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
In April and May, New York’s beloved Doug Varone and Dancers took us south, miles below the equator.
In Argentina, the company collaborated with South America’s most renowned dance companies—Buenos Aires being a hot spot for dance of all kinds. They taught at Julio Bocca’s school, flew in the air with Brenda Angiel’s Aerial dance company, and performed for a full house at the San Martin. But the cultural discoveries were no fewer: they explored the Recoleta Cemetery, burial place of Eva and Juan Perón. Dancer Xan Burley recounted the unique experience of getting their Mayan astrological signs read by a vendor outside Palermo. Alex Springer got a special note from one of his students. They saw capoeira and tango and danced in the streets of San Telmo. Doug whipped out some fancy footwork in Morón. Lawrence made sure to take photos of all the dogs in Argentina. They consumed plenty of steak, steak, and more steak. And we discovered the pun that would last the length of the tour—Varone/Varones: Doug Varone in the men’s room.
Julia wrote a love letter to Buenos Aires upon leaving. We were right there with her.
Then they were on to Paraguay! The first day, the dancers traveled through the dirt streets of the small town of Catuera, where the now-world-famous Recycled Orchestra greeted the company with a special rendition of “New York, New York.” Xan once again wrote a profound account of their experience meeting these amazing kids, who play an orchestra of instruments constructed from trash from the landfill surrounding them. As they continued to explore Paraguay, they showed us ribbon dancers in the streets, their quest for a vegetarian restaurant, and the difficulties of communicating costume care across language barriers. Most of all, we saw how much students adored the workshops—two girls told us as much on film, and the photo of their last class in the country really says it all.
On a rest day, the company took breathtaking photos of Iguazu Falls, one of the seven Wonders of the Natural World.
Vegetarianism went to the wind in Peru, where Lawrence took a lovely photo of the alpacas—and Julia ate alpaca meat. The company tried its hand at a folk dance from the Amazon. They performed outdoors for University students, with palm trees in the background, and led workshops in Lima and Arequipa where they had students build structures using their bodies. Alex, (heartbreaker?), received another handmade note. Breathtaking photos of Peru’s landscape poured in over Instagram. And as a final hurrah, there was a picture that embodied all the reasons we send dancers to build communities across cultures: this one.
MORE FROM SOUTH AMERICA: