was confused and didn’t know what to do. That is when I started dancing…so I could forget what happened. Ever since I was a kid, my wish was to become the best dancer the world has ever seen. I know I have a hope of dancing thanks to this project. Thanks.

In the beginning, I was afraid that I didn’t have the training to be able to do the workshop but with the learning that I have achieved, I know that everything can be used as inspiration in dance.

When we danced to show a secret, it showed me how to communicate without having to say a word. The music I have heard is different and I have learnt that different is good. Different is fine.

I have learnt that learning is an experience it itself."

BDC’s program in Kenya was a whirlwind experience that left indelible impressions. Over 4 days, two Dancing to Connect workshops took place and culminated in finished works of choreography that were performed at the US Ambassador’s residence in Nairobi. Working with Cultural Affairs Office (CAO) and Cultural Affairs Specialist (CAS) was an utter joy. Smart, culturally sophisticated and socially committed, these two made us feel very well supported throughout our stay.

Carmen worked with Wini Nkinda (as far as know Wini has since moved out of country and pursuing other ventures), a local dance leader and her fledgling group called Bone Marrow. There were 15 dancers in this group ranging in age from 17 – 28, with a mix of men and women. Some of the participants had worked with Wini in the past; others joined for the first time, drawn by the opportunity to engage with an American teaching artist. The talent of the dancers in this group was exceptional – passionate, engaged, intense and willing to take risks. Carmen and Wini made perfect counterparts and the results of their work left both Ellen and Jonathan in tears when they attended the 3rd day rehearsal at The Go Down. In a survey of dancers taken at the end of workshops, 30 out of 30 indicated that they would participate again if given a chance, and 29 rated their teaching artists “Excellent”.

Oliver and Bafana’s group was made up of members of the Gomad Group from the University of Nairobi and others including a freelance dancer/actress who traveled from Mombasa. This young woman, when interviewed, said that she has been called upon to choreograph and lead dance workshops but had never had the opportunity to study in any formalized way nor to be guided by a professional choreographer. As in Carmen’s group, the team was diverse in terms of socio-economic bracket, education, with more men than women. They rehearsed at the music conservatory in a very well appointed dance studio with wooden floors, mirrors and good ventilation. Ken had managed to obtain marley dance flooring for both the Go Down and the Conservatoire, because neither surface was in good enough condition for barefoot dancing. The Director of the Conservatoire was fascinated with the flooring material and secured information about sourcing and pricing for a future upgrade. Unfortunately, the final performance had to be a by-invitation-only event at the Ambassador’s residence because no suitable theater was available. Nonetheless, every effort was made to reach out to a diverse audience and to prepare a good stage for the show. Everyone pitched in to help create an amphitheater out of the sloping back yard of the residence with Maureen in gracious but firm command. The jacaranda blossoms dropping constantly onto the stage during the performance, the backwards slope of the stage, the vicious thorns on an overhanging tree: none of these challenges were too great to overcome, and a capacity audience were roused enough to dance on stage after the formal presentation, accompanied by a local singer and her band (and joined by U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger!).

Videos

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Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana
February 2010

Dates

  • February 4 - 11, 2010

    Sponsors

  • Africa Regional Services, United States Embassy, Paris
  • United States Embassy Accra

    Project Activities

  • 1 Dancing to Connect workshop with 20 participants

    Partners

  • Noyam African Dance Institute, Nii Yartey
  • National Theatre Company
  • Ghana Dance Ensemble
  • University of Ghana

    Venues

  • National Theatre Company

    Media

  • Nanabanyin Dadson, “They Dance to Connect” - The Graphic, Ghana 2010

  • As in many other cases, we faced a variety of scheduling challenges in Ghana – working with one group for an extended, sequential series of workshops, and others for one day, a block of time.

    We had to be flexible, nimble, and open-minded. Looking back on the programs, we feel that the rewards were plentiful and that our ability to modulate our expectations and avoid a one-size-fits-all mentality was helpful. Also, having a big “bag of tricks” to draw upon (different teaching tools and approaches) allowed us to adapt to each of the many circumstances we faced.

    We also keep a running list of quotes from news articles, participants and collaborators on our trips. For example, this quote from our 2010 trip to Accra, Ghana:

    “Rarely do dancers from different organizations and associations in Accra come together for common performances. When they do, it is usually to do with huge pageants for opening such events as the CAN 2008 football finals a couple years ago. For the past one week, however, dancers from five institutions – the School of Performing Arts, National Dance Company, Noyam African Dance Institute, Performing Arts Work-shop (PAWS), and the Ghana Dance ensemble – have been dancing together in a unique workshop. The workshop, led by two American professional dancers, Sean Scantlebury and Robin Cantrell of the Battery Dance Company, New York, assisted by eminent Ghanaian choreographers and lecturers, Nii Yartey and Nii Kweh Sowah was aimed at creating original dance pieces through master classes. "

    -Nanabanyin Dadson, “They Dance to Connect” - The Graphic, Ghana 2010

    In early February 2010 two members of Battery Dance Company, Robin Cantrell and Sean Scantlebury, engaged in a program unique for the Company – a tour by only two dancers without either an artistic director, project manager or production designer to support them on the ground. Ghana was the first stop on the tour and tested the limits of what they were capable; while at the same time, building their confidence that they could attain successful results on their own.

    They had strong support from the local U.S. Embassy in Accra and were warmly welcomed by the dance community in Ghana. Their program began with a meet-and-greet with students from the University of Ghana and their professors Oh! Nii Sowah and Nii Yartey. Being fresh off the plane, they were jet-lagged and totally unprepared for the excitement that greeted them at the university. Well over fifty students, plus drummers, performed an impromptu dance jam in their honor. By the end of the event, Sean and Robin were invited onto the stage , where, despite their fatigure, joined in the traditional African movements. The excitement over the coming days of workshops and performances was palpable. The next day, they returned to the University and were met by the largest group of participants ever for a Dancing to Connect program. Immediately astonished by the commitment displayed by the participants, Robin wrote, “I'm not sure I've ever encountered such a motivated group. They worked extremely hard, despite overwhelming heat and dust. By the end of the day, everyone was covered in reddish-brown dirt....and nobody seemed to care!”

