WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2017
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!