DAY 3 #MEXICOTOUR by Andrew Tran

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2017

8:30 AM

As usual, the day begins with a wonderful company breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  It’s buffet style complete with local cuisine nothing like what Americans would traditionally serve for breakfast. The food is rich and savory.  We all sit around the table and share stories about our lives and experiences. It’s a good feeling to see the company so happy and present.  I have to say, so far, everything has been going really smoothly.  I’m grateful and owe much thanks to my rehearsal director and logistics genius Nicole Baker. She has helped me tremendously organize our days and assists me with everything.  On past tours it was very stressful at times with no assistance as I have always had to bear the brunt of keeping the company on schedule and organizing everything.  She’s been a huge help assisting me and the company. On this tour I couldn’t be happier!

9:30 AM

Our driver from Chochola - who happens to be the private chauffeur for the President of Chochola - picks us up at our hotel. Merida is about an hour away from Chocola, but the drive goes by quick as I try to do my best to communicate with him in the front seat. Pedro, who is 100% Mayan, speaks fluent Spanish as well as the traditional Mayan dialect. It’s great to connect with the locals who seem fascinated by our presence. They most likely never see Americans from New York City in such a rural town in the Yucatan.  

We have a long day of dancing ahead! Once we arrive in Chochola, we head straight to Casa de Cultura to have a long company warm up. Everyone is still very sore from the previous day so it's important to have the time to properly stretch our bodies. We finish with warm ups and jump straight into a run of the show.  The dancers look great and we're all pumped to perform.

1:00 PM

We walk back to City Hall for our lunch. Our friends in the Municipality are so gracious and they've made us a local carne asada specialty cuisine.  The food tastes extra savory from the local spices and sauce they use to marinate the food in.

3:00 PM

All of the kids come back to the studio for us to rehearse the dance for the evening's performance. They're so eager to practice what they had learned. After just an hour of cleaning all of the movements the dance is ready to perform!

6:00 PM

The open air stage is set up in front of the Palacio Municipal and it's wonderful to see how fast and efficient the local crew is at setting everything up.  We have a very quick but efficient technical rehearsal. Last year, it poured rain for an hour before the show but the weather is absolutely perfect for an open air concert this year.  The locals start filling up the seats AN HOUR before the show was supposed to start! The energy is buzzing and we can't be more ready.

8:00 PM

Showtime! In Mexico, they have a tradition known as “3 calls” before the show begins to rev the audience up in anticipation of the presentation.  Cristobal Ocana, producer of the festival, speaks to the audience three times, about five minutes, each, and then presents a video about his company.  The show goes on without a hitch and the audience seem to adore us. The people of Chochola seemed in awe of what we presented.  They only ever see their traditional folkloric dance so for them our work must seem from another planet.  The show ends and they begin asking for tons of photos and autographs. It's a very special evening.

After we wrap up, we head back to Merida for a quick dinner and straight to bed! It was a long day and the weekend brings even more dancing and performing!

 

DAY 2 #MEXICOTOUR by Andrew Tran

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2017

8:30 AM

The whole company has breakfast in the gorgeous Spanish courtyard of the hotel. Once everyone was finished, off we went to Chocholá for our second day of workshops at La Casa de la Cultura. 

11:00 AM 

Before the workshops, the Company heads to Teatro Jose Peon Contreras for a press conference. There are local and national news papers, radio and TV interviewers. The panel includes myself,  Director of the International Dance Festival Avant Garde, Cristobal Ocaña, President Alcocer of Chocholá, the Governor of Merida, and other government Council Members.  What was supposed to be a 45 minute press conference lasts over 90 minutes. When they introduce me, they ask me to speak to the press and I do my best to speak in Spanish.  The moderator very sweetly saves me by saying, "No problemo you can speak in English. We have a translator!" After all the introductions by the panel members, the press seem more interested in asking me questions about my ETD Outreach program in NYC. They are very inquisitive about the 20 movememnt workshops a week we conduct which use dance as a healing modality and therapeutic outlet for self expression. ETD Outreach is specifically tailored for vulnerable populations in NYC who live in supportive housing sites and homeless shelters. As the press conference continues, I ask my dancers to come up on stage to introduce themselves.

