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  • Writer's pictureBarrio's Living Library

She Led Them to Dance Through Walls

When I started working at Barrio I thought I would be working on curating a photographic database that would use Barrio’s participants to illustrate concepts like unity, strength, and adaptability. I had been preparing to tackle it head-on when Daniel pulled me aside and uttered one of his classic ‘Danielisms’, usually reserved for when he is about to take you on a loop: “I’ve had an idea”!

What he proposed was a project that could create an exchange between communities, offer new opportunities for artists, break through (metaphorical) walls and showcase Reading as a city with a thriving arts community. He dreamed me into his idea. We would create opportunities for dancers to explore new performance spaces and open doors to new possibilities beyond their natural milieu. I was bought in! And within minutes, the project went from the idea stage to the “we need to find a good name for it” stage. And Consequently, the project “Dancing Through Walls” was born.

But we had some obstacles to overcome: I had no experience organizing an inter city exchange with people I had not met before. We had a very small budget, very little time, and we were in the middle of a pandemic! But I was excited for all the positive outcomes that were possible with this project. We could help unearth dance styles and give them a platform. We could facilitate networking between artists, and give our beloved dancing a more accessible platform. It was also important to keep true to “Dancing Through Walls” and make sure that exchanges were happening between different communities.

The most rewarding part of Dancing Through Walls for me was seeing the joy that it brought both participants and spectators. A great example of this is when we traveled to New York City with dance troupe Grupo Uarhani. The girls of Grupo Uarhani were so excited to be performing in the city, it was many of their first times being in New York City as well! While performing spectators watched and cheered them on. Some individuals walked up to us and asked us what part of New York we were from and when our next performance was going to be. Oftentimes we view bigger cities as the default cultural centers, and yet, here we were, sharing our city’s art with New Yorkers!

Filming during a pandemic posed its difficulties but we were luckily always able to adapt. Whenever traveling was needed to film, the dancer(s), and anyone else involved in the project always took proper safety precautions. I am happy to say that despite these uncertain times we were able to convey the Barrio philosophy that change begins with ourselves. And I believe you are able to see that in real time in all the participating dancers' stories.

I am so glad to have the opportunity to coordinate Dancing Through Walls. I believe that the arts truly have the power to change the world and uplift people and their communities. This project has the ability to go beyond the individual and reach the collective, and I think that is what most excites me. I hope that Dancing Through Walls continues to inspire and connect people in new ways through the power of dance.

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