    They finished up their Dancing to Connect performance piece in record time the next day and felt really satisfied with the results and the speed with which it was accomplished. The next day was a day off and involved traveling to various noteworthy sites including Cape Coast, a notorious point of slave trade, where they were guided through the dungeons where African slaves were held before being exported to the Americas. The next day, they started up a new workshop at The National Theater. Here we were once again greeted with a performance, this time from the National Theater Company. It was an extremely high energy traditional African dance complete with costumes and props. However, once we got to work on the Dancing to Connect project, there was decidedly less energy in the room. This was, indeed, the first time that we created Dancing to Connect pieces on professional dancers, as opposed to students. I think that ultimately what the professionals gained was valuable, but their attitude was less enthusiastic than their younger counterparts. Amazingly, we were able to construct an entire piece (about 6 min. in length) in just one day. This was a new record to be sure.

    Next up, was a trek into the mountains in order to work with the Noyam African Dance Institute, a private company established by Nii Yartey. Their rehearsal space was an open air structure in a very isolated area. In fact, during the warm up, they were joined in the studio by a dog, a goat, and several chickens. It was here that our DTC capabilities were ultimately tested, as we were expected to create a performance caliber piece with the company in only half a day. Miraculously it was done, and so well that they decided to make it the opener for the performance. This, of course, had everything to do with the talent, background and motivation of the Noyam dancers. It turned out that a number of the Noyam company members had been involved in the university workshops, even though they were not actually attending the university. They explained that they had been so excited to learn new forms of dance that they had requested to take part in both workshops. The professors had kindly agreed. As one dancer put it, "We swallow dance because chewing takes too long." After a lunch break, Robin and Sean taught a class to the Noyam African Dance Institute children. They were a group ranging in age from about 8 to 15. Not having danced for more than a few months, they were very shy. Modulating their teaching approach to suit the age group, Robin and Sean introduced a project in which the children imitated the movements of African animals. The day ended with a snack of sugar cane and 2 performances, one by children and one by the pros. The electrical power had gone out, so the presentation was made in silence and it was nonetheless beautiful.

    The final day of workshops involved working with the Ghana Dance Ensemble; a company based on the university campus. A group of drummers was available to accompany the workshop, but since pre-recorded music was being used, they were excused. However, Wisdom, one of the drummers, stayed on as he was interested in dancing. He worked on the exercises that were given to the group, staying off to one side in his own little corner. At some point, one of the company dancers complained of a foot injury and sat down. At this point, Wisdom simply jumped in and took his place. The company dancers showed their disinterest in working with him. "He's not a dancer", they kept saying. Robin and Sean explained that this project was about pulling the inner dancer out of everyone, and that sometimes, even someone with very little technical training can be storing a wealth of creative ideas in their body and mind. They encouraged Wisdom to keep at it, and by the end of the day a lovely piece had been set to Vivaldi. Wisdom blended in with the group perfectly.

    The next day involved preparations or the final performance, gathering all 4 performing groups together, warming them up, spacing each piece on the stage and then doing a run-through. Since there was almost no lighting to speak of, not much work was required in that area. The four lights mounted to the ceiling were either on or off. The small performance space gradually filled up and the performance began with all four groups interspersed with performances by Sean and Robin (2 solos, 2 duets.) The show culminated with the lively, almost epic work constructed with the university students.

    Afterwards, all performers sat on the stage and fielded questions from the audience and press. Students were proud of their accomplishment and impressed that they were able to create something so substantial in such a short amount of time. It was noted that this was a landmark event, as it was the first time that all four groups had ever performed in one place. Everyone seemed to express the hope that it would not be the last. There were also some comments from the audience about the difference between the American dancers and the African dancers; the difference between light, soft, fluid movement versus heavy, stomping and sharp accents. There seemed to be general agreement that training in dance forms such as ballet and modern could only extend the horizons of the local dancers. At the reception following the show, Wisdom conveyed that after watching him perform, several of the professors had agreed that he should be inducted to the dance department. He was overjoyed and Robin and Sean were profoundly moved.

    Kampala, Uganda

    Kampala, Uganda
    February 2010

    Dates

  • February 24 - 27, 2010

    Sponsors

    Project Activities

    • 1 Dancing to Connect program with 20 participants
    • 1 hip-hop master class
    • 2 ballet classes

    Partners

    • In-Movement Dance Studio, Kansanga
    • Makerere University, Kampala
    • Tabu-flo Dance Crew

    Venues

    • Makerere University, Kampala
    • Kampala Ballet and Modern Dance School
    • Uganda National Cultural Center
    • National Theatre Auditorium, Kampala
    • In-Movement Dance Studio, Kampala
  • Making Choices

    Our program in Uganda was organized late in the game, and participants’ schedules did not conform to our needs for a full-fledged program. Likewise, logistical conditions were very rough (cement and dirt floors instead of wood, etc.) However, we chose to push through and to do the best we could under the circumstances. In retrospect, we’re happy we did. The interactions we had were very touching and obviously valuable. Adaptability was key.

    In early February 2010 two members of Battery Dance Company, Robin Cantrell and Sean Scantlebury set out to do what could very well have been impossible: Travel for one month through Africa, teaching master classes almost daily, and putting together multiple Dancing to Connect programs, each in only the span of one or two days. In the past, these workshops have been full-week programs. Without the aid of a technical director or even an artistic director, the BDC members were taking on a hefty set of responsibilities. The outcome was ultimately far superior to anything they might have hoped for. Dance pieces came together seamlessly, performances ran smoothly, audiences were amazed, and a few lives were changed including those of the teaching artists!