Press conferences are always a nerve racking experience for me, especially in another language, but this one went very well and wrapped up with tons of photos! Hopefully it will help promote our show on Saturday and Sunday in Merida and the house will be full!! 

5:00 PM

We begin another set of triple back to back one-hour workshops with the same groups from the previous day. I think it's going better than yesterday because the kids are already more open and relaxed. It's a rewarding experience to see all the students having so much fun with us. They really seem to enjoy all of the modern dance exercises and improv games they learn from the company. To vary the exercises from yesterday we teach variations of the improv games. We move around the studio space pretending to be animals and make sounds likes monkeys, dogs, birds, giraffes etc. Then we continue working on our modern dance warm up and finish with a “mirroring game.” At this point the kids are really opening up; they're laughing and having a great time.

It seemed like the class ended too soon! Once we finished all of the girls asked for our autographs and we handed out some postcards for them. They were adorable! 

6:00 PM

The group of older women arrive next. I make up a new game to play with them instead of doing the animals - we use our voices to vocalize small gestures moving in and out of a circle. Within ten minutes, everyone is laughing and getting so creative - it's amazing. With the hour coming to a close, we work on refining the movements from the combination we taught yesterday.

They were so receptive of trying new things and stepping outside of their box. We were so impressed.  

7:00 PM

This class of kids are the ones who will be performing with us tomorrow so we have work to do! We have an hour and a half to warm them up quickly then teach them three minutes of choreography. The language barrier during this is always challenging. I let my dancers take the reins in this process. Even with all of us trying to teach, sometimes it's a struggle to convey complex choreographic phrases. Luckily the kids are so smart, they're willing to learn and help us through everything.

Within the time frame we were able to choreograph the entire piece and rehearse it a few times! My dancers were a huge help  and I couldn’t have done this without them! 

Once we finished up teaching our friends in Chochola they gave us some food to go and we headed back to Merida.

The company and I finished up our night sharing stories and a bottle of wine. It was a perfect end to a great day!

DAY 1 #MEXICOTOUR by Andrew Tran

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2017

8:00 AM

With all the traveling, I got a very restful and much needed good night's rest. In the morning, I meet Nicole for breakfast in the picturesque courtyard centered around a traditional style Spanish fountain and surrounded by grandiose Corinthian columns.  It's already very humid and the morning sun is displayed in its full glory. The breakfast graciously comes our stay and its an all you can eat buffet with an assortment of fresh fruits and native cuisine.  We sit and eat peacefully while planning out our first day. As with most small organizations, there's never really time to stop and take a breath. We unexpectedly had to deal with our ETD Outreach program back in NYC. Unfortunately, one of our biggest clients lost funding for their programs. Hopefully, they'll find the funding soon because the program was quite a success and beloved by the residents as well as the directors. 

10:30 AM

Cristobal picks Nicole, Jason, and me up at the hotel and drives us to the US Consulate to meet with the Director of Cultural Affairs to help promote the festival. We're greeted by a group of armed military security who have no idea why we're here. After a few back and forth phone calls on a security phone, a woman named Tricia comes out to escort us in. Tricia works for the Cultural Affairs department and graciously takes our information and press releases. She seems pleasantly surprised about our tour so I really hope she promotes the show. Afterwards, Cristobal takes us to the Merida English Library to continue the festival promotion. The Library is a very cute Spanish style building with only English books and DVD's. I assume they must have a lot of ex-pats and American snowbirds who live in Merida. We speak with a woman named Vivian who seems very receptive about our performance. I hope they're able to get the word out to the English speakers in the area!

12:00 PM

After our PR and marketing adventure we stop by the performance venue, Teatro Jose Peon Contreras, so our lighting designer, Jason, can finally meet their Technical Director and see the lighting plot in the massive, gorgeous theater. It always takes my breath away to be on that stage, looking out at the sea of seats underneath all five beautifully adorned balconies and murals painted on the rotunda above. While we we're looking around I have some great ideas about lifting up the upstage curtain for "Cycles," so that the raw rock of the back wall of the theater is exposed during the piece. I hope it works.  I also find the perfect Victorian love seat for Chaise Lung in the grand lobby of the theater. It would be absolutely perfect if we can use it on stage. 

