When I first moved to Boston five and a half years ago, I was eager to dive into the creative worlds I had spent so much time preparing for in college. Figure drawing nights and open mics, art workshops and theater performances. As an interdisciplinary artist, I started going to as many different events as I could find. At first, I was excited to see so many different people at all the events. But as I continued to build my network, the never-ending stream of new faces began to confuse me.
Unlike at a liberal arts college, where our general education requirements enforced cross-pollination, I started to see that there was little to no overlap between the creative communities, let alone the non-creative ones. My new friends from the open mic night didn’t go to the theater opening or the art opening and vice versa. Of course, part of this is simply the parameters of time: it’s hard to find time for one art form let alone multiple. But there’s more than time-constraints to our specialty-based separations.
In an industrial society, everyone has been given a part to play, a station along the factory line. With this shift comes our increase in specialization and the stratification that comes with it. Now we have scientists and artists who are told their brains are nothing alike rather than thinkers and experimenters who are encouraged to use any means to get them to their goal.
Over the past two and a half years as I’ve re-entered the dance world, I’ve dabbled in blues, salsa, contra, a teensy bit of swing, and noticed the same specialty-based stratification. There is overlap, yes, but more often than not people settle into their forms and it sticks. With this in mind, this month we decided to try something new at Waltzdays: waltzing to DJed blues and fusion music instead of our normal live folk music.
We knew our idea had worked as soon as the lesson started and forty people had already arrived. But it wasn’t the amount of people that told us, it was where they came from. We had blues dancers from Bluesy Tuesy and Blues Union, salsa and tango dancers from Dance Caliente, contra dancers from BIDA and the Scout House, Americana dancers from Americana Sundays, complete beginners, and many more all moving together on the same dance floor navigating the same music. Throughout the night, you could see these styles blending, sometimes with grace, sometimes with bumps, always with smiles and laughter of encouragement.
During our first year coordinating Waltzdays, Matthew and I have talked endlessly about how to make a dance event that’s more than just a space to dance. Things like encouraging relationships off the dance floor, risk taking on the dance floor, talking to fellow dancers in different settings like the book club or article discussion night, and engaging in conversations about why dance is important and what role it plays in our lives and our communities.
In the Hearth Community, we actively seek to create spaces where people can share, create, and connect across their disciplines. Last night, we saw that take place through movement on our dance floor. We are so grateful to the members of our community and the first timers who took a risk, showed up, and tried something new. We can’t wait to see what we make together next!
Join us at Waltzdays next month for live music with Jamie Oshima and Kathleen Fownes or, if you can’t wait that long, hang out with the Hearth Community, join us at one of our weekly interdisciplinary events.