Saturday, September 24, 2011

Madrid Journal: Beginnings

Madrid, Spain
Saturday, September 24th 2011

Random quote for the day: "I sometimes think the writing process is a state of total denial about what you’re doing or your motivations for doing it.”

-- Tea Obreht, author of "The Tiger's Wife" in the New York Times, March 14, 2011

Random thought for the day: If you're ever going to travel anywhere in the world where there are bugs, take Jason Ignacio with you. Guaranteed you won't get a single bug bite even if you walk into a mosquito infested, spider laden jungle so long as he's within 20 feet. Turns out his popularity as a person extends to the critter world. Moths to the flame. (and make sure you're not eating when he starts telling you about cockroaches that eat your eyebrows while you sleep.....)

For the second time in three days I find myself referencing a conversation I had with Sonya and Ariana (the US Embassy Minsk Fullbrighters) as it pertains to the world in which I find myself. In this case it was about the seemingly random provoking profound change in your life. A few years ago I went to coffee at Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe in DC (my pseudo home, really) at the invitation of the woman who has become our Board Chair at Company E, Alexandra Migoya and her work partner Pilar O'Leary, to meet "someone you need to know." That person turned out to be Jimena Paz, a Cultural Affairs Officer at the Embassy of Spain, Washington. The conversation was enchanting, engaging and fun as it ranged through possibilities and notions, but it never dawned on me then I'd be sitting tonight on a perfect evening in Madrid, a few hundred yards from the Prado, having just arrived from Minsk, because of it.

The reference to Ariana and Sonya was the point we found ourselves sharing that every conversation in life matters because you have no idea where it will take your world and into what it may lead your life. For me the genesis of everything we are doing in Company E today has its DNA in that simple coffee with Jimena and Alex. Out of it came the entire notion of building complete concert programs in partnership with a single Embassy, of finding common-ground between your art and their vision of celebrating their country. Because CityDance's mission was, and our mission is, to build partnerships through art (I'm referring here to the dance company -- CityDance is still very much an organization of partnerships in its education work), and because we're a repertory company, the thick loam of who we are fits into the seeds of partnership. In a day and time when no one has the money to regularly travel companies of 30 - 130 people for performance the possibilities of dance, of music and of "large art" are in jeopardy.

But if your mission is to seek out brilliant choreographers and their mission is to showcase the exceptional talent of their artists, well, then you have something to talk about.

In so many ways the NEXT series of international work began, and has evolved into my sitting at this table in this city on this night because of that discussion. Who knew? (side note: is there anywhere in the world anymore where you go and DON'T hear english all around you all the time? -- I could be in DC)

I'm in Madrid because the Embassy of Spain, the Ministry of Culture and the FoundaciĆ³n Carolina embraced the idea of sharing with both arms, both legs and a bungee chord -- because Alex and Pilar and, especially, Jimena saw possibilities that were worth building on, budgeting for and investing in.

The next week and its 20 meetings in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are rife with the opportunities to find those artists, those choreographers, those directors, presenters and producers who lead you to the people making dances in this country who have something extraordinary to say, to building the bridges that will have them say it through us in the United States and beyond. This is all about NEXT: Spain and it is happening entirely through the support of the Embassy of Spain in DC, the Ministry here and, at the most "on-the-ground" level, the FoundaciĆ³n Carolina, which has put together an itinerary that just blows my mind (one of those, "really, I get to met who????)

If the adage (if you can call it that) that Ariana and Sonya and I talked about on the lawn in Minsk has truth to it, then each of these coming individual conversations will be the beginnings of the family tree of our 2012-2013 season in exactly the same way the faith of WPAS, the Harman Center and most particularly the Embassy of Israel is for our 2011-2012 inaugural season with NEXT: Israel.

You never know who is across from you and where it can take you. The kindness and grace of people is endlessly astonishing. All it takes I think is listening to what they have to say.....(oh, and never, ever sit too close with a beer in hand, a laptop open and a group of madcap skateboarders swearing in Spanish when the trick of the night goes wrong....)

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