Reflections on the 2012 Summer Institute: Linzi Lewis

Note from Sarah: We wrapped up our Summer Institute on July 14-15 with performances at the Capital Fringe Festival of a new work called Language from the Land. Over the course of nine days, a team from Dance Exchange led by Cassie Meador worked collaboratively with 25 Institute participants from all over the world to create and rehearse this new work. One of our work/study students, Linzi Lewis, writes about her experience in the Institute in this guest post. 

Linzi Lewis (2nd from right) performing in "Language from the Land"

Coming all the way from South Africa to participate in Dance Exchange’s 2012 Summer Institute, I had to adjust to the different time zone, season, accent, heat, amongst other things really quick! It was a great journey.

I had known about this company for a while, but didn’t quite know what I was in for when I arrived in Takoma Park. Before coming here, I had seen the Toolbox available online, and although that is a great resource, I had not been able to engage with it fully. To be able to use the tools during the Institute, and see them in action, and learn powerful methods for creating dialogue through movement, I now have no doubt that they will be integrated in almost all elements of my work back in South Africa.

It was a wonderful experience to be a part of the process of co-creating a new work called Language from the Land for the Capital Fringe Festival and watch how the work unfolded each day. I was able to work with so many creative methods within a framework that allowed the participants to be part of the dialogue by offering our experiences, opinions and reflections. It was a a real pleasure to work within such a safe and encouraging space, along with so many open and trusting people. We created our own community over the ten days of the Institute.

I feel much of these techniques for generating and crafting movement within a creative process can be used for various purposes within and beyond dance. These methods can encourage movement, civic dialogue, research, and bridge gaps between disparate fields.

In particular I feel that the Critical Response Process should be integrated into other disciplines. The process really encourages constructive criticisms and development of work, which is useful across the art world, but also in academic research, everyday life, and I imagine in many other ways, too.

As the Institute progressed, there were so many highlights that displayed the process of how movement can facilitate dialogue, the sharing of information and stories, and how dance itself is able to transfer these stories and knowledge between highly diverse people. This is a real strength in the techniques and something that I will carry with me throughout my performative and professional life.

During the Institute, the process was very open and collaborative between the participants and Dance Exchange artists, and then shifted towards more of the direction coming from Cassie Meador and the DX team as we prepared to perform the piece we had made. Although the transition from generating material and trying out ideas to rehearsing material to prepare for the performance diffused the exciting and collaborative work at the beginning of the week, the classes and facilitation of each day’s work were brilliantly achieved throughout the entire process. I am inspired by the way DX works, and I’m grateful for their patience, love, care and intelligent thought.

Since the end of the Institute,  I have been seeing everything with a completely different vision: I see so much movement and expression in various forms, and hope to retain this vision forever, since it allows for a much deeper ability to see and listen, which is necessary when working in culturally diverse contexts.

Although the Summer Institute is now finished, I am filled with dreams, thoughts, imagery, and inspiration of how to include everything I’ve learned in my current art and dance collaborations. My work in South Africa responds directly to local needs and behaviors by creating more productive and meaningful urban spaces. I also intend to continue searching and experimenting with how such creative communication methods could aid in environmental and social research through art facilitation and workshops.

I am also excited to continue a conversation with DX to imagine a piece in the future related to our common interests, and see how we can continue and develop future collaborative projects and support each other’s work in the US and South Africa.

To Dance Exchange: Thank you for opening your space to me, inviting me and supporting my interests from across the world. Your existence and success is an inspiration for those of us who are trying to transform the way we produce art, and the role of art within our societies. I am forever grateful for your approach to art production, facilitation and collaboration as this is something that you actively practice.

You can read more about our Institute in this preview article from the Pink Line Project, and read reviews from the City Paper and DC Theatre Scene.

About Guest Blogger

Dance Exchange intern and/or guest blogger.