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Dancing at the BMA: Nourishing Creativity in Our Home City

On July 21, Full Circle Dance Company and the Baltimore Museum of Art joined forces to create an interdisciplinary arts experience open to people of all ages and abilities. Led by Full Circle Artistic Director Donna L. Jacobs, the free workshop featured lively discussion of a painting in the BMA's collection, improvisational music by violinist Melissa Hullman and percussionist Carl Allen, a mini dance class that brought members of the community together with professional dancers, and much more.

As workshop participants entered the BMA auditorium, the painting Dwell: Aso Ebi by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, currently on view in the museum's Contemporary Wing, was projected on the screen. Jacobs used this work as a point of departure for an exploratory conversation about the nature and meaning of home.

With workshop participants and Full Circle Dance Company members arrayed across the stage and throughout the auditorium, Jacobs led a mini class to prepare everyone's muscles for dancing and to create a sense of unity. Participants then shared written and spoken thoughts about the theme of home, while professional dancers interpreted those ideas, accompanied by an inspiring blend of violin and West African djembe. Working in small groups, participants created choreography on the theme, which they performed to live music on the stage for each other. Jacobs next presented her own work-in-progress about the problem of housing insecurity, inviting workshop participants to offer feedback and suggestions. The evening concluded with a performance by Full Circle of We Stand for Those Who Stood by Travis Gatling. This work from the company's repertoire tackles ideas about belonging and safety within our home country and the right to protest when our nation fails to embody its ideals.

After the workshop, participant Robin Wilson said:

"I don’t consider myself a dancer. Nevertheless, at the workshop I expressed concepts with my body, encouraged by the leaders, the other participants, and the improvising musicians. I transformed from an older woman in a roomful of strangers to a grandmother-tree surrounded by my dancing children and grandchildren as we explored our thoughts about the meaning of 'home.'”

For director Donna Jacobs, the workshop was both rejuvenating and revelatory. "Seeing people of such different walks of life creating together with real openness and freedom reminded me how important art is--not just for professional artists--but for everyone."

She found the feedback from participants on her own work-in-progress valuable. "I am really grateful for the observations so many people shared, and I know this feedback will help me shape the work I am creating," Jacobs said.

Full Circle dancer Nicole Tucker-Smith was moved by the experience, saying, "It was an amazing example of how art can bring together people from different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, and abilities when we create spaces that are caring and collaborative. I left feeling like anything is possible."

The July 21 workshop was one element in Full Circle's yearlong choreography project HOME: Longing and Belonging, which is supported in part by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. The project will culminate in performances November 19 and 20, 2022 at Baltimore Theatre Project.

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