    The program in Kampala, BDC’s first exposure to Uganda, began with a reception given in their honor by the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of the US Embassy. They were introduced to a host of people, most of whom were involved with the upcoming dance week festival. The dancers they met seemed highly motivated to develop contemporary dance skills, even though they indicated that the society at large wasn’t particularly entranced by the idea. Sean and Robin encountered a number of young dancers who seemed very interested in dance video and expanding their filming and editing skills. Day one of teaching took place at the National Theater where the session began with a master class followed by a creative workshop with the goal of creating an original piece of choreography for 20 performers who represented a number of different national companies. It was the first time we had ever worked on this project with dancers who had never met one another (and in some cases, didn't even speak the same language). Everyone worked surprisingly well together, although it was clear that the dancers had vastly different types of dance training; everything from break dancing to Limon style modern. Nonetheless, everyone was very receptive, cooperative and things went smoothly.

    In the evening, the dancers were invited to a Latin dance performance at the theater as prelude to the coming festival. After that, they were rushed to a dressing area and told to prepare to perform outside, on the cement, without warming up, for a huge crowd! At this point in the tour the dancers had been exposed to just about everything, and were relatively unfazed by this whirlwind set of directions. Sean and Robin performed a duet as a way to open the evening's Dance Jam. Their efforts were met with a very warm response from the audience, who proceeded to salsa across the cement in their wake.

    The next day Robin taught a creative movement class to children at the In-Movement Dance Studio in Kansanga. This was a lovely recreation center that had been set up by Susan Bamutenda (who, sadly, passed away soon after) in order to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds, many orphans, an outlet for creativity. They arrived in their school uniforms, and were provided with dance clothes. Makerere University was the next stop, where they taught a 3 hour workshop. In order to give the participants more space to move (apparently the dance rooms at the university are in sad shape), the workshop was held in a lecture hall. By now, they were used to the red dirt that covers everything, and the power going out at the most inopportune times. Students here were keen to learn and had lots of questions about technique, strength and flexibility.

    After working with the Dancing to Connect participants for a second day, the dancers focused on rehearsing their own pieces for the opening night of the festival. The two of them would be performing two different pieces. The festival kicked off that evening with Robin and Sean watching as much as they could from back stage and were impressed with the amount of modern dance that the Ugandan dancers had picked up through previous visits by American and European dance teachers. The creativity was certainly abundant but the technical ability to back up the visions was not consistent.

    The final day of teaching took the dancers to separate venues. Robin taught two guest ballet classes at the Kampala Ballet and Modern Dance School. The dancers here were very young and only have the option to take one 60-minute dance class per week. Hopefully the tiny dancers gained something from this peek into the world of American ballet. Sean led a hip hop class with the Tabuflo Dance Crew. Sean and Robin left the rehearsal unsure of how the evening would unfold. They headed back to the National Theater to catch night two of the festival, this time from the audience. The audience loved the Dancing to Connect performance despite the very short rehearsal time.

    Shikokuchuo, Japan

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.

    Please see Sendai for more information on Battery Dance Companies 2010 tour to Japan.


    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Sendai, Japan

    Sendai, Japan
    July 2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.


    Dates

  • July 27 - August 12, 2010

    Sponsors

  • US Embassy Japan
  • Japan- United States friendship commission
  • Peace Forest NPO
  • Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum

    Partners

  • Yuko Takahashi Dance Company

    Program Specifics

  • 10 master classes
  • 2 performances shared with Japanese dance companies
  • 1 free outdoor site-specific performance with 2 Japanese percussionists and 30 freelance dancers
  • 4 Dancing to Connect intensive 4-day workshops

    Venues

    Tokyo Electron Hall

  • Dance Flooring

    Yuko-san used her relationship with a monk from the Rinno-ji Temple to secure a beautiful wood-floored hall for BDC’s use for the workshops as well as rehearsals. BDC was distressed to see that YTDC normally rehearses in a studio tucked away on salvage land under a raised highway.

    One of the strongest elements of Dancing to Connect Japan & U.S. was undoubtedly the element of cross-cultural collaboration. This bilateral internationalism was set in sharp relief throughout the tour but especially during BDC’s 8 days in Sendai in which BDC partnered with the Northeast region’s leading modern dance company, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company.

    Yuko Takahashi is a choreographer and veteran teacher who has trained a generation of modern dancers in Sendai, capital of Miyagi Prefecture. Respected by the dance critics and taste-makers of Tokyo, several of whom attended the final performance at Tokyo Electron Hall, Takahashi fills large theaters several times a year for home seasons in Sendai.

    The link between Takahashi and Battery Dance Company was forged by Mayuna Shimizu, a talented dancer and choreographer who moved from Japan to New York a decade ago to study with the Joffrey Ballet. Shimizu is also from the Northeastern region of Japan and met Takahashi through mutual colleagues. She became a member of Battery Dance Company in 2007 and has performed and taught in NYC, Asia, Middle East and Europe with BDC. Mayuna proposed Takahashi’s help in hosting BDC in Sendai, and promoted the idea of including the Yuko Takahashi Dance Company in BDC’s Downtown Dance Festival in NYC. Support from the Japan-US Friendship Commission and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was forthcoming and permitted BDC to plan an 18-day program in Japan. Similarly, a travel grant from the Japan Foundation permitted Yuko Takahashi Dance Company to perform twice in BDC’s Downtown Dance Festival a few days after the Company’s return to the U.S.

    The following day, an orientation and sight-seeing tour was arranged, giving the dancers from both companies a chance to bond, transcending the language barrier.

    Over the next week, BDC teaching artists taught a series of 6 master classes that were attended by members of YTDC, students from Yuko-san’s school and other dancers from the community.

