New Hampshire Avenue: This Is a Place To…

What does it mean to be a part of this community? What are the histories and hopes that shape this community? Why is this place important to us, and why have we all gathered here together?

Shula, Andy, and Christine rehearse on site.

These are just a few of the questions leading us into rehearsals, both last week and this week, for the kick-off of our upcoming residency along New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park. This coming Saturday, September 13, from 12:30 to 2:30 pm, we will be sharing performances, stories, various art making practices, and food as we celebrate all that New Hampshire Avenue was, is, and could be! A partnership with the City of Takoma Park, and the first of many engagements that will happen over the coming months, we are excited to be doing this work here at home and with our neighbors, community leaders, and friends.

Amanda dancing outside of Hampshire Towers.

It has been some time since Dance Exchange was last in residence in our home community and for such a duration; often the work we do has us out in the world, sharing and making with distant communities and bringing that information back to our studio space and our home. Over the last few years, though, we have been wanting to dig our roots deeper into this place that we have called home for almost 40 years, while still continuing the legacy and tradition of connecting with distant lands, processes, and people. Thanks to some generous support from the NEA and from Artplace America, we will be bringing together artists, leaders, activists and organizers, families and friends to use artmaking as a way to learn more about each other and this place that we have decided to call home. In the process, we’ll also discover how these conversations can help us vision the community that we want to see.

Doing this kind of work takes an entire team, as some of you may know. Leading up to this week, many of us at Dance Exchange have been changing hats quickly and working to be as responsive as possible to the emerging needs so that all of the various pieces can move forward. Some days are hard. Some days are brilliant. All days lead to new ideas and a reminder as to why I want to do this work. As someone who has been living in this area for a little over two years now, this has been such a great way to deepen my own roots and gather a different perspective on a relatively familiar place.

Heading into rehearsals last week, we harnessed some of this momentous energy to start our making process. Scaling walls. Hanging off of railings. Balancing on chairs that seem to never stop moving. This might not sound like your traditional dance company rehearsal, but this is exactly what each day was like at Dance Exchange last week. Careening from one obstacle to another, we all have the scrapes and bruises and tan lines to prove it. You see, doing this kind of work is exactly that: work. It’s messy work sometimes. It requires you to leave the studio, go out into the world, and meet people where they are at. Sometimes you make a plan. Many times you have to change the plan. Occasionally the plan goes out the window completely as something new and unknown spirals you in another exciting direction.

Our poster chair at a local business.

In thinking about this kick-off, it seemed more fitting to bring the event to the Avenue and to really root the performances and engagements in a specific place. Plans have been made and shifted. Discoveries have been made, and parallels have been drawn. Figurative seeds have been planted for other happenings and possibilities later on in the arc of this residency. This week we have been joined by a larger team of collaborators that have included dancers and visual artists and musicians, as well as a number of curious community members passing by, and I am so interested to see how this new surge of ideas will shift our plans yet again and move us inevitably closer to something that we truly couldn’t make without our community.

We would love for you to join us! Saturday, September 13, from 12:30 to 2:30 pm, come gather, move, and make with Dance Exchange in celebration of New Hampshire Avenue and our community. Over our time together there will be performances, live music, visual art installations, food from local restaurants, and a number of ways for you to make art with us. The event is free, and will take place outdoors at the address of 7401 New Hampshire Avenue. For more information, please email Amanda at amandan@danceexchange.org.

About Matthew Cumbie

Matthew Cumbie (Resident Artist/Education Coordinator) is a dance artist and collaborator who currently lives in Washington, DC.