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community movement for wellbeing

January 9, 2018

Working in community dance contexts with elders and intergenerational groups is a source of great joy for me and deeply embedded in who I am. Growing up, I was a part of my mother, Alana Shaw's wonderful community dance theater troupe (Turning the Wheel Productions) that she founded when I was a teenager and has now grown to a national nonprofit with hubs in several cities and a broader mission of both art making and, frankly, spiritual healing. If you don't know their work yet, check out Alana's two wonderful books "Dancing our Way Home," a workbook chock full of ideas and movement games that are incredibly helpful for anyone making dances and leading classes with all kinds of community groups and "The Body Now" a book on facilitation/memoire/treatise on living the life you were made to live. I have begun returning to this part of my history in recent work with the Champion Intergenerational Center on humane technologies projects with the incredible group of elders and preschoolers there. I have three wonderful students also working with them on projects and we are in the process of growing this aspect of our work. Laura Rodriguez will be creating a video and animation project with Champion and Claire Melbourne is extending her work with forts and interactive objects or what we sometimes call tangibles to an application specifically for this community. Lexi Stilianos also plans to create an installation for the Center in the Spring using her work with memory, gesture and computing.

 

For my part, I am enjoying visiting the center to participate in and lead movement and creative music experiences; we facilitated one session with Turning the Wheel in the autumn and participated in others. And Christina Soriano joined us as a guest artist to share her wisdom. In one hugely productive day Christina gave a catalyzing flash talk on her work with dance and neuroscience, participated in a tour and discussion I convened on health and creative technologies with faculty from Nursing, Medicine, Social Work and other allied fields, and gave a fantastic workshop for our team and a large group of youth from the dance program and social work. I met Christina last year at the Futures in Motion convening I designed and facilitated with collaborators at the University of Southern California's Kaufman School of Dance to help launch their new Choreographic Research Institute in a community of thought leaders and change agents in creative technologies, movement and health. She was fabulous in that convening so I invited her out to help instigate new research at OSU.

 

Christina's wisdom resonates with my experience with Turning the Wheel productions and key aspects of my own life and career on many levels in her respect for the dignity of the elders and youth with whom she is working, her investment in liberatory pedagogy, and her interest in re-imagining her forms of expertise for all manner of applications to real world problems. The workshop she gave began with a "chair dance" as an example of one way to work with a group that may have limited mobility or feel more comfortable starting in a seated position. Several students have already taken this idea and the modalities that Christina embeds in it (different motion qualities, encouraging important skills such as balance and movement across the midline of the body, changing prompts quickly so that everyone can feel success in at least some of them, a balance of challenge and reward, using the chairs to create an unpredictable landscape, playing with Susan Rethorst's score for arranging objects etc.) into their work on other projects. It feels great to return to this work and I'm looking forward to what emerges in this process.

 

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