It’s easy to tell yourself, “I need to take more risks, I should step out of my comfort zone.” And sure, most of us try to, but rarely are we in environments where we feel safe and free enough to step out of our comfort zone and not judge ourselves. The evening of the audition for the Beyond Workshop Series, I already got the sense that this program will truly bring the best out of people. It was a room full of focused, hungry artists and knowledgable, empathetic, arts educators.
Getting the acceptance email was thrilling. So badly was I craving training, but with lack of financial stability it’s difficult to set aside money for it, important as it may be. This was my opportunity to focus, grow, learn, and begin an introduction into two new forms of training.
These two weeks brought together twenty-four artists, mostly from the Latiné community, to rigorously train and learn from highly skilled educators. And I have to say, this was my first time ever being in an environment where I got to speak about Art in Spanish. Being that some of the ensemble members came from outside of the States, it was important that we translated from English to Spanish what was being said. It was healing to me, two of the things I cherish and value brought together. This industry and it’s training programs can be so isolating. It’s rare that one is in a training atmosphere with fellow POC’s where we all speak the same language in terms of inclusion and survival. It truly added another layer of understanding.
This year’s theme was Movement. BWS featured Suzuki and Viewpoints training which were both methods that I had a strong desire to explore. Every single person who was brought in to teach and work with us at BWS was incredibly gifted. Plus, another element that I was excited to grow from was the fact that I was probably one of the less experienced dancers in the room. I consider myself an actor first. I have rhythm and am a mover but these ensemble members were incredibly gifted dancers! And it was so exciting to know that I would get to challenge myself this way.
The first week with Leon Ingulsrud, we began to understand the strength and discipline required for Suzuki and Viewpoints. First of all, the physical strength one needs for this work is next-level, it honestly felt so good to access my muscles through positions I rarely am in. Secondly, I was having a tough time being present because of how badly I wanted to “be good” at it. I was in the classic classroom/student mentality where I desired the approval of my teachers. And of course, no teacher made comments to me about my work ethic, and for the first time I was GRATEFUL. I began to let my guard down and realize that no one is here in this program to get the lead in the musical or be the star, it was about TRAINING. It was about building an ensemble and growing together.
By the second week, when Ellen Lauren took over teaching Suzuki and Viewpoints I was feeling so invigorated by the work because I was letting my work be about the work. The training was naturally informing my impulses and sharpening my instincts. Outside of the workshop, I was seeing how in rehearsals every night (for a play apart from BWS), the Suzuki and Viewpoints training was making my work richer, deeper, and more exciting.
I was used to Conservatory settings where as much as I was part of a company there was still that competitive edge. By dropping the competitive nature, I was gifted with the understanding that by becoming a more receptive, focused, and giving ensemble member, I become a better leader.
Along with our time in classes with Luis, Justin, and all the incredible artists BWS brought in, we as an ensemble began to have a vocabulary and understanding that we could use while working together. It unified us and when we tapped in we truly would move and create as a unit.
The last few days of the workshop were extremely cathartic and are incredibly vivid in my memory. The Suzuki training was so strict and getting deeper every day. I am so aware of the fact that I had barely scratched the surface of the Suzuki and Viewpoints training but even the surface was eye-opening. I was becoming addicted to the feeling of the structure combined with the creativity and freedom.
Luis also brought so many elements of what we had been learning in these two weeks and would incorporate it whenever he would work with us. Luis has strong values he upholds and it’s clear that he surrounds himself with individuals who also share the same values. He is such a delight. He incorporated the ability to form stories with gestures and shapes into his classes and added it into the musical numbers we had been working on. He encourages the honesty that comes from bringing yourself to the room, to the character, to the stage and allows the imagination and personal experience to inform. I was all about that, I’d been trained by abusive teachers in the past who are obsessed with picking at old wounds just to get a decent performance. The honesty and freedom we were gifted brought us to the places we needed to get to to tell these stories. The second to last day of the workshop, after performing a song called “Shadowland” the majority of us were in tears – we had felt the divine spark of what it means to tell a story together individually.
The Show and Tell was special. All of us dressed in black. We demonstrated to a loving and generous audience a class structured presentation of what he had been working on. It was filled with song, dance, text, movement, physical improvisation, and more. I could not believe all of the new vocabulary and trust built in a matter of two weeks. I saw fellow ensemble members have breakthroughs. It was an honor to learn and grow alongside this new formed community. When you build an environment that is based on growth, art, ensemble, and giving back it will without a doubt touch the community. R.Evolucion Latina does just that!
By Rebecca Girija Jimenez