The second iteration of a long-term international outreach project, If I Were You is a community-inspired dance collaboration that enlists the personal experiences and voices of global citizens to illuminate how dance can connect us to our shared humanity. If I Were You - Project Israel will feature an original score by composer Ben Juodvalkis along with sounds from the Middle East, a large scale set design by Lisa Boling Holloway, and a contemporary ballet by choreographer Casey Lee Thorne. IOCB anticipates that this piece will challenge – and simultaneously affirm – its belief that dance exposes what is most personal to us as well as most universal.
During IOCB Artistic Director Casey Lee Thorne’s Fulbright Fellowship to Israel 2014-2015, she conducted several free community outreach workshops throughout Israel and Occupied Palestine to examine the role of dance in self-discovery and community-building. She was exposed to everything from the traditional Arab folk dance, dabke, to the Israeli contemporary dance technique, Gaga, and even had the opportunity to work with the national ballet of Israel. The diversity she experienced in this region was ineffable, yet she found that dance can give us insight into the unifying undercurrents that challenge prejudice and make us think twice about people we may have only known as "foreign," "stranger," or "other."
At the end of every outreach workshop, participants were asked to write reflections in their native language about what dancing connects them to. These written reflections will be showcased in our final performances as a large-scale installation that will encompass the performance space. Audience members are invited to interact with the set installation prior to every performance so they can have a chance to read the translated reflections first hand.
This September, Thorne, joined by an incredible cast of seven contemporary ballet dancers, will hit the Pennefort Chapel Studio at Dominican University of CA to develop an evening length contemporary ballet inspired by the written reflections of all workshop participants. The dancers will respond to the voices of Israelis and Palestinians through a process we call "imaginative empathy," ultimately testing our theory that through dance, we can come to know one another in a harmonious way.
Risks and challenges
It is incredibly difficult to conduct a humanitarian outreach project without ruffling some feathers, especially one that is conducted in the Middle East. IOCB is not naive to the fact that this project has the potential to receive great scrutiny from individuals with opposing political viewpoints. Our biggest challenge will be to create a safe space for our Bay Area audiences to engage in dialogue about the conflict in such a way that we promote mutual-understanding and cross-cultural exchange. IOCB stresses that this project is about dance and the human experiences that are able to transcend barriers and encourage empathy. As such, we would like to offer Question and Answer sessions at the end of each performance that can serve as a community forum where diversity is welcomed and respected. We hope you will bring some friends!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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