Winter Institute 2015: A Tributary

[Editor’s Note: Emelia is the Communications Work/Study for Dance Exchange’s Winter Institute 2015, and will be sharing her thoughts and reflections of our time together post-institute. Emelia is a dance artist who splits her time between Maryland and Mexico City, and whose interest in dance making and community engagement brought her to Dance Exchange. Stay tuned to read more reflections and to learn about Emelia’s experience from inside the institute. To learn more about Dance Exchange institutes, click here. — M.C.]

Winter Institute participants gather and share. Photo by Matthew Cumbie

The Winter Institute here at Dance Exchange is passing by quickly and I flip through my scrawled notes and iphone photo library hoping to jog my memory; more than that, I will attempt to time travel with you to the first evening of the weekend.

I came racing into the building, late. I sheepishly entered the dance studio to be immediately paired with a partner. We were sharing our questions, contributions and hopes for the weekend. My transition into the space was quick. The subject matter sucked me in and more than that, the people. What a deep breath of fresh air to meet a group of artists grappling with my same queries. Namely, how can an artist work within their communities in a way that offers real support? How can we shift away from community as subject matter and towards community as collaborator? As artists, what is our responsibility and commitment to our communities- are we there to share resources, make space for people to tell their stories, or simply there to offer some new experience, some tenderness or understanding?

Deep breaths quickly turn to sighs, as usually happens, after articulating and listening to challenging questions. I was struck by the enormity of the task.

Dance Exchange members have continually referred back to a metaphor that eases the facing of the unknown. During a short presentation of their current project, New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place to…, Amanda pulls it out: we know the origins of the project, she says, and we can imagine what form it might take eventually. But, like a tributary,the part in between the beginning and the end is yet to be determined. The specifics will depend on the pathways available.

Talk about a perfect metaphor! I wonder if this is something I can share with the adults in my life who ask what I’m doing with my life.

When someone asks me where I live these days it generally takes me a few seconds to answer and it definitely is not a one word answer. I can tell you where I’m from, where I grew up, where I went to school, where I lived two years ago, one year ago or even a couple of months ago. For some reason this question applied to the present never seems to have an answer. Maybe this means I’m struggling with feelings of belonging, maybe it means I live in many places, or maybe it means people just aren’t asking the right questions. Ask me about my journeys and discoveries though, and I’ll give you an ear full.

Similarly, Dance Exchange has a long legacy living in the work and in the stories of past and current projects that speak to challenge and discovery. During the HOME event that kicked off our time together, we heard from different Dance Exchange members about some of these projects, including:

Winter Institute participants and HOME goers build a dance together from stories about change. Photo by Emelia Brumbaugh

Shula spoke about the ongoing work happening at Baycrest in Toronto, and how the reciprocity of care embedded in this work comes alive through the work with patients and their caregivers.

Cassie shared about the background of the piece Still Crossing, commissioned to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, through which Liz discovered the importance of allowing the point of inquiry, or question, to shift.

John revisited the Shipyard project, which took place at a naval base in New Hampshire, and demonstrates how this work can bring together people from different perspectives in a meaningful dialogue, and the lasting power that has on a place.

This list goes on and on but suffice it to say that Dance Exchange has witnessed many tributaries in the making. Each journey to each new place has led them and the waterways they move into towards new discoveries, new encounters, new possibilities for growth and change.

I’m so grateful to be a drop of water swept up in these tides, eager to find the ocean I’ll be dropped out in. I am even more excited, though, for the unknown encounters on the way.

About Emelia Brumbaugh

Emelia Martínez Brumbaugh is an emerging movement artist living and working between Maryland and Mexico City. She trains and performs in a wide range of practices and offers classes that encourage critical thinking and honest movement exploration.