New Hampshire Ave: Looking Back to Look Ahead

[Editor’s Note: This week, we hear from Emily Wolfe, a DC dance artist who has intersected with the Dance Exchange community in numerous ways–as a work/study participant during our 2014 Summer Institute, as a beautiful mover in Friday CLASS, and as a joyful collaborator during the public launch of New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To… . Below are her reflections on moving and making with Dance Exchange along New Hampshire Ave. –Amanda Newman]


Emily in rehearsal with DX. Photo by Ben Carver.

After we’ve dried ourselves off from the week of sweat and rain fueled by exploration and collaboration at New Hampshire Ave, the seeds we planted in the soil of possibility are beginning to root and emerge. Reflecting back to this time, I am left with images and questions that are allowing me to see where we were, where we are, and where we hope to be. With the prompt “This is a place to…” residents of the New Hampshire Towers and Takoma Overlook were able to reflect on the past, present, and future hopes of New Hampshire Ave.

In honor of looking back and looking forward, these questions, not unlike those Dance Exchange has been asking since its founding, emerge:

Who is dancing?

The group that gathered for the week consisted of artists full of great energy and big personalities. Each person stood strong as an individual, yet all connected by something mutual and deep. We are a diverse group of age, race, gender, and perspective that collages beautifully. The Dance Exchange team and adjunct artists were collaborators and listeners with humor, commitment, strength and flexibility.

Who is watching? How are we watching?

Though the rain had unexpectedly shifted our plans from the performance we had imagined, we still danced amongst the community while we rehearsed. Throughout the week, residents paused on their way to their cars or came out on their balconies to watch us.

Photo by Ben Carver

Must performance be a scheduled and “set up” event? Does it have to follow the traditional, conscious dynamic of dancers dancing and audiences watching? Perhaps we had been performing all along.

During the week we also had a pop up performance at the farmers market along New Hampshire Ave. We emerged down the center of the market unannounced, tumbling the colored chairs through the crowd. We danced, looking out to the people around, and conversed with them after our informal showing to invite them to the New Ave Kickoff.  Dancing amongst, rather than at them, made it easier to connect. Curiosity was sparked. Dance has an interesting way of opening people into the innate expression we can all connect to.

Photo by Ben Carverv

Why are we dancing? How do we dance?

The week was an exciting time of making movement together and collaborating to build structures. We were prompted to make solos about our impressions of New Hampshire Ave, to experiment with ways of jumping down from the wall, to connect (or re-connect) to material from Liz Lerman’s “Still Crossing” with similar intent in uniting the community, and to collaborate on movement along the wall.

Cassie encouraged us to “see out”, and to the people around, to exude generosity and openness as we danced.  We danced with athleticism and individual dynamics. Risk was involved in the movement along the wall, as well as in the decision to pursue an outdoor event with vulnerability to the uncontrollable elements.

During the event, we built a phrase of gestures with the residents based off of stories from the some of the community speakers’ experiences along New Hampshire Ave. By dancing on the Ave amongst the community, we were able to communicate and connect. We shared food, art, dance, music, memories, and hopes of the New Hampshire Avenue.

Some of the flashing images:

The hand painted yellow, blue, green, and brown chairs with the words “This Is a Place to” printed on the back.

The “soil of possibility” in the middle of the grassy area between the two apartment buildings.

White stakes being planted in parallel lines connecting the New Hampshire Towers and Takoma Overlook.

Cross roads and Intersections.

Gathering and giving.

Chairs acting as stepping stones.

Intergenerational human connection.

Suspended, floating, falling, shifting, passing, leaning chairs.

Pop up performance at the farmers market.

Bodies dangling with risk and strength from the railings and walls.

Negotiation, diplomacy, collaboration, visioning.

Seeing out.

The sense of curiosity from the community as they watched us rehearse.

Enjoying the week of incredible weather, each day hoping it would repeat on the celebration day. Then the quick and courageous problem solving when the clouds crept in and released exactly what we didn’t hope for.

Music jams and laughter.

Stories of appreciation, reflection and hope.

About Guest Blogger

Dance Exchange intern and/or guest blogger.