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Monday, April 10, 2017

DanceMotion USA—A Lucky 7

Yeman Brown of Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Group with a student in Santo Domingo, DR. Photo: Ariana Hellerman
By Sarah Horne

The seventh season of DanceMotion USASM (DMUSA) has just been announced, with participating companies Bebe Miller Company, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. DMUSA, the US State Department’s cultural diplomacy program that is produced by BAM, fosters mutual understanding, acceptance, and community engagement through dance and movement exchange. Season seven companies will continue this work with residencies in Colombia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Peru, Russia, and South Korea in early 2018.

By the end of 2017, this partnership between the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and BAM will have sent 20 dance companies to 55 countries reaching more than 115,000 people directly in workshops and performances, and over 20 million people through digital platforms and social media.

Stephen Petronio Company learning Thai movement at Chiang Mai Rajabhat Univ.
Photo: Meghan Rose Murphy
Conceived in 2009 by BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo and the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, DMUSA brings its extensive network of national and international dance contacts and works with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in choosing dance companies to send on missions of cultural exchange throughout the world. The regions and specific countries for the tours are chosen by the State Department, while the curatorial task of pairing dance companies with regions is overseen by Melillo.

Earlier this year Stephen Petronio Company traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where its members learned Thai traditional movement and gestures during an afternoon of exchange at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University. In Hanoi, Vietnam, the group spent Valentine’s Day sharing their love for dance with a group of young students who are hard of hearing, and with a group of students with Down syndrome in a special workshop coordinated by Vietnam Dance Movement Therapy.

While the Stephen Petronio Company danced its way through Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore, Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group brought the power of the ring shout to the Caribbean. In Haiti the group met with children of Zamni Beni, a home created for abandoned children following the 2010 earthquake. The children presented the company with seven short dances choreographed in the company’s honor. This touching moment was one of many as the group traveled through Panama, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic experiencing carnival, learning Haitian voodoo dance, working with at-risk youth, and participating in events in honor of Black History Month.

Season six residency activities came to a close in late March when KEIGWIN+COMPANY returned from travels in Africa. In the remote village of Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire the group spent two days choreographing a new piece with local dancers, resulting in a final collaborative performance. In Ethiopia KEIGWIN+COMPANY spent a day in workshops coordinated by the US Mission to the African Union exploring connections between arts and integrative health while working with health practitioners. In Tunisia the group hosted roundtable discussions with locals interested in learning about life as a dancer in New York and spent five days in a collaborative workshop series creating a new work performed in the National Theater’s Palais du Théâtre Halfaouaine.

BAM and DMUSA look forward to welcoming four international artists to New York this summer as part of a one-week professional development program. These artists, identified during the residency workshops abroad, will have the opportunity to visit cultural institutions throughout NYC, attend performances, and take part in roundtable and panel discussions on arts management and the creative process.

As dancer Ernesto Breton of Stephen Petronio Company concluded, “the beauty of dance transcends any border, breaks all walls and eliminates every language barrier. Before there were words, we had music and dance.” Join us in celebration of this beauty by visiting

Sarah Horne is project director for DanceMotion USASM.

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