An intergenerational exchange: Winter Institute 2018

[Editor’s Notes– The following is the first of a series of blog posts by Dance Exchange Winter Institute 2018 Communications Work/Study Tajinder Virdee. This year’s institute focused on the creative practices and potentials of Dance Exchange’s work across generations. Read more, and check back frequently, to learn more about Tajinder’s (and other participants!) intergenerational experiences this January! –MC]

Who gets to dance?
Here at Dance Exchange’s 2018 Winter Institute, we begin the year with an intergenerational exchange of dancemaking and community building.

We were welcomed.
We were reminded that we are completely in charge of our bodies.

We witnessed multiple versions of a performance called Journey – as a solo by long-time Dance Exchange artist Thomas Dwyer, as an intergenerational duet with Thomas and Resident Artist Sam Horning, and finally as a duet with Sam and Associate Artistic Director Matthew Cumbie. In discussing the effect of an intergenerational element on the performance, we asked the question – what is intergenerational? While getting to know each other, we did an adaption of the Walk and Talk exercise with a partner, answering the question: What got you interested in intergenerational exchange?

While my partner and I discussed, we noticed that in both our stories we mentioned a barrier between us and our elders – For me, it was a language barrier. For my partner, it was a barrier created by memory loss through dementia. We combined our stories into collaborative movement – an insta-duet – as did the rest of participants. And we were able to witness the beautiful duets that our fellow participants had created together.

We were then asked to write responses to questions.
We were asked – what do you bring to this institute?
We responded with what this institute could bring us.
We were asked – what conditions do you need in order to be yourself?
We made agreements
We agree to turn discomfort into inquiry
We agree to meet people where they are
Leading into group agreements that set boundaries for the rest of the institute

What are you moving towards?
We began our first full day of the institute with Friday CLASS, starting with this question. I was stumped. I felt I had to face a reality that I did not want to face. What am I moving towards? What is it? A place? A feeling?
The question assumes that we are moving towards something, focusing on our futures rather than our past. We used our responses to the question to build a warmup – taking from gestures that people made while speaking. And together we created a physical manifestation of what we are moving towards.

What places have you seen intergenerational exchange in your life? This was one of the questions we were asked in our first session with Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Johnson and Dance Exchange artist Judith Bauer. In a Moving Question and Answer activity, we were asked five questions about how we have experienced intergenerational exchange. For each, we talked with a different partner and created a movement with each response. With those five moves, we did an activity called Mutual Co-Coaching to create our own unique solo.

In our second session, we were asked to write sentences beginning with “I come from” – a perpetual prompt. I was struck by my resistance to face my past, as if looking at a closed door that didn’t want to open. I come from a place of pain that I am laying bricks on, waiting for my past to disappear. But in order to know where we are going, we must know where we come from. In hearing the responses of other participants, I heard tactile responses – scents, foods, locations, and what felt like descriptions of home. After answering this prompt, we discussed what factors make a good prompt, and helped each other create our own. We used our prompts in an activity with groups of three. One person asked their prompt, one responded verbally, and one observed closely for gestures the responder made while talking. With these spontaneous gestures, we created trio performances to share with the group, containing the deep meaning of our conversations. Some of the questions I heard were:
When you think of feminism, what comes to mind?
What does justice look like to you?
What is the role of technology in your life?

We ended the day with time for written reflection and with two more perpetual prompts:
I know more about_________________
I want to know more about__________
These prompts allowed us to take note of what we learned and will guide us on our journey in the enlightening days to come.

Stay tuned to hear about the rest of the institute!

About Tajinder Virdee

Tajinder Virdee is an Anthropology and Justice student at Arizona State University who is passionate about queer community building and intergenerational community engagement, especially through collaborative movement.