    The grand finale of BDC’s Sendai stay was a performance at the magnificent 1,500-seat Tokyo Electron Hall. Having had no role to play in promoting the performance and hearing nothing in advance from Yuko’s staff about ticket sales, we were anxious that such a big hall would feel empty if just a few hundred people showed up. Not only that, but we learned that there had been a huge national modern dance convention in Japan just days before the show and this increased our concern that the audience for our show would be scant. Our worries were put to rest as we returned to the theater, after coffee and snacks, and saw a long line snaking out onto the sidewalk from the box office! Much to our delight, the theater was nearly full when the performance began.

    Complementing works by YTDC, BDC presented its newest production, “Voice Hearers”, whose scenery is coincidentally reminiscent of Japanese shoji screens. Audience response was powerful and vociferous, approaching the approbation accorded the Shamizen maestro who accompanied one of Yuko-san’s works. This was one of the fascinating realizations BDC experienced in Japan – that dance fails to rouse audiences to the pitch that even a solo musician can count on.

    On Friday, August 6, we had the honor of presenting a site-specific performance at the Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum, organized by Peace Forest NPO. The Museum itself, designed by Pritzker Award-winning architect Tadao Endo, was the venue, with its grand staircase, ramps and terraces facing the Kobe Riverfront serving as the very unusual stage. Our dancers had taught workshops on the 5th and 6th, with 50 Japanese dancers taking part. 32 of the dancers opted to participate in our performance piece entitled “Peace Phoenix”, subtitled ‘The Day After’. This title was inspired by the fact that our performance took place on Hiroshima Day. By coincidence, the Obama Administration sent US Ambassador Roos to Hiroshima yesterday — the first time that a US diplomat had attended the memorial service there.

    Our event was enlivened by the music created and performed for us by Japanese jazz/rock percussionist Tetsuya Kajiwara and Taiko drummer and shamisen player Nobuhito Tomo-oka. They were amazingly resourceful and flexible given the complexity of our scenario and the brief time allowed to prepare (and the brutal heat during our afternoon outdoor rehearsals!) We were amazed to find out that our performance was the first such event ever produced by the Museum. We were very grateful to Michiko Abe, Professor Akira Fukuchi and the dedicated team of volunteers from Peace Forest who had the imagination to conceive of this event and the stamina to counteract all of the bureaucratic barriers and reversals that occurred in the planning phase.

    Following the two-day residency at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe, BDC teaching artists fanned out to 4 different locations to lead Dancing to Connect workshops with groups of 20 – 30 students each. Mayuna traveled to Shikokuchūō in Ehime Prefecture where she worked with dance students from a local ballet school. Bafana went to Nara, to work with the dance students at Tenri University. Robin and Sean commuted to Takarazuka to work with a large group of students at Takarazuka High School, and Carmen worked with dance students of Masaka Toka, a well-respected dance teacher in Ashiya City. The workshops went on for 4 days with intensive schedules of 9 – 12 noon and 1 – 4 p.m. each day. Jonathan Hollander, artistic director, visited each workshop, traveling from one venue to the next, encouraging the students and supporting the teaching artists. The dance pieces that resulted were unique – each in its own way -- and as emotionally and thematically powerful as they were poetic and riveting to watch.

    Comparing the Japanese experience of DtC with others that BDC has led (in NYC, Germany, Taiwan and elsewhere), the general feeling was that the Japanese participants who had self-selected, came to the experience with far more dance training than usual. They were rich with imaginative ideas and worked very well in groups, with certain individuals standing out for their special abilities or quality. While in Shikokuo, Jonathan Hollander had met with the Mayor, an ambitious young politician with big aspirations for the building of a new performing arts center that he hopes will be a major attraction for the region. The Mayor told Hollander, “it is my impression that Japanese youth are short on creativity.” Hollander replied that perhaps it is the lack of opportunity to exercise and display their creativity, rather than an innate short-coming – based on the evidence of the DtC workshops.

    Similar to the experience in Sendai, BDC was very anxious about the technical elements of such an elaborate joint performance including two Japanese dance companies, four student DtC groups and BDC itself on one evening. Close cooperation between BDC’s technical director David Bengali and local dance producer Masako Toka (who had been the dean of dance at Mukogawa Women’s University in 2006 when BDC last visited), ensured great results. Perhaps the novelty of having an American dance company performing coupled with the strong participation by local dancers accounted for the nearly full-house! Acting Consul General Gregory Kay gave a warm welcome (in Japanese) to the audience on behalf of the US Consulate General Osaka, and Jonathan Hollander delivered a short speech praising the Japanese dancers and thanking all of the participants and sponsors for their support. Otherwise, the evening was entirely given over to the dancers and the audience responded with tremendous appreciation.

    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Nara, Japan

    Kyoto, Japan
    2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.

    Please see Sendai for more information on Battery Dance Companies 2010 tour to Japan.


    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Kobe, Japan

    Kobe, Japan
    2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.

    Please see Sendai for more information on Battery Dance Companies 2010 tour to Japan.


    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Ashiya, Japan

    Kobe, Japan
    2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.

    Please see Sendai for more information on Battery Dance Companies 2010 tour to Japan.


    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Nishinomiya, Japan

    Osaka, Japan
    2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.

    Please see Sendai for more information on Battery Dance Companies 2010 tour to Japan.


    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Takarazuka, Japan

    Osaka, Japan
    2010

    Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect worked and performed here in July 2010.

    The eight-member troupe performed and taught in Sendai and throughout the Kansai Region on an 18-day tour co-sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Peace Forest.


    Please see Sendai for more information on Battery Dance Companies 2010 tour to Japan.

