By Michelle Lynch Reynolds


What sort of ancestor will you be?

My ancestors laughed, cooked, suffered persecution, fell in love, escaped war, sought a better life, battled illness, upheld cultural traditions, cared for one another, and carried on despite difficult times. Can I tell you more about my ancestors during the afternoon networking break?

And, if there’s time, will you share the path your ancestors took? Did they arrive by boat? Did they work the land? What language did they speak? Is it the same as yours? Where does ancestral wisdom live in your body? I hope you’ll be able stay for the keynote – I hear there will be a big reveal. 

Are you wondering what networking and keynotes have to do with ancestry? This July, Melecio Estrella and Andrew Ward – the choreographic duo behind Fog Beast – will be playing host to a conference-turned-dance-theater-experience telling stories of the tangled ancestral roots underneath the glossy facade of our high-tech Bay Area. Dancers’ Group has commissioned this work and is partnering with the Asian Art Museum to bring it free to audiences. Readers can learn more about Fog Beast and their creative process in developing The Big Reveal in two preceding articles in the May and June issues of In Dance, both available at dancersgroup.org.

Ancestry – or rather, the rage and grief collected over generations, carried deep in the flesh of Native peoples, people of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and myriad structurally marginalized groups – unfolds beautifully in Sima Belmar’s regular column In Practice, in conversation with interdisciplinary artist Chris Evans. It is writing about listening, about a performance that was a ritual for healing. My reading turned to listening and folded in to become a part of the ritual as it continues in a new shape.

What sort of ancestor will you be?

Another way of asking could be “what will you be remembered for?” A generational view can’t contain the specifics – the precise recipe, the exact pathway of the arms in a piece of choreography, the words to the lullaby, the tenor of a laugh. The memories will reside in the DNA, below and within the subconsciousness of those who carry on, and if we are lucky, some tendrils of our values will remain in the root system of an ever-expanding future.

In Dance is an integral part of Dancers’ Group’s own root system, holding strong to values which align with my own. Each month, we seek to uplift dance and the artists who make it, celebrate a diversity of perspectives and approaches, be curious, generous, dive deep into challenging issues, and stay playful and present in the abundant joy that dance can be. That is the ancestor I aim to be.

Before concluding, I want to share with you – amazing, creative, powerful reader – that this July I’m bidding farewell to my role at Dancers’ Group, after seven eventful and inspiring years. I am beginning a new adventure, as Executive Director of Joe Goode Performance Group. I make this transition feeling grateful for not only the legacy of Dancers’ Group and its vibrant future but for the dance ecosystem the fills my life with meaning each and every day. May we continue working together, dancing alongside each other, and deepening that root system of values for all who come along next.

This article appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of In Dance.

Michelle Lynch Reynolds is Program Director at Dancers’ Group, is part of the leadership group of San Francisco Bay Area Emerging Arts Professionals and is a member of Trio, a loosely London-based experimental performance collective.