It’s been over two weeks since Shula, DX Adjunct Kevin Ormsby, and I returned from a whirlwind of a residency in Edmonton, Alberta, but the stories, laughter, questions, and discoveries we’ve carried with us are still very much alive in our work and in our hearts. While I couldn’t fit EVERYTHING in my suitcase, here are the 5 most important things I brought home with me from Edmonton:
1. My very first Artist Pass.
A small thing, but a big deal. Sharing a program with butoh, clown, and even a little Shakespeare in Edmonton’s Expanse Festival gave Shula and I a compelling opportunity to ask bigger questions in unexpected places. Our small performance and Build-a-Phrase, which invited the audience to share memories of places that have been lost, left, or changed, was greeted with such generous and sincere stories. As one festival organizer put it, “You gave us all a chance to be storytellers.”
In our work with GeriActors & Friends and CRIPSiE, we started asking the question, “What do people see when they look at you? What don’t they see?” This led to beautiful, intimate stories of childhood memories, personal relationships, and shifting identities. To (quite literally!) weave these stories together, we created a long swath of blue fabric…after spending an hour deliberating in a local fabric store. Throughout the piece, this fabric served as a boundary, a prom dress, a container for memory, and even a can-can costume!
I am deeply grateful to GeriActors & Friends and CRIPSiE for their willingness to embark on such an intimate choreographic journey with Dance Exchange in such a short amount of time. It’s a tenant of the Dance Exchange practice that the dances we make could only be made by the particular group of people who gathers to make them. Never have I seen those words ring so true as during my time in Edmonton. The work we created was truly unique–created and performed by the movement, sound, stories, fabric, bodies, and memories of a phenomenal group of artists.
Tools for Health empowers artists, health care providers, and caregivers with the movement, storytelling, and dialogue tools to strengthen relationships between patients and caregivers, meet a wide range of clinical goals, and improve the wellbeing of entire health care communities. In Edmonton, we were able to spend two full days delving deep into this this work with a diverse group of artists, therapists, and caregivers. Together, we asked: What are the creative and clinical benefits of creative arts in health care–and are they really that separate? How can these tools be adapted to ensure the safety, comfort, and growth of a wide range of participants? How do we advocate for this work within our own organizations and within the field of health care at large? While our training ended with the participants helping facilitate a workshop at River Ridge senior residence, Shula and I carried home rich discoveries and burning questions that are leading us toward expanding our Tools for Health program.
Whether we were conducting CRP on a clown performance, awakening creativity in health care practices with our Tools for Health participants, or sharing the stage with the incredible movers and makers of GeriActors & Friends and CRIPSiE, I watched in awe as guards dropped, perspectives opened, and bigger questions were asked about our communities and our world. Even three weeks later, I’m still carrying more gratitude than I’ll ever be able to unpack.
Photos by Becca Barrington, Kevin Ormsby, and Amanda Newman.