    Japan, 2010

    Shikokuchuo, Japan
    Nara, Japan
    Kobe, Japan
    Ashiya, Japan
    Nishinomiya, Japan
    Takarazuka, Japan
    Sendai, Japan

    Beijing, China

    Beijing, China
    December 2010

    Program Specifics: Beijing, China 2010

    Dates

  • November 20 – December 6, 2010

    Sponsors

  • The Henry Luce Foundation

    Project Activities

  • 2 Dancing to Connect workshops Beijing with approximately 30 participants

    Partners

  • Ping Pong Arts
  • LDTX Beijing Modern Dance
  • CAI Organization China

    Venues

  • LDTX Training Center, Beijing

  • Lessons Learned: China 2010

    Adaptability: We had to reconfigure and downgrade our China program from what had been envisioned as a full company tour to a two-person program due to lack of funding. However, the results proved valuable and we were grateful to have had the opportunity to touch the lives of 50 youth in Beijing and Liuzhou.

    Beijing – Marketing: we were disappointed in the lack of audience for the final performance. We only realized too late that neither the U.S. Embassy nor the host institution has taken responsibility for promoting the performance and as a result, the small theater was only half full.

    Beijing – We took too much for granted in terms of building rapport and understanding with our professional counterparts; Whereas we insist on voluntary participation by the students in Dancing to Connect programs, the same should be true, even more so, with teacher trainees. Communication was strained at times due to language and cultural barriers.

    Translation – interpretation – When working in a country such as China where English fluency cannot be taken for granted, it is critically important to have translators and/or interpreters who feel in harmony with the program and are familiar with dance and its special language. Also, having the same translator throughout a program is an important support. Changing on a daily basis is a struggle.

    Liuzhou – adaptability – the students had to be in school for many hours a day; so our work had to fit into a time slot in the afternoon, after morning classes and before evening classes. We were worried about the students’ ability to concentrate on our program; but they proved up to the challenge.

    Performance venue – Our only choice of venue for the final performance was a gym without any technical support because there were no stages available. We accepted conditions as they were. Even so, the Mayor and officials from City Hall attended and clearly the student participants were proud of their achievement.

    Narrative: China 2010

    Battery Dance Company initiated a cultural education and exchange program that took place in China in December, 2010. The program grew out of a relationship and on-going discussions between BDC Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander, Willy Tsao and Sarabeth Berman. Willy founded the Beijing LDTX dance company (as well as several others in China); Sarabeth was a Luce Fellow in China, had studied dance and urban studies at Barnard; and joined forces with Willy for three years, helping to manage the dance company and co-creating an international contemporary dance festival in Beijing where BDC had made its China debut in 2008. The three came together again in 2009 at the Aspen Institute’s Global Forum in Spain, where Hollander chaired a panel on Dance Diplomacy and invited Tsao and Berman to participate. This is where the plan was hatched to bring BDC’s Dancing to Connect to China.

    After a year of planning, funding was acquired from the Henry Luce Foundation and a team was assembled by Hollander and Berman, integrating the efforts of two Battery Dance Company teaching artists, four LDTX teacher trainees and the staff of CAI (an NGO that worked with schools catering to Migrant Worker youth). Later, when Alison Friedman of Ping Pong Productions took over the local reins from Berman, Liuzhou was added to the schedule with two personnel from Guangzhou and a grant from the US Consulate in Guangzhou. The project had two goals: 1) to create an opportunity for disadvantaged Chinese youth to engage in the Dancing to Connect program with visiting American artists and 2) to train Chinese dancers and dance teachers in the skills of working with students with limited prior dance experience.

    BEIJING: Two different groups of students from Xiwang Zhixing School, one of Beijing’s schools for Migrant Workers’ children, took part in Dancing to Connect workshops (one in the morning and one in the afternoon, as the only suitable room for the workshop had to be shared.). Four professional dancers, veterans of the LDTX Company, were chosen to participate as teacher trainees. They observed at first and gradually took over the leadership role, mentored and guided by Tadej Brdnik and Carmen Nicole, BDC’s veteran teaching artists.

    The program produced remarkable results though there were various hurdles, small and large, that had to be overcome:

    • Though the hotel arranged for Carmen and Tadej was conveniently situated, the staff didn’t speak English and the condition of the rooms was not acceptable. After two days, attempting to navigate in a non-English speaking environment, it was deemed best to move to an international standard hotel. Through a contact made in 2008 with the former General Manager of the JW Marriott Hotel, discounted rooms were located at a nearby Marriott.

    • Various misunderstandings arose which are described below. Some became apparent as early as the first day of orientation; others later, into the process of the workshops. The misunderstandings can be traced to language, cultural and philosophical differences; and all of them related to the peer-to-peer communication between the BDC teaching artists and the Chinese dance teachers; none related to the teenage participants in the workshops. Lost in Translation: Before interaction with the students began, two days of orientation meetings with the LDTX teaching artists took place. With the help of two very gifted translators, Tadej and Carmen explained the creative development process and goals for the week and led their Chinese counterparts through some of the exercises that they would utilize with the Migrant Worker youth. Members of the CAI staff presented information about the Xiwan Zhixing School during these preliminary workshops explaining the cultural and governmental differences that contribute to the circumstances under which migrant workers live and work. It was an opportunity for everyone to learn about cultural differences and to develop ideas for effective cooperation during the week.

    Unfortunately, despite extensive advance preparation and communication, it became clear that there were different expectations on both sides. Despite having been alerted in advance that they would need to be present for each and every hour of the orientation and training sessions, one of the translators and one of the LDTX teaching artists were unable to meet for debriefing sessions after each workshop day to discuss and plan for the next day. Having the translator absent made it difficult to communicate with the one remaining teaching artist and resulted in canceling the afternoon of meetings on that first day. Additionally, there was no experienced managerial presence coordinating the program. The local organizers had obligations out of China during the length of the workshop and the LDTX studio administrators had offered to take over this role, but they proved unequipped to do so.

    Throughout the week, the program progressed and the smiles of the youths showed their joy and excitement, helping to counteract the tensions that were building on the administrative and pedagogical sides.

