In Syracuse: living in the distances

Dance Exchange is halfway through a 2 1/2 week residency in Syracuse, NY, creating a new performance piece with members of the Syracuse community. Students, social activists, university faculty, life-long residents and recent transplants are sharing their experiences of cultural, historical, and geographic distances both in and beyond Syracuse. I, and the other artists here from Dance Exchange, have been warmly welcomed in to this community, and are thrilled to work with a group of  participants who are part of this process to move, make art, and find the connections between disparate parts of Syracuse.

Participants in rehearsal

I saw The TEAM’s Mission Drift a few weeks ago in New York, and one scene keeps coming to mind as I work here:  a breakneck sequence in which the two main characters are racing from place to place, building up their fortunes, and then scrambling to the next place to do it all again, leaving a mess behind them for someone else to clean up. Progress is moving onwards, upwards, forward; progress is moving away from the point where you began; progress is measured by the distance between our origin and where we are now. Mission Drift spoke of the American (or maybe just human) desire for forward motion and more, more, more.

For a moment, let’s imagine progress this way: planting two feet on the ground, and pressing down. It looks stationary, but it isn’t– these two feet push into the ground and the ground pushes back; the eyes look not just forward but up, around, behind, down; the rib cage expands with breath; the arms move in circles, they bend and fold, they reach out and pull in. The progress isn’t in the moving away from the starting point, it’s in the choice to stand and reach out in more than one direction;  to live in the distances from the ground up.

The spirit of our group of participants reminds me of a simple truth: showing up matters. Investment in a place and its people matter. Trying matters. And art matters for the way it can make distances known, and provide one way (of many) to traverse, shrink, reflect, and invert the distances that are sometimes hard to travel.

Our performance, Ten Minutes to Anywhere, featuring a cast of community participants and Dance Exchange dancers, will be performed on Saturday, February 18th at 4pm and 8pm at the Community Folk Art Center. If you’re in the Syracuse area, please come out to see this work! And follow @Dance_Exchange and @ArtsEngage on twitter for pictures and updates from our residency.

About Sarah Levitt

Sarah Levitt (Resident Artist/Communications Coordinator) is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in Maryland.