Reflecting back to look ahead: thoughts on our Winter Institute

[Editor’s note: Amanda Newman, a BFA student in dance at the University of Utah, is Dance Exchange’s Work/Study for our first ever Winter Institute. Among many other things, Amanda has been documenting her experience over the weekend through blogs, which you can read here. This will be her last reflection, for now, until she’s back with us for a longer internship this summer. And we can’t wait.–M.C.]

Amanda Newman performing in the work made during the Summer Institute. Photo by Brianne Bland.

My feet are back on the marley at the University of Utah, but I’m having a hard time believing I’m not in Takoma Park anymore. A funny thing keeps happening: I find myself scanning the studio for faces from the DX Winter Institute. My ears strain for the ping ponging of voices I came to appreciate. I use phrases like, “What did that surface in the room?” or “I’d like to name what just happened,” but my classmates aren’t sure how to respond. I close my eyes, but no one traces my body or takes my hand to lead me blindly around the room.

But rather than focus too much on what I left behind when I flew home, I’m relishing in all the things I’m carrying forward. In doing so, I find myself returning often to the prompt we explored with the residents at Arcola Towers: “I carry with me…”

Winter Institute participants share the space with Takoma Park MOVES. Photo by Matthew Cumbie.

I carry with me…a reaffirmed belief that my virtuosity as a human is just as important as my virtuosity as a “trained dancer.” Just as I continue to refine my body’s capacity to give and take weight or to be on and off vertical, so too do I continue to hone my ability to give and receive stories, to take risks and create spaces for others to do the same.

I carry with me…a new perspective on facilitating movement-based classes. Numerous times during the week, the DX artists articulated and modeled a three-pronged approach to facilitation: What has the group brought to the room already? Where does the group need to go? What are the personal interests/investigations of the facilitating artist? These questions can apply to facilitating experiences for children or adults, dancers or “non-dancers.” In them, there is potential to disrupt the teacher-student hierarchy, to honor the contributions of everyone in the room, and to surface discoveries that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

I carry with me…a way of interacting with my peers in the dance world, with my colleagues in my non-dance work, with my family and friends, and with strangers on the street. The Critical Response Process need not be a process exclusive to the Dance Exchange studios. It can be, if you actively choose it to be, an everyday, living practice. Don’t believe me? Spend some time with the DX gang outside of the studios. If you pay close attention, you’ll see bits and pieces of the process in the way they interact with each other, with their roommates, with their grocery store cashier. They’re walking the talk because they believe deeply (as I now do) that in this process exists the compassion, respect, agency, and growth potential our communities, both local and global, so desperately need.

I’m beginning to realize it would be impossible to list everything I carry with me from my time with Dance Exchange. There are things which I’ve identified and can name, and there are others which are deeply felt but ineffable. I will carry all of these things with me as I finish my senior year, and I’m excited to discover the ways in which they will shape my work in and out of the studio. And, when all these things I carry with me feel start to feel heavy, I’m reminded that I’ll be back at Dance Exchange in 16 weeks, 4 days, 22 hours, 18 minutes and 45, 44, 43…But who’s counting?

About Guest Blogger

Dance Exchange intern and/or guest blogger.