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Thursday, August 22, 2013

DanceMotion USA 2013 in Review:
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

by Sophie Shackleton

Since 2010, BAM has produced DanceMotion USA, a program funded by the US Department of State to promote diplomacy and cultural exchange through dance. This year, we sent four contemporary American dance companies to represent the United States on artistic missions in four regions around the world. Using dance as a language, they forged lifelong connections—both artistically and personally—with the artists and audiences they met during their travels.

The dancers were our eyes and ears on tour, sharing videos, photos, and blog posts as they traveled. We are featuring highlights from each of the four companies’ journeys here on the BAM blog.

The celebrated talent of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago set off for Chicago’s sister city, Casablanca, to start a tour through the North African desert and Andalusian mountains.

At the airport, they shared their nerves with us, but were soon overwhelmed by the incredible food, markets, and marble mosques of Morocco. In Marrakech, they led a contemporary dance flash mob  in the public square. David Schultz proved he is not just a dancer, but a photographer. And Matt Miller, the company's quiet yet loquacious technical director, sent us the first of his many incredible blogs, which describe the world of Morocco with whimsy and wonderment.

Skipping the sea to the North, Spain brought a more familiar atmosphere, but it also surprised all of us. Company manager Ishanee Devas’ post about her discovery of Spain’s widespread unemployment—while trying to launder costumes—was a window into the country’s harder times. Under a bridge in Seville, we watched as the company taught students with Down’s Syndrome, and were totally inspired by their ability to express themselves freely through movement. There were the Roma children in Valencia performing songs from their families for us over YouTube. There was, of course, flamenco. Paella. And then there was Matt thinking—deeply thinking—about what it would mean to use a bidet. (Really. “Consider the bidet!”)

Arrival in Algeria brought a crash course in customs of a different kind: all performances were canceled due to the mourning the death of the country’s former president. Instead, the company settled in Algiers for a week-long residency with Algiers’ folkloric National Ballet. Matt described the comfort of the morning call to prayer. Ishanee shared her new understanding of the reasons Muslim women chose to wear veils. Instead of the local performances we originally anticipated, audiences from Algeria to South Korea tuned in online to watch their Algerian-American collaborative dance on the DanceMotion USA blog. Meredith took a final moment to remember how dance had allowed her to overcome the obstacles of language and difference. Matt, truly inspired, wrote Algeria a farewell poem. Do you remember when we danced together in the wake of Algerian mourning?


1 comment:

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