2:30 PM

I'm chilling out in my hotel to the buzz of the A/C waiting for our van to drive us to Chocholá for lunch followed by our first three workshops which start at 5 PM. It's going to be a long day since we have to drive all the way back to Merida after the workshops in Chochola.

4:00 PM

We are greeted by the President of Chocholá and his wife. Back in New York we bought a few personalized ornaments and trinkets to give them, so we hand those out before we eat. They make us a delicious dinner and then we headed to the Casa de Cultura to begin teaching.

5:00 PM

Our first class arrives and rushes into the open air studio space. Twelve children under ten years old smile up at us as we begin to teach our company class. To try and keep them more engaged we stand in a circle with the company dispersed within them. We start with a few improv games to get them laughing and more comfortable. Then each company member takes turns teaching the assigned exercise. Before we came to Mexico, we translated all of the movements so we could speak in Spanish while we taught. It was so much easier to run the class than previous years because of this. After the ETD warm up, we do a few simple combinations and finish with the class with a short dance. The kids loved it! Once class was over we couldn't get them to leave! Our first class was a success! 

6:00 PM

Our second class is a smaller group of older women. Their ages vary but it seems to be as young as thirty and as old as seventy. We begin with the name game like the previous workshop and it really opens the women up. As we're all dancing and laughing, I feel this truly rewarding experience. The environment in Chocholá is warm and welcoming. Dance truly brings people together and breaks down language barriers. Following the games we do our same company class but modify it with some of the exercises to make them low impact. To finish, the women show us a traditional folkloric Mayan dance that involves balancing a pot on their heads! Their graceful movements were minimal and trance-like. They moved in intricate circles around the room to indigenous music. The women were so happy they got to show us part of their culture. All of us were amazed! 

7:00 PM

The last class arrives and we begin the company class. This group of kids are between the ages of 14 and 18. They are quick learners and very talented folkloric dancers. We buzz through the warm up and move quickly on to teach them the dance they will be performing with ETD on Friday. The piece is a fun jazzy number, around 3 minutes long to a Bassnectar remix of Nina Simone's, Feeling Good. There are about 20 kids so we have to work fast and efficiently. By the end of class at 8:30pm, they had already learned the base phrase for the piece!

8:30 PM

It's been a VERY long day and we head back to our hotel in Merida. The Company grabs a quick dinner and heads to bed. Ready for another day of dancing, teaching, and a special Press Conference!

DEPARTURE #MEXICOTOUR by Andrew Tran

NOVEMBER 14, 2017

9:00 AM

The cab arrives and I load two carry-on's and two huge suitcases of costumes. The cross-town traffic is moving at glacial speeds but fortunately the Dial 7 car driver is very talkative and inquisitive about the tour. He seems genuinely enthusiastic about the fact that I have my own company and I'm doing what I love. He said I'm living the American Dream, which humbled me greatly. He's lived here for 14 years and brought all his family over from India. I'm happy to have met such a joyful & peaceful spirit. 

9:55 AM

I make it to LGA, dreading customs but excited to meet up with Taylor, AJ, Chris and Alex. It's always great to see their forever young faces and even more so with the excitement to be going to Mexico. 

10:30 AM

AJ and I head to the Centurion lounge for some breakfast and chill time. 😎

12:00 PM

We're all waiting at the gate and of course, have to take our group "gate photo" before boarding the plane. Just three and a half hours until we're in Houstin where we'll meet up with Nicole for our final flight to Merida. Everyone seems like they're in a good mood and I'm rather calm and collected as opposed to my usual anxious self. I know it's partly from feeling a lot more centered and confident, but mostly it's because I know I have an awesome team and great dancers. Nicole and Andrew did a great job with all the preparations, scheduling, logistics. They created the company tour packets with all kinds of info for the dancers which includes our daily tour schedule, workshop outline (which Alex's mom kindly helped us translate in Spanish to a simpler version). Everything is much more organized this year thanks to Nicole. Andrew also went back and forth with Umbral designing the official poster and programs for a week or more.  The day before the tour, we ended up printing 200 programs and 50 posters to take with us. While judging Umbral's Spring dance competition, I had offered to the producers in a verbal agreement that I would take care of all the printing of posters and programs. It's been a challenging process going back and forth with all the details, especially with the language barriers - but its made it all that much more rewarding. Jorgé, who is Cristobal's (Producer) brother,  has been very communicative and helpful.

