Dear SBDP friends, family and fans,
This March newsletter was supposed to include a report of my trip to Nebraska with photos of thousands of Sandhill Cranes and a video of me dancing in the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. I was planning to tell you how great it was to perform excerpts from Un-Changing Nature and lead workshops at the Palo Alto Art Center’s Arbor Day Festival. The letter would have included a very glamorous photo of the cast and musicians of Spirit & Bones in front of the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards backdrop, and I would have described what it’s like to be rehearsing with dancers at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
But none of those things happened.
Because of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, none of us is having the 2020 we had envisioned. In this time of uncertainty, I’m reminding myself of the lessons I’ve learned from bird watching. After much trial and error and advice from Audubon California staff member, Molly Tsongas, I learned these things: Slow down. Be still. Be quiet. Be present. Be thoughtful. Step back. Step aside. Consider the well-being of the whole of this environment. Let go of your own agenda and be open to what this unique moment holds.
In this time, we are learning to adapt.
Instead of traveling, I tune in to the Audubon Rowe Sanctuary live Crane Cam and dig deeper into the treasure trove of information about Willa Cather in the virtual tour of Red Cloud. With studios closed, teachers are providing online instruction designed for dancing in small spaces. With work-from-home schedules and non-existing commutes, my friends in Canada can now try my hip hop class and send me videos of the whole family grapevining in the kitchen.
Instead of gathering at the Brava Theater with the Bay Area dance community on Monday night, the dancers and musicians of Spirit & Bones gathered in little Zoom rectangles to toast to their Isadora Duncan Dance Awards nominations. And, though we couldn’t hug or high five each other or squeeze in close for a commemorative photo, we did get dressed up, make themed mock/cocktails, pick entrance songs and celebrate one another.
And, something else happened. We talked. We weren’t in a loud crowded public place, we weren’t engaged in any show or activity. One person bravely took the first step and opened up about how they are really doing. There we were, peeling away the public personas and asking to be seen and known for more of who we are.
Maybe this time of spatial distancing could actually lend itself to social deepening.
Where do we go from here?
Sarah Bush Dance Project is grateful for our year-long residency with Richardson Bay Audubon Center, though it won’t look as we had imagined. We are adapting. We are exploring new ways to learn and create together, staying open to new possibilities in these shifting times, and we are still committed to creating a 2020 season of dance.
The dancers and I are currently trying a new work-from-home process. We start the week with a check-in and discussion of relevant topics. Molly Tsongas, our awesome Audubon California contact, joins us for bird questions. From this we decide on a prompt and assignment for the week. We each do a bird-sit and create movement in our own neighborhoods, then “gather” at the end of the week to develop the material as a group, either in video chats or (when it feels ok to do so) outside with a 6 foot distance between us.
Our belief that dance and creativity provide value to the spirit of individuals and community has not changed. We want you, our friends, family, supporters, to know we are expanding our minds and imaginations to keep innovating in our field. Asking questions like, How do we dance at a distance? How do we use movement to process all the emotions of this time? How do we use our skills and resources to give you, our audience, some of what you need?
SBDP’s spring and summer concert gigs and workshops have been canceled but our creativity, community-building, art-making and partnerships have not. SBDP is committed to providing paid work to our dancers, who have not only lost income from canceled performances and teaching opportunities, but who have also lost their secondary jobs as waitstaff and other hourly workers.
To help make this possible, the generous folks at Meriama Fund have offered to match donations that come in over the next 2 months. I know these are uncertain times, financially insecure times. If you have the ability to give, please give what you can, when you can, to help support working artists as we meet this unique moment, and the next, and the next.
On one of my early tours of the Richardson Bay property, Haymar Lim, RBACS Community Engagement Coordinator said, “When we protect the health of the environment for birds, we protect it for the health of all living creatures.” Because of the global novel coronavirus pandemic, we are moving through our days with a heightened consciousness of how our actions impact other people. We are called to protect the environment for each other, for small business, for workers, for artists. We are changing our individual behaviors for the health of the collective, and it is inspiring.
We’re all in this together. 🕊
May you be well!
Much love 💕
The longer I am still and quiet, the more the canopy of Oak leaves above me stirs and animates — the leaves turning into birds.
We have a matching grant from now until the end of May! If you have the ability to give, please give what you can, when you can, to help support working artists as we meet this unique moment.