Cooking up Community: Marcie’s Thoughts

[This post marks the first reflection that was generously shared by a participant of the first week of the Summer Institute. Marcie Mamura is a mover, thinker, educator, and creator based in Philadelphia, PA, and I can’t express how excited I am for you to read her insightful and inventive words. This reflection is in response to a community event held at the Twinbrook Community Center that was a partnership between Dance Exchange and the Twinbrook Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign. Our meeting dealt with issues of queerness and resilience in a shifting world. We ended the night by co-creating a recipe for resilience that was incorporated into different groups’ movement phrases. Marcie’s spirit, as is demonstrated in her reflection, is clear and insightful, but immensely joyful all at once. Savor her thoughts, I’ll meet you on the other side with a few closing words.]

A recipe. A passed on tradition. A shared experience, a beloved favorite, a gathered knowing. Who collects this invaluable information and generates the means of exchange? As a module 1 Dance Exchange Summer Institute 2017 participant, I have been excavating new complexities around how I identify “recipes for success.” I have a tendency to want to know how many “steps” there are in the recipe, what these steps entail, and when it is deemed “successful.” I acknowledge the resistance when my process and unvoiced questions or concerns create sticky navigations within the collective “recipe.”

The “Recipe for Resilience” generated in community at the Twinbrook Community Center in Rockville, MD is something I will never forget. I brushed up against questions of how I was stepping in to be present during the generation of this collective recipe. I noticed when my ego and self-doubt stepped in instead of my integrated self. I felt how that shifted my availability to be truly present in community, how friction emerged around managing the number of “steps,” and how that prohibited me from choosing joy and sharing. As someone who thrives best when learning in and celebrating community, my discomfort was palpable when I opted to lean away from community or creative process. Honoring our community agreement to “turn discomfort into inquiry,” I am intentionally expanding how I view and chase “success” individually and in relation to community. How can I uphold “success” as something directly linked to fruitful exploration and meaning making versus recognition and achievement? As a member of the recipe-creating group, a page of my journal was used to scribe the original “Recipe for Resilience” created on July 12, 2017. I am so grateful to be able to reference this treasured collective “recipe.” It articulates perspectives on how “steps” are in process and in-support of layered experiences that yield growth, connection, and a multiplicity of possibilities. As I continue to marinate on this mighty moving week, a “step” I’m practicing in my “recipe” is to fold in to the unfolding journey.

Recipe for Resilience:

“Combine strength and creativity. Stir in some grit. A pinch of support. Crack in some courage. Two tablespoons of laughter. While you let the honesty simmer, slice in a couple different perspectives. Knead in some clarity. Let rest. Whipping up the resistance. Sift through the change. Serve on a bed of patience and season to taste.”

– Marcie Mamura

 

The recipe uses cooking language to bridge a gap- sometimes dance is couched within exclusive language. The words we use to describe our bodies are often made to be specific to a degree of confusion. What, after all, is self-evident about a plié? A contraction? This vocabulary has become normal for people trained in dance, but when we engage with those who don’t necessarily call themselves dancers, using this language doesn’t always extend a welcoming invitation to participate. I want to lift up the uncertainty and discomfort that Marcie shared in her recipe reflection, because sometimes finding ways to become inclusive- even when community engagement is at the center of a practice- can be challenging.

 

Marcie committed to choosing joy by putting the process of co-creation at the center of her experience. In so many moments in my own dance history, the individual choices I made were seemingly more important than the group’s experience. This individualism relies on exclusive language, competition for recognition, and a focus on self-self relations. When we open up our understandings of who gets do dance, where dance happens, and what it’s all about, we open up possibilities to interrogate these habits of individualism. Sometimes, this takes more than just showing up. As Marcie reflected, old habits of self-doubt and insecurity tend to walk in the room with us, making community engagements a place to practice skills of collectivity and co-creation. By turning to cooking terminology, we pulled in concepts of resilience that had cropped up throughout the evening, but we opened up the very language we used to explore them. As soon as this happened, I noticed a shift in some of the people I was working with- community members were shouting out verbs and eagerly making suggestions for movement to represent them. Movement became more accessible when the framing and exclusivity around it was critically shifted.

 

Marcie’s reflection helps remind me of the ways in which an openness to fluidity and a value on shared/co-created knowledge can help root us in work that lives in and with multiple perspectives and truths. By following our recipe for resilience, we have a chance to look to others, a chance to get creative, and we have the chance to season to taste each time we come together.

About Ellen Crooks

Ellen is a loud and curious movement artist with roots in Virginia. She comes to Dance Exchange as a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, having earned interdisciplinary degrees in Political Theory, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Dance. She's here to experience and notice, her favorite things.