Unfortunately, our lighting designer J had to fly on his own 6AM flight directly to Mexico City and has a 5 hour  layover in Mexico City before his flight to Merida. He also has to wait 2 hours for us in Merida before we arrive at 8PM. I have to say the travel agency in Mexico who booked our company flights got us an awesome itinerary with convenient departure times and minimal layover time. 

3:30PM

We land in Houston and Houston we have a problem. Our flight to Merida is delayed by an hour on top of the hour layover we already have. On the bright side, Nicole finally met up with us and the time flew by rather quickly.  I had a brief reprieve in The Centurion Lounge which is always lovely, but I wish I was allowed to bring the whole company in... 

8:16PM

The captain just announced we're about 10 minutes until we begin our descent into Merida. Customs and immigration cards are all filled out.  I just can't wait to get to Mexico and see all of our friends. Our workshops begin tomorrow in Chocholá and I love that ETD is promoting the city because every time I ask about the town, nobody has ever heard of it before. 'Cho-cho-la' is a rural Mayan city where they actually still speak Mayan dialects and the culture is like walking back into time. It's a very unique experience. 

10:00PM

We land in Merida! An hour passes and we finally make through customs and immigration. 

We are greeted personally by Cristobal Ocaña and our driver for the week brought us to The Mision Merida Hotel instead of staying in Chocholá as I originally though. The hotel which is absolutely beautiful. The courtyard sports a gorgeous water fountain in an old grand Spanish mansion style architecture. We're ecstatic that we're staying in Merida the entire week and couldn't be happier. The dancers are happy and all is well! We made it! 

ETD Officially Back on Tour! #BUILDABRIDGE by Nicole Baker

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In a multi-purpose “give back” to the people of Mexico, ETD will return to the Mexican state of Yucatán from November 14 through November 20 with free, open to the public concerts, workshops for professional dancers, and Movement Expression Workshops for young victims of violence, mistreatment and abuse. The tour, in partnership with Umbral Danza Contemporánea, will visit two cities, Chocholá and Mérida, and conclude with performances on Nov. 18 and 19 at the International Dance Festival Avant Garde at Teatro José Peón Contreras in Mérida, Yucatán’s capital. This year, the Company has also been developing an international cultural exchange program directly with Umbral: #BuildABridge.

Being of Mexican decent myself, I have a deep connection to Mexico and family history that spans generations. It’s a special joy to offer the healing powers of movement to the most vulnerable minority groups in the Yucatán. It’s more important than ever to reach out to our global neighbors to spread cultural unity through movement.

The first city we visit on our tour is Chocholá, a city steeped in Mayan culture with little exposure to the outside world. It has an indigenous population still speaking the Mayan language! Chocholá’s population has been exposed only to native folkloric dance. Our visit will include dance workshops for local children, introducing them to contemporary music and modern dance technique. In addition, they will learn repertory from “Cycles,” a new ETD work that premiered in October at the company’s 2017 NYC Season. The dance students will be invited to perform for the company, and will also serve as “guest stars” at a local ETD performance. The Eryc Taylor Dance visit to Chocholá will conclude with presentation of the companies works at a free, outdoor concert at the town’s municipal palace, hosted by Chocholá’s mayor.

After four days in Chocholá, the company will travel to Mérida, Yucatán’s capital, to work with young residents of Refugio Casa Crisal AC, an orphanage for girls who were violated, mistreated, or abused. Using techniques culled from my programming with ETD Outreach Movement Workshops, my dancers will use movement as a tool to inspire and heal, while serving to improve the participants’ physical and mental health.

The Eryc Taylor Dance tour of the Yucatán will conclude with performances at the International Dance Festival Avant Garde at Teatro José Peón Contreras in Mérida, November 18 and 19. We are so grateful for this experience and cannot wait to touch ground in Mérida!