Discovering New Hampshire Avenue through dance
Residents and artists will mix on “stage” as the performance project, “New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To…,” is presented at the Takoma Park Recreation Center on Saturday, July 18 at 7 p.m. (July 19 in case of rain). Sponsored by Dance Exchange and the City of Takoma Park the free performance and community celebration will involve dance, music, art and storytelling inspired by what New Hampshire Ave is, was, and could be.
The evening will host the premiere of a new site-specific work along New Hampshire Ave, shaped largely by the contributions of local community members and partners and including reimagined sections of Liz Lerman’s landmark work, Still Crossing. The work will be performed by an intergenerational cast of Dance Exchange artists, New Hampshire Ave community members, and City of Takoma Park employees and officials. Dance Exchange enthusiastically invites interested New Hampshire Ave community members of all ages and backgrounds to join the performance by attending one of several dance and storytelling workshops on July 14 (4:30-6 p.m., Takoma Park Rec Center), July 15 (time and location TBD), OR July 16 (Dance Exchange Studios, 7-8:30 p.m.) as well as the dress rehearsal on July 17 (6-8:30 p.m., Takoma Park Recreation Center) and the performance on July 18 (5:30-8:30 p.m., Takoma Park Recreation Center). Performers and audience members of all ages and backgrounds will have the opportunity to explore and celebrate their own journeys to New Hampshire Ave by exploring the central questions of the piece: Where do you come from? What did you leave behind? What do you carry with you to this place?
The event on July 18 also brings Dance Exchange into continued collaboration with local installation artist Nicole Salimbene, painter Fetunwork Amedie, photographer Ben Carver, and multi-disciplinary artist Nguyen K. Nguyen. Together, these visual artists have been working to capture some of the unique faces, places and stories of the Avenue in a series of photo portraits, paintings and illustrations printed on banners and installed on the evening of the event to create a dynamic performance space. These banners, commissioned by Dance Exchange and sponsored by the City of Takoma Park, will appear after the event in public spaces along New Hampshire Ave.
Local musician and long-time Dance Exchange collaborator David Schulman will join the performance and engagement as well, in collaboration with local musicians Don Tillery and Mark H. Rooney. Inspired by the past, present and future of New Hampshire Avenue, the trio will weave together new compositions, recorded stories from New Hampshire Ave, and original music from Still Crossing.
Highlighting and honoring the people who contribute to the history, diversity, and vibrancy of the Avenue is at the heart of “New Hampshire Avenue: This Is a Place To… .” In September 2014, Dance Exchange hosted a one-day festival which served as the public premiere of the project and its signature “flock” of colorful wooden chairs, inspired by one of the City’s preexisting design initiatives. Throughout the project, people from all walks of life along the Avenue have gathered around these chairs for a series of artmaking workshops, community gatherings, and interviews which stretched from fall 2014 to spring 2015.
More than a central image for the project, these chairs have become a shared platform for community members and city leaders alike to express their celebrations, challenges, needs and goals for New Hampshire Avenue. And the “impact of working deeply with both those who live and work along New Hampshire Ave and those planners and officials from the City is already apparent,” notes Dance Exchange Artistic Director Cassie Meador, lead curator for “New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To… .” “By bringing a range of people into conversation about their contributions and hopes for the Avenue,” Meador explains, “we’re hoping this project creates connections that will live on after the project ends.”
“New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To…” is part of a competitive group of creative projects funded by the Our Town grant program of the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America, which are, according to Jamie L. Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace, having “a profound impact on the social, physical and economic futures of communities.” Acknowledging Dance Exchange’s groundbreaking legacy in creative placemaking, artists and community leaders from around the country and beyond will gather at Dance Exchange in the week leading up to the July 18 performance to learn more about Dance Exchange tools and practices and to join in creating the final performance as they consider implementing similar initiatives in their own communities.
The event is the public culmination of a community-building artistic effort presented by Dance Exchange in partnership with The New Ave, an initiative driven by the City of Takoma Park’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
For more information or to participate see www.danceexchange.org or contact Amanda, 301-270-6700.
This article appeared in the July 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.