    Entrance and exit surveys offer some insights into the participants’ expectations, perceptions and results. The data shows an overwhelming interest by the students in future participation in another dance program, as well as an increased interest in learning about the arts and improved body image. One particularly touching development was with an autistic boy who did not make eye contact and was too afraid to show his work in front of the group by himself. When the group was given the task to create a “name solo” by spelling out the Chinese characters of their names with their bodies, this boy was completely overwhelmed. After coaching and working on the task together with Carmen and the translator Jyingi, he not only performed his solo, he also laughed and integrated with the group for the rest of the day.

    The final performance offered an opportunity for the participants to showcase their hard work. The students had had scant prior opportunities to experience art or attend a performance, much less participate in a presentation of something they had made themselves. The circumstances of their families’ struggles meant that very few parents were available to attend the final performance. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor LDTX promoted the event, resulting in a very low turn out to support the week’s work by the children.

    Fortunately, there were many photographers present throughout the workshop and photo books were given to each child as a souvenir as well as costume T-shirts. Additionally, certificates of completion were awarded to each child.

    LIUZHOU: After completing the Beijing leg of the tour, Tadej returned to the U.S. while Carmen traveled to Liuzhou where an add-on program had been arranged by Alison Friedman through her regional contacts and enthusiasm for spreading dance exchange beyond the capital. The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou made a grant to support the program and identified Liuzhou Nationalities High School as the local partner. The high school was ethnically and economically diverse. Some students commute and others live on the school grounds. The schedule for Chinese students in a typical high school is grueling with classes beginning at 8 am and extending well into the evening. Despite their very full schedule, the participants and teachers were energetic and fully committed to the Dancing to Connect workshop. There were no problems with the program preparation nor the accommodationsth and students had different interests and concerns then the children from Beijing. They were older and working to perform well in school with the hopes of attending a competitive university program. Some of them had previous exposure to traditional Chinese dance. Their pride in the landscape and local culture was inescapable and became the theme for the piece made during the Dancing to Connect workshop. The students developed movement phrases inspired by nature, the elements and Chinese symbols found in local arts and crafts. Karmen Li from Guangdong Modern Dance assisted administratively and within the classroom as an interpreter. Her enthusiasm and focus was invaluable. She also involved a local modern dancer and beginning teacher Fung-Pu Xing to accompany her as an assistant in the studio and as a performer for the final project. It was lovely to have him as part of the program and he expressed interest in learning to teach the program in the future.

    The Consulate staff arrived the evening before the final performance and in addition to assisting with the final performance, led a presentation about soft diplomacy and educational outreach for the Liuzhou teachers. The workshop was a great success and the performance was attended by an overflow audience which appeared to be the entire student body of the school. VIP attendees included the mayor of Liuzhou, the school’s principle and several other city officials as well as the Consulate officers. Although it all transpired without a formal theater or special lighting, it was a wonderful event and resulted in loud applause and school support. The participants received certificates of completion and gave Carmen, Karmen and Fung Pu a special farewell gift of photos and individualized messages in English. Goodbyes were difficult with many tears, hugs and hopes for another Dancing to Connect project in the future. A final dinner with the Mayor to celebrate the program’s success was a lovely close to a wonderful stay in Liuzhou. Similar to the Beijing survey results, Liuzhou students also showed a marked improvement in body image, a unanimous desire to work with Americans in the future and desire to participate in Dancing to Connect again.

    China 2010

    Liuzhou, China
    Beijing, China

    Videos

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    Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    October 2010

    Dancing to Connect, which typically works with school children, worked with over 60 Congolese dancers ranging from 18-year-olds to HIV positive adults in their 50s. Normally DtC performs at theaters with a lighting and technical staff consisting of 4-6 people on staff at the theater. In L'Halle de la Gombe, the staff consisted of one person. The troop was advised that their final performance would likely not be attended because they were not Congolese performers. However, they were delighted and surprised when the Grande Halle de la Gombe hosted an overflow crowd for their final performance.


    Dates

    • October 12-18, 2010

    Sponsors

    Project Activities

    • 3 Dancing to Connect workshop with 60 participants aged 18-50
    • 1 Dancing to Connect performance

    Venues

    • Malaria medication (Malarone) is available in African pharmacies at a fraction of the cost in America. Purchase only enough for the starter dose in the U.S. and purchase the remainder on tour.

    • Dance is a powerful vehicle of bonding across social and cultural borders in Africa

    • Security issues are important to understand in each country. Walking down the street in garments that might be considered disrespectful can spell trouble. When in doubt, get a security briefing from the Embassy and cover up.

    • Internet connectivity is inconsistent; and so is access to reliable ATM’s

    • Many theaters in Africa are not equipped with Western-standard lighting instruments and technical crews are often hard-pressed to support a full dance plot. Be ready to adapt and bring a resourceful production director with you.

    • Think ahead about ways in which you can follow-up, once your program is complete. The thirst for high quality dance instruction and performances is greater than a short visit can quench.

    • Bring plastic hangers, Woolite, Febreze and white tissue paper (to deal with damp costumes when you are on the run)

    • Budget for excess baggage. Airlines baggage policies are not dance company-friendly.

    • Engage the community in any/every way possible. Use all of your communication and teaching skills and think broadly and creatively about outreach. Our strongest suit was our Dancing to Connect program that brought us up close and fully teamed up with our African counterparts, and the fact that our final performances were shared with locals –our students and professionals.

    • Determine which countries require visas to be obtained before leaving the U.S. and which can be left until arrival at the airport. Create a timeline for the visa application process. As we found out, the more countries you visit on a tour, the more complex the procedure becomes

    • Make sure you have your International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (yellow booklet) with you and that your Yellow Fever inoculation is up to date (and don't leave it in your checked luggage -- you will need it upon arrival, before you retrieve your baggage!)

