The Fox Cities P.A.C. recently held a weeklong residency with Spectrum Dance Theater to open a community conversation on issues of race relations, inclusion, diversity and current world events. This week of workshops and performances helped to engage more than 1,500 people in artistic expression of important topics that are affecting communities likes ours throughout the United States.
Donald Byrd, Executive Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater, expressed in several conversations throughout the week how Spectrum Dance Theater has a mission to challenge expectations, call forth strong emotions and create deep feelings while also allowing for thoughtful responses.
This was evident as dancers performed “Shot” at two community conversation hours held in the Kimberly-Clark Theater. As one dancer recited the words of Rakeyia Scott, who in 2016 captured the police killing of her husband Philando Castile on Facebook Live, male dancers depicted similar recent events.
After watching the piece, the room fell quiet.
“Well, what did you see?” Byrd prompted the group.
That simple question prompted deep discussions on diversity, inclusion, barriers and honest dialogue on how to recognize the issues that are present in so many communities, including ours.
“Dance allows the feeling and emotion in the piece to sneak past your barriers,” Byrd explained.
That was also the thought behind the dance workshop with cast members. This workshop required no experience, but only an open mind. As dancers of all ages and abilities moved about the room there was a sense of joy and fun but as they partnered up for an exercise the mood in the room slightly shifted.
Paired with someone they had just met, dancers were encouraged to tell the story of someone important or meaningful to them. Their partner portrayed that person through their movements, interpreting their loved one in a dance.
One survey respondent said “Rarely have I felt so close to another person within moments of meeting. It felt very important to do my partner’s (person) justice and yet I felt free to move expressively without judgement.”
“Connecting with a beautiful person during our interpretation of a person who is close to us - it brought genuine tears of happiness to my eyes and soul,” another respondent said.
This activity was about the diversity of people’s stories and how dance allows us to accept and understand people in a new and unique way.
“That may be the first necessary step for everybody,” Byrd said “to notice those small subtle things that have an effect on how we think and how we see things in the future.”
With a public performance Friday evening, Spectrum Dance Theater shared the music of African-American composers and explored American tradition through their movement, putting a stamp on a week of conversation and exploration of social change through dance.
The Spectrum Dance Theater residency is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Crane Group.
This residency is also supported by a Community Education Grant from the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc.
Partial support for the Spectrum Dance Theater residency provided by a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation.
Mission-based programming is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.