OVER A RECENT WEEKEND, I WAS VISITING with my husband’s family at a time when all of the young nieces and nephews were there, gathered together from the corners of California. Seven of them in all, ranging from nine months to nine years of age. As you might imagine, it was chaotic and, of course, filled with hilarity and joy.
At one point in the afternoon the eldest niece, Aria, was holding one of the younger girls and began playing a game.
It is a song and dance where your lap is a horse-drawn carriage, and the passenger is in for an increasingly bumpy ride. “…this is the way the ladies ride, trot-di-trot, trot-di-trot…” Much squirming and laughter ensues as the little one is bounced around.
This little game is one that I saw Aria’s grandmother play with her when she was a baby and toddler, and that her dad was also delighted by it when he was a small child. I don’t know how far back it goes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it could be traced to great-grandmothers and fathers several generations ago.
These small rituals passed down generation after generation—not taught, per se, but rather practiced—are all around us. As I watched Aria carrying forward this tradition without great consideration, I imagined the many lineages that each of us embody. The legacies we carry forward, sometimes intentionally but often unwittingly.
Legacies that are familial; legacies that are artistic.
How do we recognize, celebrate, recall, and carry forward the rituals created and sustained in a life of witnessing, practicing, and teaching dance?
This May, the San Francisco International Arts Festival responds to this question with a tribute performance honoring the vivacious Blanche Brown, whose encounter with formal dance training at the age of 35 sparked her ongoing dedication to dance that is connected to her spiritual practice. Turn the page to read Mary Ellen Hunt’s feature about Brown’s long and passionate career.
Anna Halprin (who turns 95 this July), epitomizes the question of “how to celebrate and honor,” an artist whose legacy ripples out for what is now a plurality of generations. This spring and summer, Oakland-based choreographer Shinichi Iova-Koga and his ensemble, inkBoat are creating a new work that responds to this question and in doing so are making their own rituals for Anna. 95 of them. And counting… Writer and scholar Ann Murphy responds to the project with a “score” of her own, exploring the project and its inspiration.
As dance artists, we often integrate remembrance with innovation. We are historians at the same time we are pioneers. Sean Dorsey embarks on a choreographic listening tour to capture memories of the first wave of those lost in the AIDS epidemic. He discusses this piece, The Missing Generation with writer Claudia Bauer on page three.
What better way, really, to carry forward rituals and practices, than through the relationship between teacher and student? In this issue, we learn from educators Patricia Reedy and Deborah Karp, as well as Rafaella Falchi, a long-time leader in San Francisco’s Carnaval festival and parade, about how they continue to engage as teacher and artist.
And, once again this May issue of In Dance features information about nearly a hundred workshops held over the summer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of the many opportunities to learn, celebrate, worship, reconstruct, and innovate.
Enjoy the experiences that incite you to ask questions, to simultaneously look back and move forward, creating and sustaining the rituals of your own artistic legacy.
This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of In Dance.