    It will take some time to fully digest the experience of 6 days in Kinshasa. The broad strokes are easy to cover: deprivation visible through every possible lens. No building or enclave, regardless of its status, escapes the decay. The Grand Hotel thrives on its singular status – Secretary Clinton stayed there – however, it falls dismayingly short of its self-advertised 5 star classification with stained tiles in the bathrooms, mattresses that bear the imprint of years of guests, moist carpets and staff members who seem to be too tired and demoralized to be welcoming. A large signboard outside the hotel announces its impending renovation – however, with all of the UN officials and other NGO and Government officials streaming through the capital on their way to the center of turmoil in the eastern border area of the country, the Grand is too full to spare the time to renovate.

    Turning to our reason for being in the DRC, anticipation for this leg of the 5-country Africa tour was high. Though working with only half strength – 3 dancers instead of the usual 6 or even 10, split into two units after our program in Algeria in order to reach more countries -- we engaged with a whopping 60 Congolese dancers ranging in age from 18 – 50, and worked with them intensively for three days leading up to the final performance. The performance itself, for a standing-room-only crowd at the Grande Halle de la Gombe, featured 3 dances of 8 minutes each created with and performed by the Congolese dancers, 5 short works by the Battery Dancers themselves, and 2 works by budding Congolese choreographers. As if preparing for this spectacle weren't sufficiently jam-packed we added a 2-hour session with HIV+ adults on one of our evenings. For our first day, our US Embassy team a Public Diplomacy Officer (PAO) and Cultural Affairs Assistant (CAA) had wisely decided to schedule a series of meetings that would help orient us in the DRC. The first meeting took place at the JAO where we introduced ourselves and our program objectives to the staff of the Embassy. Our nerves were tested in the next session, a security briefing at the US Embassy. In none of the many countries we have visited, many of which were arguably as dangerous as Kinshasa, have we been given a formal presentation by a security officer.

    The bottom line in Kinshasa: no walking on the streets (accompanied or not); no taking of taxis; no talking to police; discretion if one was daring enough to enter a shop of any kind – by caching small amounts of money in one's pocket rather than opening a billfold full of cash, and so forth.

    We then met with an Administrator of the local PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program. Her office had provided support for the local expenses of our project (e.g. transportation and meal allowances for all of the local participants, rental of the Halle, technical crew and equipment, printing of a large banner, engaging of a local event manager.) We were very happy to have the first such opportunity of interacting with PEPFAR to test our long-held belief that Dancing to Connect could be helpful in providing emotional and psychological relief for those suffering with the condition and could address the stigmatization of HIV+ people in Africa. A cordial meeting with the DCM Samuel Laeuchli followed, in which we were delighted to have our mission of dance diplomacy thoroughly espoused by the Embassy's front office. He counseled a gentle approach to a people who had been through trauma and whose life conditions were fraught with difficulties (by this, he meant ALL Congolese). He voiced his curiosity at seeing how the dancing workshops turned out and looked forward to welcoming the audience personally at the performance on Friday. After lunch, we visited each of the workshop venues and discussed how transportation would be coordinated the next day. The CAA had located two good spaces with decent floors for Carmen and Oliver's workshops. Bafana was not so lucky: he was meant to teach on a cement floor at the Petite Halle at the French Cultural Center (the stage at the same complex where we were to perform was considered off limits due to noise that would interfere with the French Ecole whose classrooms were directly behind the stage.) We set about finding solutions for this problem the next day, first by bringing dance mats into the space, and then obtaining wooden platforms that provided a more forgiving under-surface, allowing for jumps and other athletic moves that would have been dangerous on the cement.

    We also visited the L'INA, the DRC's national arts institute, having understood from various quarters that they were renovating a dance studio and hoping that it would be finished enough for us to utilize. This proved to be a vividly revealing occasion: L'INA is housed in a dingy and dilapidated building where no one seemed to be engaged in any organized activity, though there were plenty of students and adults (teachers or functionaries, one couldn't tell which) milling about. First we were led up a couple of flights of broken stairs and found a bedroom-sized airless room with a stone floor that bore no perceivable resemblance to a dance studio. Then we returned to the ground floor and entered a dark L-shaped room. In one wing of the L, students were lounging on randomly arranged chairs, one or two with a guitar in hand. The other wing was purported to be the newly renovated space. It had wooden 2 x 4 framing in place, covered with plywood that appeared to have been recycled and seriously degraded, warped and in some cases, missing part of the top veneer. The contrast between what I had in my mind's eye when imaging a 'renovated' space and what I found at L'INA was extreme. All of this makes our experience with the DtC participants in Kinshasa all the more miraculous. Based on our experiences over the previous two weeks in Nairobi and Algiers, we were expecting smiling faces and immediate bonding, a feel-good session before the hard work began. However, this was not the case in Congo. The large group that met us at the Halle de la Gombe was not smiling. I wondered what was behind their somewhat frozen expressions: Fear? Hostility? Embarrassment? Tremendous effort and funding had gone into the planning and realization of our project in Congo, and yet its success or failure rested on the willingness of the local DtC participants to give us the benefit of the doubt, let us demonstrate our good will, techniques and strategies, and our most important strength: the generosity and talent of our teaching artists. These ingredients had earned us the almost steam-roller success we have experienced over the past 6 years in a dozen countries; however, perhaps we had reached our Waterloo?

    The first day of workshops dispelled many fears: 100% of the 60 participants showed up on time at the early hour of 8:30 a.m. (Much later, as we rode out of the Gombe's 'Green Zone' to the airport, through some of the city's poorer areas, we saw the conditions in which many of our DtC dancers live and awakened to the complications they would have navigated to arrive at that hour.) All of the participants maintained their stamina through the rigors of a 6-hour day. However, things were not as smooth as some of us thought: Bafana recounted that his dancers were angry that they had not been given lunch and that water hadn't been delivered on time. More than that, they wanted to be paid if they were going to perform. This flew in the face of everything that has ever been taken as a base line for DtC. The CAA was furious, she said that the dancers' complaints were dishonest: she had offered a catered lunch each day in early planning meetings with the them, an offer they had rejected asking instead to be given money to purchase their own lunch on the basis that they had their own likes and dislikes and preferred having the choice. Carmen and Oliver were shocked to hear from Bafana, because they had not experienced anything of the kind. Bafana made clear the fact that his dancers were fantastically talented and had dealt with the day's work with striking creativity and concentration despite their complaints. He was able to absorb their anger without responding defensively.

