An evening of music, dance, art and storytelling
By Amanda Stevens
You might have noticed a few things out of the ordinary along New Hampshire Avenue on the evening of July 18. You might have heard the melodies and rhythms of violins, trumpets and drums. You may have spotted new artwork. You might have even seen people you know dancing together in celebration of what New Hampshire Ave is, was, and could be.
Created by Dance Exchange and sponsored by the City of Takoma Park, this performance and community celebration was the culmination of a multi-year project known as “New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To… .” With major support from the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America, the project provided an opportunity for people to gather and reflect on the ways they shape what the place is today and what it will be tomorrow.
During July’s place-based performance, audience members accompanied performers on a journey of storytelling between Hampshire Tower, Takoma Overlook and the Recreation Center field. As they shared their stories of New Hampshire Ave, Dance Exchange transformed them into movement, weaving them together with Dance Exchange Founder Liz Lerman’s landmark work “Still Crossing,” to create an intergenerational performance by Dance Exchange artists and New Hampshire Avenue community members. Local musician David Schulman also joined the performance along with trumpeter Don Tillery and Taiko drummer Mark H. Rooney.
For almost two years, Dance Exchange has collaborated with the City of Takoma Park’s Housing and Community Development Department to use art and dialogue to create meaningful relationships between the people and places that shape New Hampshire Avenue. Led by Artistic Director Cassie Meador, this work “brings a range of people into conversation about their contributions and hopes for the Avenue.” The impact of doing so, Meador explains, “is already apparent, and the connections the project created, we hope, will live on after it ends.”
One way the project lives on is through the work of several local artists with whom Dance Exchange collaborated. Installation artist Nicole Salimbene, painter Fetunwork Amedie, photographer Ben Carver and multi-disciplinary artist Nguyen K. Nguyen captured the Avenue in a series of photo portraits, paintings and illustrations, which were installed in the Recreation Center field during July’s performance. During the next month, this artwork will appear on banners in public spaces throughout Takoma Park. To learn more, visit danceexchange.org.
This article appeared in the October 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.