As to my previous post on February 15th, professional dancing seems exclusive and incomprehensible to most. And yet, when we apply movement to certain activities and settings, we can access and relate to entirely different communities. With a sense of leadership, and a belief in dance as an enabler we can move forward, innovate and connect.
This is what Georgia Lipari, Sophomore Dance Major at The Boston Conservatory, discovered as a participant of JUNTOSWeek NY this past January. This week-long series of activities and events, organized and facilitated by one of our JUNTOSAmbassadors Megan Stricker,was structured to strongly resemble a JUNTOSAbroad trip, with daily performances and workshops at locations like the Covenant House and Hearthstone Alzheimer’s Center, and finishing off the day with debriefs and discussions. The students participating came from Boston and New York, many of them meeting for the first time only hours before the activities and performances began.
Georgia has been anxiously awaiting her first trip to Guatemala this summer, and in the meantime, has been taking part in our local outreach work. When I met her for coffee between classes, she explained:
“My whole life I’ve been fed bran muffins and it’s like JUNTOS handed me a cupcake.”
Our discussion quickly led to her describing a new understanding and appreciation for the sharing of dance, and the ways in ich she built new friendships through this experience, not only with the participants of the week, but with the communities that they visited.
A smile lit up her face as she recounted her experience teaching elders in a retirement home.
She told me that although she made up most of the exercises on the spot, and although it really wasn’t perfect, they loved it. She befriended a woman after the workshop who had been a professional ballerina and gave the dancers the opportunity to see pictures of her leading roles during her youth. Like many JUNTOS experiences, sharing movement in an accessible space created a bond between the dancers and those taking the workshop that continued outside of the activity itself.
According to Megan, it was a great opportunity not only to meet others and build a network of people who believe in a similar mission, but also to understand the meaning of leadership and the ways in which it can affect a community. As Megan explained:
“The most important lesson I took away from the week as a leader was mentioned in our discussion with Marilyn Barnwell at Bloomingdale Family Program. She explained how there is no hard and steady fast way to lead. Your own ideas of how to do something may work for you, but if you open your eyes to the breadth of possibilities and ideas that your team brings, everyone will flourish. You may be surprised at the wonders that happen when you step back and let your team take the reins.”
And Megan certainly was surprised by the participants of the week-long event, and the ways in which many, like Georgia, took the opportunity to step up as a leader.
Georgia’s story is only a snippet of the journey that each dancer went through during JUNTOSWeek NY, and a reminder that what we do can be shared with everyone. The dance world is multifaceted and can be accessed by many different populations and bodies. It is, however, our responsibility as dancers, teachers, choreographers, and movers, to ensure this accessibility. Although we recognize the universality of our form, it’s understanding to the outside eye is dependent on the ways in which we continue to share it in a variety of ways.
About the blogger:
Ariane Michaud is a dancer, performer, arts advocate and management consultant based in Boston, MA. While completing her BFA in Contemporary Dance at The Boston Conservatory, she works in the dance division office as an arts administrator and interns for Doppelganger Dance Collective, co-directed by Danielle Davidson and Shura Baryshnikov. Ariane’s love of teaching and helping others has led to teaching internships in Boston for both young and old in the community. She has choreographed in the public schools and, notably, given her time to Movement Matters, a movement based project for those affected with Parkinson’s. Ariane’s passion extends to working and traveling with JUNTOS Collective. She is now a JUNTOS Ambassador, representing, organizing, and performing for the collective in Boston and internationally. She is happy to be one of the facilitators of the JUNTOS Ambassador blog and sees it as an opportunity to create meaning to an online presence.