Sistema Nacional de Escuelas Librea
Escuela Nacional De Danza
Ministerio de Cultura
Media and Press
Battery Dance arrived on February 6th and was greeted at the airport by Cultural Attaché Ruth Urry, who accompanied the company to their hotel at the Courtyard Marriott via Transport Sheila. Transport Sheila provided all transportation for Battery Dance’s program activities, and was paid for via purchase order by the Embassy. The following day, Battery Dance attended a meet and greet at Adrian Tropicana with local partners, translators, and school coordinators, and through translation were able to break the ice and finalize workshop details.
Battery Dance worked with approximately 80 disadvantaged students from Escuelas Libres, who came from five different schools. Ten students with folk dance experience came from outside Santo Domingo and were housed and provided meals by Escuelas Libres for the duration of the week. After filling out pre-program questionnaires, students were immediately split up randomly into five different groups so to take each student out of their comfort zone and provide them with an opportunity to work with someone new and develop new friendships. Workshops took place at the Escuela Nacional De Danza, which provided five workshop studios that were of excellent condition, a teacher waiting room, and a snack/lunch room for participants. Lunch and water was provided by Escuelas Libres to all workshop students. Five translators were provided by ENDANZA, with additional translation assistance provided by U.S. Embassy program alumni. In addition, five local dance teachers observed the workshops and learned the methodology of the Dancing to Connect program. In the workshops, students worked to create their own choreography based on their own experiences and creativity. Starting off with simple exercises, the students worked individually, in pairs, and in larger groups to explore ideas and activities prompted by their Battery Dance teaching artist. Immediately, from day one, the level of enthusiasm, dedication, and creativity of the students shined. Over the course of 20 hours of workshop time, the students finalized their group pieces of choreography. On the last day of workshops, Ambassador Wally Brewster visited three student groups to witness studio showings of their final pieces. Ambassador Brewster also provided words of inspiration for the students, encouraging them to “follow their dreams”.
After evaluating theatres available for the final performance, Battery Dance settled upon the Auditorio Enriquillo Sanchez as the final performance venue. Auditorio Enriquillo Sanchez was provided gratis by the Ministry of Culture. With the assistance of Cultural Specialist Irene Gonzalez, Battery Dance Production Director Barry Steele worked to transform the theatre with the help of local vendors, employees of the Ministry of Culture, and technical crews. A specialized stage was built using plywood and Styrofoam to provide the necessary spring to the unsprung stage. The back wall of the stage was painted Satin White to serve as a backdrop for projections and lighting. Through purchase order by the Embassy, additional lights were rented and installed at the theatre. A black harlequin dance floor was cleaned and provided by Balles Artes, and a generator was brought in to protect against the random and unpredictable power outages that occur in Santo Domingo.
Nearly 600 audience members attended the final Dancing to Connect performance on February 13th at 4pm. Attendees included U.S. Embassy staff, families and staff of local partners, Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Public Affairs Officer James Russo, who provided remarks, Edmundo Poy, the director of ENDANZA, Marinella Sallent, the general public, and participant families and members of their communities. Prior to the start of the performance, the Director of Escuelas Libres Samanta Olivero, presented the members of Battery Dance with awards, honoring the contribution of the Dancing to Connect program to their youth
Throughout the entire performance, screams, cheers, and hollers radiated from the audience as they roared in approval as the youth took the stage and performed their original choreography, and when the Battery dancers took the stage. After the performance and final group bow on stage, for 10 minutes the youth hoisted the Battery Dancers in the air and created a running dance circle while chanting. Short clip can be seen here
Finally returning the students to a side waiting room and off stage, they again created a dance circle and cheered as some students began to conduct break-dance routines. Simply put, the youth were completely overjoyed with what they had accomplished. After settling the students down, post-program questionnaires were completed, certificates of completion were given to each participant and teacher trainee, and small token gifts were provided to local partners by Battery Dance to thank them for their contribution.
On Wednesday evening, Battery Dance attended the National Folkloric Day of Celebration evening performance as honored guests of Escuelas Libres. The group was recognized during the performance and was pulled on-stage to take part in the grand finale.
On Thursday afternoon, Battery dancers and Emad Salem attended a studio showing of the National Contemporary Dance Company. Following the showing, Battery dancers Robin Cantrell, Mira Cook, Clement Mensah, Bethany Mitchell, and program Manager Emad Salem, traveled with Ruth Urry to La Barquita, to work with undeserved and underprivileged children. The children were split into two groups by age with approximately 20 students aged 10-14, and approximately 30 aged below 10 years. A one and a half hour workshop was conducted – one of the first cultural programs conducted by U.S. Embassy in the district.
Follow on Programming
Battery Dance is in discussion with Edmundo Poy regarding participation in the EDANCO International Festival of Contemporary Dance, held every September in the Dominican Republic. Battery Dance is also in discussion with the National Contemporary Dance Company regarding their possible participation in the 2017 Battery Dance Festival in New York City. They have requested a letter of invitation and will work to attain supporting funds via the Ministry of Culture.
Auditorio Enriquilla Sanchez Tech Rider
Battery Dance Company conducted a Dancing to Connect workshop in Botswana over the course of six days in September 2016. The program was led by Program Director Emad Salem and Teaching Artists Sean Scantleberry, Robin Cantrell, Mira Cook, Clement Mensah, and Bethany Mitchell.
Battery Dance returned to Sri Lanka, ten years after its last engagement, in order to collaborate with several of the nation’s leading cultural institutions. Battery endeavored to break down barriers that exist among the dance community, create opportunities for interaction with dance students and teachers as well as Sri Lankan choreographers and musicians, and share skills in the areas of arts management, lighting and theater production, and conflict resolution.
Communications can be tricky when dealing with different working terms and circumstances. However, persistent cooperation ensured that all settled into place once the companies were together in Sri Lanka and collaborating, able to navigate challenges productively.
Many of the challenges faces in the arts, and as a charity, are global. Lack of funding, studio space, etc. Sharing these created a true sense of camaraderie, and mutual encouragement to commit and persist for the sake of your art.
Battery Dance returned to Sri Lanka, ten years after its last engagement, in order to collaborate with several of the nation’s leading cultural institutions: Chitrasena Dance Company, Dancers’ Guild, Naadro, Royal Nelung Arts Centre and producers of the annual NatFest dance festival, Natanda Dance Festival. Among its many goals, Battery endeavored to break down barriers that exist among the dance community, create opportunities for interaction with dance students and teachers as well as Sri Lankan choreographers and musicians, and share skills in the areas of arts management, lighting and theater production, and conflict resolution.
Strong local connections enabled Battery Dance to engage in the kind of creative interactions that would not have been possible otherwise. Months of prior communications between Artistic Directors of Battery Dance and Dancers’ Guild, Jonathan Hollander and Chandana Wickramasinghe formed a basis for collaboration in the creation of a new work, VILLAGE, that was set on a cast of 12 dancers, six from each company. Four rehearsals took place at Royal Nelung Arts Center and the piece quickly took shape, and was well received in its only performance in the Drums & Dance production at Bishop’s College Auditorium.
Through Chandana, Battery Dance was connected to the Sri Lankan percussion ensemble Naadro, and a second collaboration took place. Entitled ProPULSion, it featured five drummers on stage along with five dancers of Battery Dance and Indian guest artist Unnath H.S.
This trip revealed a notable increase in enthusiasm, among the communities we collaborated with, to explore our form of contemporary dance; the standing ovation following our finale of Drums & Dance was certainly not taken for granted. Sri Lanka was one of our most welcoming hosts and we hope that we will not be waiting another 10 years to return!