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Friday, June 3, 2016

Dance—changing lives worldwide

BODYTRAFFIC in Jordan. Photo by Guzmán Rosado
By Susan Yung

Since its inception, DanceMotion USASM has reached more than 125,000 people in 49 countries, and an impressive 40 million online. Participants for 2017—18 are KEIGWIN + COMPANY, Stephen Petronio Company, and Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group. It’s a testament to the depth of American dance talent that these esteemed companies comprise what is already the sixth season of this international exchange initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by BAM.

BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo notes, “DanceMotion USASM has had enormous impact on the global communities it has touched, and has inspired and enriched our dance-ambassadors.” The artists will embark on four-week residencies in different regions of the world, engaging in performances and outreach events—workshops, master classes, and press interviews—as well as sessions on production and arts management. Of particular focus are at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTI community.

Dance Heginbotham in Jakarta. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro
The geographic areas covered this year are typically wide-ranging for these three New York area troupes. KEIGWIN + COMPANY will travel to Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. The company is led by choreographer Larry Keigwin, whose dynamic dances emphasizing speed, intricate formations, and intriguing concepts have been enthusiastically received. He is practiced in working with large groups; the company’s widely-seen Bolero project involves non-professional performers from the participating communities.

Stephen Petronio Company will travel to Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The company is renowned for its muscular and precise renditions of Petronio’s athletic, breathtakingly propulsive movement, as well as collaborations with visual artists, fashion designers, and composers. Petronio, an alumnus of the Trisha Brown Company, has in recent seasons undertaken the Bloodlines project, which features a dance by a modern pioneer who influenced him alongside his own work; in a recent season at the Joyce Theater, it was Brown’s Glacial Decoy.

The Brooklyn-based Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group will visit the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Panama. Wilson generates work by drawing on myriad sources, including African and postmodern dance, storytelling, and traditional idioms such as blues and gospel. His company performed at BAM in 2009 with The Good Dance—dakar/brooklyn and 2013 with Moses(es).

DanceMotion USASM project director R. Michael Blanco says, “It is gratifying to see how this program that originates from our home at BAM in Brooklyn has reached so many people around the world, sharing a simple message: everyone can dance.”

DanceMotion USASM has pushed for greater access through means such as livestreaming workshops and demonstrations. Touring company members maintain an active presence on social media and a blog, charting highlights and sharing local one-of-a-kind cultural experiences. The program’s breadth of activities is demanding, albeit rewarding, for the participants, who undertake a rigorous schedule of studio events, workshops, and symposiums. Both the companies and the host country participants are able to communicate through dance, which transcends the language barrier.

Glenn Edgerton, artistic director of past participant Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, said, “It was a great reminder of how intuitive it can be to work with others physically—how natural it can be to communicate through movement.” Donald Byrd, artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theater, noted, “There were connections made and bonds forged that were unexpected, and deeply felt.”

Olga Tsvetkova of Minsk, Belarus, said of her DMUSASM experience with Illstyle & Peace Productions: “When I was watching you leave I was about to cry—you do change one person at a time. You’ve definitely changed me, not only by the way you dance but also by who you are.”

DanceMotion USASM continues to changes lives around the globe, one dancer at a time.

Susan Yung is Senior Editorial Manager at BAM.

Reprinted from May/June 2016 BAMbill.

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