    The CAA and Deo, the event manager who had been engaged to support the PD Department's efforts, went and met with Bafana's group and talked over the situation that very evening (they all stayed late for this confab.) They apparently revisited the history of how the food situation had been negotiated, and underlined as they had done in earlier meetings, that DtC was a collaborative program, not the usual series of master classes by international artists and that everyone was expected to participate voluntarily. The CAA conveyed the message that if conditions were not to their liking, they should not return. Well, the next day about, ¾ were there again in the morning at 8:30. Jacques, a senior dancer who had been thought of as a leader who could learn the methods of DtC and help sustain them within his group afterwards, appeared much later in dress clothes, claiming an appointment at the Belgian Embassy had caused his tardiness, his 5 dancers were also missing. Bafana weathered this situation and plunged forward with the creative process.

    On the evening of this second day, when we all gathered at Baboto College of Arts, to prepare for a special workshop for a group of HIV+ adults, we found Carmen shaken. It turned out that, though most of her team was supportive, at least one member seemed to be in cahoots with Jacques and had been attempting to sow discord amongst the other dancers.

    Fortunately, Carmen, with the help of a teacher at L'INA, was able to keep control of the group and continue the onward progress. She was also able to regain her equilibrium in order to join the rest of us in our dance workshop with the + group. We had expected teenagers, but instead, met with men and women who appeared to range in age from 30 to 50. We played various dance games with them and found them increasingly willing to let themselves go and to join into the physicality of the experience. Again, stony faces and guarded behavior transformed within the first few minutes. A spirit of fun and camaraderie supplanted the earlier inertia that was caused by a long delay in setting up a projector and screen in order to show us what turned out to be a PowerPoint presentation that was aimed at funders. The + adults showed that they could enjoy dancing and shedding the burden of their worries and fears.

    We had been told by the facilities director of the French Cultural Center that the rule of thumb for Kinshasa audiences was that Congolese would attend performances by Congolese artists and ex-pats, diplomats and other international residents would attend shows by foreign performers. We were thrilled that an overflow audience that was clearly mixed down the middle between local and international mobbed our performance. Setting up for the show was a harrowing experience given that we were in Congo sans a technical director. As the Artistic Director, I have done just about every job imaginable with the exception of hanging, focusing, cuing lights and calling a bonafide show. I had gone through several sessions of a technical cram course with BDC's production designer Barry Steele in advance, and we engaged in several SKYPE calls once I had a feeling for how things would work at the L'Halle de la Gombe. Barry had prepared a lighting plot and had sent it several weeks earlier, but it was obvious that the staff at L'Halle had not paid much attention until we began working on site. By 'staff', I refer to one man, Musa, who appeared to me to be 50 years old, give or take 10 years on either side. Musa was a good natured man who had every necessary skill and the stamina and determination to do everything I needed done. However, he made it clear that the plot I was hoping to achieve was significantly more complex than anything he had done in Kinshasa and that he knew of in the region. Normally we work with a local technical crew of 4 – 6 people. At L'Halle, Musa seemed to be a one-man operation. There were other people dressed in similar work-suits who appeared from time to time, but it was Musa alone who hoisted a tall extension ladder, leaned it against the overhead pipes, climbed up with heavy lights in hand which he then attached, focused, and colored with the gel I had brought from NYC.

    Since there were approximately 40+ overhead lights, I watched this slow, methodical and exhausting process go on for hours, feeling guilty and a bit scared that Musa's strength might give out. The Halle is an indoor-outdoor venue, with full roof over the stage and audience, sides open to the air, no fixed seating, and a platform stage of very good construction and commodious dimensions for dance. Because of the open sides, all kinds of grit and dust cover the stage and auditorium area. Concerned for the appearance of the show as well as the condition of our costumes, I put a lot of attention to scheduling cleaning – by the French staff as well as the U.S. Embassy. The FSO went to a lot of effort overcoming resistance by the GSO to make this happen. I was a happy camper when I watched a local Congolese woman, employee of the U.S. Embassy, dousing and scrubbing every surface of the theater – obviously a female equivalent of Musa, with his same power and determination to get it right.

    After all of the exertions, the space was in mint condition as the audience began to arrive for the pre-performance reception. I even had time to douse myself, being as dirty as the theater had been, and to change into evening garb. I was meant to give a speech, in French, at the end of the performance – transforming myself from pseudo-stage manager and technical director into suave maestro of the occasion. The Chargé put me at ease when we met before the show, telling me that I should most definitely deliver a written speech. Apparently, though I always prefer the immediacy of speaking extemporaneously, the Chargé counseled me that people in the Congo feel that reading a speech demonstrates respect for the audience in that time and effort was spent crafting the words. As a result, and with CAA’s last-minute coaching, I managed to deliver the message of gratitude without tripping over my high school French.

    A coda must be added to this review on the airport experience when we left the next morning. We got the full flavor of pan-handling as it is practiced in the DRC. Everyone was on the take in some way or another; we found that even the air traffic control officer had tried to extort money from us in the departure lounge with his song of woe about his sister's college tuition. Poor guy, he had to settle for a dozen cookies, gift of Pascale Weeks, who anticipated that we would be peckish after our check-in ordeal. We offered this 'gentleman' a share of our package and he promptly wolfed down the entire lot. Oh well, I guess that was a strange but somehow fitting last impression of the Congo.