The staff here at Dancers’ Group was recently talking about our audience: the community or communities we serve through our programs. Hint: you are not an easy group to pin down (and we love you for it!). From young dancers just getting started to seasoned executive directors with large spaces and staffs; from organizations who are mentoring the next generation of movers to ensembles that bring history and ancestry to the present day. We are a diverse bunch. Our challenge at Dancers’ Group is to serve the whole community, in respect and celebration of its diversity.
Every month, through this publication, we are fortunate to be able to highlight a sliver of the breadth of what is happening in our region. For example, in this issue, we learn about Los Lupeños de San José, an ensemble whose work is rooted in Mexican folkloric dance but retains a certain California style. The group is performing during the Rotunda Dance Series at San Francisco City Hall this month.
Cherie Hill, a teacher with Luna Dance Institute, discusses her process of learning how to teach African dance, while choreographer Alyce Finwall shares her and other’s perspectives on balancing parental and artistic life.
Mary Ellen Hunt introduces “A Life in Dance,” the exhibition on famed ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev which runs at the de Young Museum through February. In contrast to the scope of a venue like the de Young, Brittany Delaney offers a tour of the much smaller spaces to see dance in our region, focusing on intimate curatorial models cropping up in the East Bay.
And, in our ongoing series, Speak, contemporary choreographer Mary Armentrout shares insight into her new work, reveries and elegies, which will travel from venue to venue throughout the fall, sure to never be the same twice.
Several years ago, in a random museum gift shop, I came across a book about choreographer William Forsythe entitled Suspense (published by JRP|Ringier in 2008). It was wrapped in plastic, so I had no idea what it contained, but I bought it anyway. I’m a sucker for coffee table books about dance. If you are familiar with this book, you know that it is almost entirely images, with a handful of pages with giant text about dancing and choreography.
There is a passage at the end—about 3/4 of a page long—called “You made me a Monster.” It is a beautiful and touching piece of writing by Forsythe about the loss of his wife to cancer. He explains that shortly before she passed away, she was given a “life-size, do-it yourself cardboard model of a human skeleton.” It was years later that he came back to that model and put it together without looking at the instructions. He simply created something that he “understood.”
I think of this short passage often. Of course there is sadness in his story, but I find the image of a cardboard skeleton—made of pieces we can recognize but formed into a shape that is different—to be a striking metaphor. It so simply expresses a primary artistic impulse that extends across cultures, genres and budget size: take fragments of life or experience and put the pieces together—not precisely as they were, but in some new shape. Whether the result is a Mexican dance for el Día de los Muertos, a classical ballet, children at play, or a conceptual dance theater piece, the metaphor stands strong.
This metaphor came to mind after our conversation about Dancers’ Group’s audience, that while there is tremendous diversity in who we serve, there is much more that unifies us as lovers, makers and facilitators of dance.
—Michelle Lynch, Program Director