By Joshua Parker
Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow and English, Reading, World Languages Department Chair at Windsor Mill Middle School in Baltimore, MD
(Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti)
Passion. Purpose. Play. These elements artfully combined to create an unforgettable experience from the mostly male dance troupe known as the “Companhia Urbana de Dança” or the Urban Dance Company.
They passionately moved across the stage in synchronous and asynchronous movements married to a soundtrack that started and stopped in concert with our breaths. This mostly-male, favela-raised group expressed the most passionate and desperate elements of the human condition through their legs, their arms and their eyes.
Periodically looking at us after each scene movement, the intensity was palpable and transferable. What was more evident than their passion was the purpose within their movements.
Sharpened by the difficulties of living life in poverty, it seemed that this company, this dance troupe, found purpose together. The dialectic of struggle versus unity was beautifully displayed as the shirtless lead dancer struggled through the first performance to be unified with the collective. As the performance concluded, he found his pulse inside of the collective-moving in sync with the other dancers.
This newfound purpose was born out of the need for these favela-raised, Afro-Brazilians to express their culture. Their vibrant, playful, hurting, resilient culture.
This culture, which in times past has existed in such a way that the need for acceptance was a request, now through this dance was not a culture in need of affirmation. It was a culture that the audience had to reckon with, reason with, fight with, and finally, connect with.
This may be the point of the entire fellowship— the idea that globalization is as much about sharing the process of valuing a culture as it is about learning from another culture. This point became clearer to me as I stood on the shores of the beautiful Ipanema beach.
Not being a beach person, I simply stood on the edge of the coast and only looked at the waves. However, as I stood there, the waves crested higher and the waves crept closer to my feet. Closer still they crept until they were surrounding my feet, only I couldn’t see my feet anymore because the once firm foundation I was standing on – my reticence and resistance – was being carried back to the ocean. Wave by wave. I could only my calves as they were being washed by the waves.
(Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti)
This could be what globalization in practice looks like— an immersion in the culture of students so much so that the place, upon which some teachers used to stand, softens and gives way to a tangible and real value of the passion, purpose and play of the culture of our most vulnerable students.
The transformation we must seek is one that gets us to understand that we have been actually moving toward the ocean of their existence the entire time.
Check out some of the Urban Dance Company’s performances.
All photos courtesy of Urban Dance Company’s Facebook page.