Dance Harmony In Woodstock
Julia C. Basso, PhD
Remember Woodstock? If you went to the 1969 festival or not, Woodstock, NY (though not the actual site of the Woodstock Festival) is still a thriving artist’s community. This town of ~6,000 people is a mecca for artists, musicians, writers, dancers, and many other vibrant bodies. If you have not been there, you should definitely put a visit on your calendar for some time this summer or fall. I recently was invited to Woodstock as part of the festivities for The Secret City Art Revival.
The Secret City, founded by Chris Wells, is an organization that is dedicated to creating, “Sincere and fabulous community celebrations of the everyday creative life.” This group presents various gatherings throughout the United States, performing regularly in New York City and Los Angeles. These gatherings or events each have a different theme and include storytelling, live music, dance and theater performances, food, meditation, and other creative experiences. New artists participate at each unique event. The goal of these events is to create connectedness within communities and cultivate creative mindfulness.
The theme of the most recent gathering in Woodstock, NY was that of harmony. I was invited by Clyde Fusei, Artistic Director of the Lokasparśa Dance Projects, to join her event, I see you saying yes. Through her company, Ms. Fusei wants to bring a sense of closeness and intimacy to her dancers and audience members. She wants to use dance as a means for each participant to “know themselves more fully through authentic, embodied, experiences with movement arts.”
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I see you saying yes was a dance piece that fits right into the weekend’s theme of harmony. This was an interactive outdoor performance that happened in the middle of the Woodstock flea market, so we had a constant flow of people coming to our venue. Though there was a group of 3 dancers most always in the space, this performance was primarily about community members gathering together and simply saying “yes”.
For the performance,
a series of chairs were organized in a grid-like fashion and roped off (into an impromptu stage). Each chair had a specific instruction, which was written on a card and taped to the front. One corner of the grid served as an entry point and the other as an exit. Several beautiful scarfs in different vibrant colors served as costumes. Participants were able to choose one and then enter the space. Then they were able to engage in as many activities as they liked and then leave the space. It was quite a show.
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For example, one instruction was to stand on a chair and move your arms like a bird. Another was to say “I love you” to anyone present or not present. Another was to pretend that your grandmother was there and to tell her everything that was going in your life. Yet another was to copy everything that the person sitting in front of you was doing. A favorite of the crowd was to stand on a chair and sing your favorite song. I certainly found some of the instructions more difficult to say “yes” to than others. For example, one that caused me difficulty was an instruction that said, “say something that feels true in a made up language.” Surprisingly (to me), another I found difficult was to slowly walk around and smile at everyone you see.
As more people joined in,
more spontaneous moments came together to create unexpected interactions. I was happy to see people of all ages take part in the experience, from children on up. Many families came in and danced together. My daughter even stood on the singing chair and sang “Happy Birthday” to me as I danced like a bird on the chair right next to her. These type of creative experiences were at the heart of Harmony. At the end of our dance, which lasted from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, I certainly felt more harmonious and remembered the importance of being a part of and actively participating in a community.
Other artists that were a part of the weekend included Liv Hardy, who performed a dance with strings, Cindy Hoose, who shared her Spirit Animal Creature Companions for Transitional Times, and Connie Hall and Allanna Medlock, who shared their sacred space in a tent (along with serving cheese and crackers). For more information on upcoming creative experiences by Secret City, check out their Facebook page.
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