Reflections on a recent Really Real Dance Workshop

Community Programs Manager

On February 21, an incredible group assembled for a dance workshop, Process, Principles and Performance with the Dance Exchange and Wally Cardona. Dancers on foot and on wheels, young and old, professionals and non-professionals all joined together to meet Wally Cardona and hear about his project Really Real.

The workshop also offered the Festival an opportunity to bring two dance companies with different perspectives about art-making and performance together: the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, which created Radical Prayer for the 2008 Festival, and Wally Cardona's company which will premiere Really Real at the Festival this summer.

Wally Cardona and his company and Elizabeth Johnson and Meghan Bowden from the Dance Exchange co-led the workshop. Each company took responsibility for creating a series of "structures" for the group to try. Wally began the workshop by asking everyone in the group to walk around the room and say hello to everyone else in the room. Wally observed from the "audience" and discovered patterns and shapes that were made in space. Elizabeth and Meghan led the group through an exercise of creating movement based on the letters in our names. The simple exercise produced hundreds of original movements that were then used to create longer movement phrases.

Wally in particular expressed gratitude for having the rare opportunity to work closely with another group of artists. In an email after the event he remarked "Not only [did] the participants get to experience two unique approaches back to back, but the artists [did] as well. And we rarely come in such direct contact with another artistic process. It takes us out of our artistic bubble and lets us draw our own conclusions and re-evaluate what we do." Elizabeth agreed. In a response she wrote "I concur with Wally that [the workshop] was exceptional. Rare it is to have artists be able to share in this way."

This workshop highlighted for me how special the Festival really is. While we focus on presenting two weeks of world-class art, we are also working year-round to give artists opportunities to build and strengthen their work, and to give our community members total access to cutting-edge artists. The next few months will be challenging as we recruit more participants for Really Real, and see the piece take shape, but it is exhilarating to be a part of the process. And, I love the idea of continuing New Haven's tradition of being a place where great artistic work is premiered before it goes on to Broadway, or in this case the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Intrigued? I encourage you to buy tickets for Really Real or contact me at if you'd like to perform in the piece. (No dance experience is required)