Ten Years in the Making- Interview with Teen Exchange’s Co-Facilitator Nora Baker and her mom Joanne Burke.

May 8, 2013

Interview by Keira Hart-Mendoza

Teen Exchange is gearing up for their annual Youth Arts Night, May 23 at 7pm at Dance Exchange. I recently sat down with Nora Baker, co-facilitator of Teen Exchange, and her mom, filmmaker Joanne Burke to find out more about what Teen Exchange has been up to this year. I was happy to learn about their shared experiences at the Dance Exchange and how the organization has been a relevant part of each of their lives. 

How long have you been affiliated with the Dance Exchange?

NB: For 10 years.

JB: We heard about the Dance Exchange over 10 years ago when we were living in Philadelphia. I was a dance student at Temple University and had heard about the interesting things going on at Dance Exchange. When we moved here we wanted some place that would cater to us both, for me as an adult and for Nora as a young dancer. We investigated and found that the Dance Exchange had an inter-generational dance program.

NB: When we moved here we started attending the “Community Exchange,” a class for all people of all ages and abilities dancing together. It was taught by Celeste Miller and Cassie Meador who was an apprentice at the time. I was a part of the Youth Exchange until I was 11 or 12 and then I joined Teen Exchange.

Nora as a youth at Dance Exchange

How would you describe the Teen Exchange?

NB: We work all year on a theme and present our work at the end of the year in a dance performance called “Youth Arts Night.” The theme this year is “Building- Inside & Out.”  Sometimes we work with different types of people and organizations throughout the year. We’ve even done flash mobs and worked with Tappers with Attitude from the Knock on Wood Studio. We’ve also worked with Dance Place, Americorps, and with guest artists from the University of Maryland. Sometimes we write about our ideas and then create dance phrases from our words. We’ve also done drawing and painting to help inspire our movement.

Nora as a co-facilitator of Teen Exchange

Nora as a co-facilitator of Teen Exchange

What skills have you gained from working with the Teen Exchange?

NB: I have learned how to facilitate and co-lead a group of students. We use the Dance Exchange Tool Box which includes a bunch of ways to interpret one media and translate it into another media and involves activities that generate choreography.   I always feel very accomplished at the end of each year knowing that we have succeeded in working through a specific theme.  It’s like I’ve helped complete writing a chapter of a book.

Do you use these tools in other parts of your life outside of dance?

NB: Yes, I use them in writing. The tools help me generate more ideas, like if I am writing an essay and I don’t know what to write.

What are your plans after graduation?

NB:  I am going to attend NOVA Community College for two years while I figure out what I want to do.  I hope to take some classes in dance after I take my required general education classes.

Will you stay involved here at the Dance Exchange in the future?

JB:  Yes, I am going to show my documentary called “Negotiating Girl” at Dance Exchange. I created it with my daughter Nora and mothers and daughters at the Dance Exchange.  The film was inspired by an improvisational exercise called “bulking” where rules guide how dancers enter a space, what they do in a designated space, and how they exit the space.  I was interested in looking at that notion through the frame or lens of a camera and specifically how it relates to the way in which mothers and daughters relate to one another.  And how we negotiate with our children and how our children negotiate with us as their parents. So I talked to Wayles Haynes, who directs the Teen Exchange, to see if she’d be interested in helping me set up a workshop and provide space for us to explore this idea.

NB:  I primarily helped Wayles facilitate, I didn’t help my mom behind the camera too much.  I’ve helped my mom critique the piece.  My dad also helped work on the piece too.  He’s a filmmaker as well.

Why were you drawn to the Dance Exchange?

JB:  Nora has had the opportunity to work with professional choreographers and performers very closely and that has been very valuable.  My husband and I have continued to keep Nora connected here because we saw this experience as very unique and something you don’t find at other dance studios.  It’s also an opportunity that most children don’t have. I think she’ll carry that knowledge into other aspects of her life.


About Keira Hart