If we can dance together, we can live together: Community Dance in México

By Pamela Zúñiga

 

For over 30 years in the UK, a dance technique known as "Community Dance" has been developed, which focuses on specific community training. The really unique aspect about Community Dance is that the training is delivered by professionals and the participants are people who do not meet the standards normally expected in a dancer. We are talking about children, young people, men and women living in marginalised communities. This principle contrasts with the artistic canon that identifies dance as a discipline that renders worship to the body and which cannot be fully understood or appreciated if one is not physically fit to perform it. However, dance is at the same time the most accessible expression and this is the principle that Community Dance retakes to propose an artistic method of inclusion and mutual understanding, recognising that we all have the same abilities to learn and that the main ingredient to do so is free experimentation.

"Community Dance" has been implemented in different countries in the world and in Mexico it has been successfully implemented in Tijuana and in the last two years in Monterrey, through the alliance between the Patronato de la Escuela Superior de Música y Danza and the British Council, who jointly created a safe and suitable space for creativity.

This project has evolved throughout a three-year connection led by the choreographer Tammy McLorg and the musician Christ Benstead, who, along with local dancers, trained in October 2016 a diverse group of 23 children and young people from the municipality of Santiago in Nuevo Leon, that joined the project through the open call made by the Public Social Care Institution (DIF) that offered psychological therapies to youngsters. Apart from their differences and personal contexts, the truth is that all the participants had one thing in common: the desire to participate in a professional choreography.

During the process of learning and experimentation, a cohesion and mutual understanding was generated between the participants, allowing them to understand the differences and particularities of the other, by sharing and creating body movements. Thus, after weeks of collaboration, a language of tolerance that does not involve words was built, based on participation, observation, interpretation and experience with dance and of dance.

The results of the collaboration could not be more encouraging. The training generated two public presentations, one at the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza in Monterrey and another one in the main square of the Municipality of Santiago, but the long-term impact that this experience left on each of the participants, the families and everyone who participated in the process will inspire young people to find a sense of belonging and a path to artistic creation as a way of life.

Tammy McLorg and the participants during the training sessions.
Final Presentation at Escuela Superior de Música y Danza in Monterrey.
Final Presentation at Escuela Superior de Música y Danza in Monterrey.