In September 2016, Vancouver hosted a three-day symposium to celebrate community-engaged dance presented by Made in BC and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. Held at the Roundhouse, Leading from Beside showed the rich variety of projects offered within the city while questioning what community-engaged is.
Leading from Beside, was a celebration of current, community-engaged dance, including an exhibition, panel discussions, movement workshops, and dialogue circles from September 15 to 17 2016.
During the first day, on September 15, dance artists and facilitators involved in community-engaged dance projects had the privilege of experiencing a free workshop with Luca Silvestrini – artistic director of Protein (UK).
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The day continued with the official opening of the exhibition, which featured testimonials, video and photography of current community-engaged dance projects, and a keynote talk by Luca. In his inspiring keynote talk, Luca brought to the audience’s attention the importance of community engagement dance as an artistic practice that pushes boundaries and invites participants to explore beyond their comfort zones.
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On Friday and Saturday, Park Board members, Recreation Programmers College students, Recreation programmers and facilitators from across British Columbia, and members of the communities gathered at the Roundhouse.
The aim of Friday morning was to listen, witness, and experience community-engaged dance projects. The symposium began with a short awaking warm-up to let the body be present and prepared for the day. The opening was the presentation by the co-authors Cyndy Chwelos and Marie Lopes of the paper “Leading from Beside” around the question “What are we talking about when discussing Community Engagement Art and, more specifically, Dance?” This Applied Research Project explores the intersections of community-engaged arts, leisure and recreation in the context of recreation programming. Specifically, it examines case studies of community-engaged dance projects presented across different community centres in Vancouver.
To give audience a clear idea, different community-engaged dance projects from Vancouver presented short pieces of their work. The presentation included works by Foolish Operations Ensemble, All Bodies Dance Project, Polymer Dance and Compaigni V’ni Dansi.
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After a delicious soup – served in the exhibition hall at the Roundhouse, an open space where participants had the opportunity to move and discuss. The symposium attendants were separated in 3 groups each co-facilitated by two facilitators: Carolina Bergonzoni and Olivia C. Davies, Caroline Liffmann and Julie Lebel, and Naomi Brand and Mirae Rosner.
During these workshops participants were asked to consider what they noticed, what they would take back, and how they could use the information in their communities. A participant says: “It’s really inspiring and joyful to watch people express freely through movement. We are all so different in our build and movement history, so authentically beautiful.”
Joy and the pleasure of moving are some of the most common words that participants reported. Everyone was also impressed with the diversity of ages, movement vocabularies, and abilities; however, there was a lack in the presence of men. Participants noticed how quickly and rapidly a sense of community, of comfort, and trust was built. Particularly, a participant noted that “leading from the body is a shortcut to trust.”
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To keep engaging in conversation, discussion, and movement – the symposium continued with a big check-in with the findings of each experiential workshop and a panel on Strategic Partnering and Increasing Capacity with panellists Am Johal SFU Vancity’s Office of Community Engagement; Joel Klein, Made in BC; Margaret Naylor, The Arts and Health Project; Julie Poskitt, BC Arts Council and Judith Marcuse, International Centre of Art for Social Change. The video of the panel can be found here.
Saturday began with an engaging and fun warm-up activity that warmed up the body and the mind led by Luca Silvestrini. Immediately after, participants attended a panel of BC experienced dance artists on the different strategies and models of practice while challenging the notion of inclusive dance.
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During the afternoon members of the community could experience two different workshops – out of a choice of six – free and open to everybody. The Everybody Dance event was led by Community Verve, Dance Troupe Practice, All Bodies Dance Project, MACHiNENOiSY, Polymer Dance and V’ni Dansi.
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Sunday morning, the day started with an in-depth conversation titled: Inclusive Dance – Models of Practice. Caroline Liffmann lead a short session to wake up brains and bodies. Panelists Naomi Brand, Miriam Colvin, Margaret Grenier, Karen Jamieson, Miriam Esquintin, Alvin Erasga Tolentino explored existing models and practices in of community-engaged dance and the necessity for new and changing models of practice. Facilitated by Marie Lopes panelists were asked: How is dance inclusive? Who gets to dance? What gets overlooked? What constitutes success?…and more.
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Last, but not least, the grand finale… community dancers, symposium participants, and dance artist came together to learn and perform an excerpt of Sylvain Émard’s choreography Le Grand Continental®, facilitated by Caroline Liffmann, Anna Kraulis, Lara Barclay.
There are questions that arose during the symposium Leading from Beside that still need to be addressed, namely, who was not there? How can we engage more men? And more importantly… what is the next step? From the conversation within participants and the survey the attendees filled, a common thread is the importance of trained facilitator who can “hold the skills and the ability of leading from beside.”
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Written by Carolina Bergonzoni in collaboration with Julie Lebel. Photos by Riz Herbosa.
To learn more about Leading From Beside, visit the original website by clicking on the link below.