Winter Institute: A Place of Nutritive Exchange

[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.]

As part of Dance Exchange’s project New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To…, Winter Institute participants were invited to participate in a workshop that was held at the Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue. To learn more about this exciting project click here. The following post shares special moments I experienced within my working group, and some questions and tools I came away with after our group reflections.

Winter Institute participants dancing alongside elders from Arcola Towers. Photo by Emelia Martinez Brumbaugh

The Winter Institute folks waited patiently for the other half of the magic making team (elders from along New Hampshire Ave and from Arcola Towers) to arrive. When they did, the wait was well worth it. I cannot hope to explain the joy of sincere sharing between humans. I can, however, share my personal surprise in encountering a group of individuals so eager to move and share their stories. I was tickled by how hard it was for me to keep up with my partner during a “mirroring” exercise. She was so clearly indulging in the movement, naturally (and quickly) gravitating to stretching places of tension that I felt that I could never quite mirror her. As soon as I located the muscle of her attentions, it switched!

The workshop provided me with other surprises as well. I entered with the hope that I might get a better handle on the complex nature of New Hampshire Avenue. And that I did, although not in the way I had expected…

I was intrigued when I realized that within my working group, not once did I hear mention of New Hampshire Avenue.  I certainly heard the words “home” and “travel,” though, and more than once. Some spoke of the places that they had come from, and of loved ones who remained or had returned. I was reminded of the trite but true saying, “home is where the heart is.” Some spoke of things that had made these journeys with them, and how these artifacts weathered relocations and winds of change or not. From one story, a sewing machine became a resonant piece of history. From these stories, and more, I felt a strong sense of empathy. It seems we all had experienced the disorienting phenomenon of having multiple homes or at least having loved ones spread across the globe, having our present physical space differ from other places and people that keep our hearts.

As I reflected on these discoveries I found myself wondering if New Hampshire Avenue wasn’t just an intersection of one beautiful and complex web of arrivals and departures. I have asked myself a number of times a series of questions that have grown from reflecting on these intersections, and experience from my time in this workshop. What kind of roots can be put in when their integration is temporary? If time doesn’t allow for a deep tap root, can it allow for a wide reaching network, perhaps shallow but equally as stable? Does the connective mycelium that allows for nutritive exchange between plant life have time to grow into this type of root system? For now- I’ll go ahead and say yes.

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.