Friday, April 28, 2023

Performance as Peacemaking

Neurology and psychology teach us that mirror neurons are receptors in the brain that allow us to experience what we see. For example, if you watch a sad scene in a movie, you might cry because you can relate or understand the plight of the characters. Your mirror neurons are at work to allow you to share in the experience. 

In this way, seeing and participating in life performance allows us to connect with ourselves and our communities in a multidimensional way. Seeing joy creates joy. Kindness breeds kindness. Laughter infuses laughter. 

Joy, laughter, and kindness break down barriers and give our stressed-out systems reprieve. 

I'm grateful to be in a place where I can build bridges to experience joy, connection, and wellness through the arts. Tonight, Alvernia University's Fine and Performing Arts Department is presenting "Performance as Peacemaking." Peacemaking is a value of Alvernia. Collegiality is a value of Alvernia. Performance allows us to create both. 

Alvernia's "Performance as Peacemaking" is participating in the local and national Youth Violence Prevention Week. 

I'm also working with Berks4Peace to share dance as a form of community building, self-awareness and development, and individual empowerment. The weather has changed our plans for the culminating event of the week, but, to quote P!NK, "we're never gonna not dance again." 

More info below: 

Performance as Peacemaking click here. 

For Berks4Peace, click here. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Cultural Exchange, Individual Impact

Early in 2023, JCWK Dance Lab was invited to participate in a Cultural Exchange with The Heritage of Green Hills. 

The initial details: 

JCWK Dance Lab would have weekly meetings/ open rehearsals/ concert dance things in the exercise/ dance studio of The Heritage. Residents could come into rehearsals and move with the dance artists or participate in any way they wanted. The intended result was to give the residents an opportunity to engage with high-quality, artistic dance practice and to provide JCWK Dance Lab a creative home. 

What actually happened: 

Movement. Conversations. Story sharing. Questions. Memory generation. Laughter. Tears. Exchange of passion. Listening.

Here's an antidote:

The company just had a performance run. The performance experience is another post, but with the mission of JCWK Dance Lab at the forefront, I called our normal weekly rehearsal. Why? Because if I paused it, I would fill the time and space with something else. I wouldn't follow my own lead of taking a day off by having received a day off. I didn't want to give my dancers that option, too. One cornerstone of JCWK is Wellness - mental and physical. So I called rehearsal, but designated it as a day of discussion and restoration. We debriefed. We planned. We were led in a restorative yoga practice. We talked more. 

A group of "regular friends" (residents of The Heritage) joined us around 6:30. I broke the intimate discussion about the performance the company was unpacking and shifted gears to the restorative movement practice. The dance artists laid on the floor. The residents sat in chairs on the perimeter of the room and said "oh, we just like watching," when invited to participate.

Until I rolled exercise balls to them and the instructor moved to them with cues directed at modifying what the company members were doing on the floor. 

Truth - my knees hurt and I needed my own modifications. I took a ball and modified. I loved the opportunity to invite other people to join in movement and take ownership of the ways we/ they can and do move. The instructor began referring to "the dancers on the floor" and "the dancers with the balls" or "the dancers in the chairs" as she was verbally guiding the practice. 

After the hour practice, many of the participants were ready to go to bed, including members of JCWK Dance Lab, but the company still had some work to do. The sleepy residents left and the artists of JCWK Dance Lab engaged in a conversation about next steps. We had been invited to participate in a performance/ conversation about racial social justice. Lots of conversation ensued. One resident remained behind. 

Time passed. Time ended. 

This one, remaining resident has shared their time and talents with the company in the past. I approached them to chat, maybe about business things, maybe about life. Tonight, this resident had tears in their eyes as they shared with me their own experiences with social injustice, revealing a personal story about Holocaust survivors. 

We sat together for a moment. We held the space of grief and hope. They recounted details of their personal story. I was able to witness. I was able to learn. 


And this is the power of the Exchange. Moments of storytelling. Moments of making connections between past and future. Moments of sharing joy and sadness. Moments of acknowledging that being well is being fully present and being human and showing up to all of the layers of what that might mean. Moments have monumental meaning. 

Thank you, Friends. Until next time...