Arts-exchange program between the communities of Mariscal & Tzawata and three dancers from the Forsythe Dance Company
Sometimes a project idea simply comes from fortuitous circumstances. Marcela Correa, Coordinator of the Performing Arts at our partner institution, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, brought three dancers (Cyril Baldy, Josh Johnson and Riley Watts) from the world-renowned Forsythe Dance Company (out of Frankfurt, Germany) to lead workshops and engage in presentations on Improvisation in Dance. While most of the project occurred in Quito, the dancers wanted to participate in community outreach. Knowing that Pachaysana works in the Arts and Community Development, Marcela asked if there are opportunities for these dancers to contribute.
Since our mission does not allow for outside groups simply coming in to a community, present their work and leave, we put together a true arts exchange, in coordination with community leaders. The three dancers stayed with a host family in Mariscal. In the first evening of our workshop, community members of Mariscal took the lead, sharing the different theatre games and exercises that they have been working on, and the dancers joined in. The idea was to turn the usual dynamic, in which the outside group of experts comes in to lead the dialogue, on its head, and allow the locals to lead the dialogue at the beginning. The second evening represented the other end of the exchange: the dancers improvised to local musician Angel Rivera’s original songs before leading a workshop of improvisational dance with community members.
Furthermore, the three dancers visited the Kichwa community of Tsawata, where in addition to participating in local agricultural activity, learning about the community’s troubled recent history, spending time with the local shaman and partaking in a traditional meal, the dancers and a local dance group engaged in a dance-exchange. First, the local group, composed of youth, presented a traditional Kichwa dance. The three international dancers observed and then offered an improvisation that shared their reactions and reflections to the traditional dance, combining it with westernized technique. The young leader of the local troupe was enthused and offered to extend the exchange beyond the planned activity by performing a solo dance. Her movements were striking and clearly affected the three visitors, as they could be seen recreating them on numerous occasions over the next day.