Wednesday, February 1, 2017

National Freedom Day

And all of a sudden, it's February.

Michael, a dear friend whose poetry you've read here, informed me that today was National Freedom Day. I'd like to take a moment (because I am free to do so) and reflect on some of the wonderful things that have happened because of the freedoms I experience in the US.

January 18th The Embodiment Project presented "Deshong's Chester: Left Behind", an iteration of the Left Behind series supported by Boundaries and Bridges - a collaboration between Widener University and The Artist Warehouse in Chester to build community through the arts. After the show, one audience member wrote, "Brava to Jessica Warchal-King and dancers for their moving piece exploring what it might mean for a city... a community... ourselves to be 'left behind'. The 'movement mandala' capped off the piece perfectly - a wonderful way to build community through the power of the art."

With an audience of over 30 in a very small space, we traveled together, saw each other, felt each other, and moved together. As it has always happened in the number of times I've led the Movement Mandala, strangers came together and created something. I am grateful for the freedom to create art and build community in a "safe" environment. I put safe in quotes because art making is not and should not be safe. It is a place for taking risks and failing and growing; challenging and being challenged and becoming a more developed and whole person and artist from those experiences. It's about the messy process of creation and unknown and fear and perseverance and trial. It's downright unsafe and scary - but it's the art and the artist that reveal the power and the beauty in being honestly human. It's "safe" because in art making, sharing and experiencing, there is an opportunity to be vulnerable that might be foreign to everyday life.

On January 22nd, the Philadelphia Dance community celebrated "The Rockys".

"The Rocky Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in a production, a performance, set design, or other accomplishment in Greater Philadelphia's dance community. There are no categories, committees or ballots. Each recipient wins the honor of selecting a 'champion' to receive a Rocky Award in the subsequent year. The Rocky Awards are presented in collaboration with FringeArts with support from DanceUSA/ Philadelphia." - from DanceUSA/ Philadelphia's website.

I received a Rocky from last year's awardee, Cory Neale. Cory has watched me grow and develop as a performer, choreographer, artist, advocate, and educator over the past several years. I am grateful for his tenacious dedication to art making - through music composition and performance, architecture, and visual art - and the beacon of light he shines through this model.

Philly's dance community truly is and continues to be a "Rocky story". It's a little gritty and a bit of the underdog but sustains and even thrives despite an undercurrent of trying times. And like the "Rocky" series, I can always count on Philadelphia artists to be "face to face, out in the heat/ hanging tough staying hungry/ They stack the odds still we take to the street/ for the kill with the skill to survive/ it's the eye of the tiger/ it's the thrill of the fight/ rising up to the challenge of our rival/ and the last known survivor / stalks his prey in the night/ and he's watching us all with the eeeeyyyyyeeee of the tiger..."

(Come on, I know that's what you were thinking... go ahead and belt it out. I'll wait... we (still) have the freedom to sing and shout and gather and disagree and challenge and "don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past/ you must fight just to keep them alive...")

Dancing for non-violent, positive social change.

Dancing for community.

Dancing to bring awareness to violence against women.

Valentine's Day, Feb 14th is also V-Day/ One Billion Rising. Communities all over the world participate by performing the Vagina Monologues, dancing together, and joining thousands of others across the globe using art to bring awareness to violence against women. My students at Widener are excited to be a part of this movement.

And the following weekend (Feb 17th &18th), is NACHMO Chester's sharing of dance and community. NACHMO is a national organization designed to be your "choreographic kick in the pants". I'm the Regional Director for Southeastern PA and excited to launch this new project in Chester. Interested in participating as a mover, a collaborator, or audience member? Check out our site and apply!

What are some of the freedoms you hold dear? How are you ensuring their survival, and yours?

In addition to making the calls, participation in marches, and being a pillar of support for those being oppressed in your community, here are three examples of how people I respect are exercising their freedoms of humanity:

1) S.T.O.P. for Kindness
2) Gather Philly
3) Hugs and High5's

And because I hope it makes you smile... (and I know it's in your head now...)

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful and thoughtful as ever. Congrats on your award that fits you to a tee. You are very special, and we see it so well. Ellen R really sees it and shows it to the rest of us. Take it from all of us, you are really very special. We hope you dance forever and teach a new generation how to be beautiful. ����