Moving with Velocity: Former BODYTRAFFIC Co-Director launches exciting new project

Dancers from left to right- Chase Buntrock, Noelle Kayser, Gabrielle Sprauve, image taken by Michelle Reid

by Olivia Wood for The Dance Journal

“Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” Artists across the country, and indeed, across the world, have echoed Victor Hugo’s iconic words. Since the start of the global pandemic, dancers suddenly found themselves out of work, out of space, and out of opportunities to hone their craft. Facing unemployment and identity crises, dance artists, myself included, have desperately searched for a place where they can feel like true professionals again. They need to look no further than HAVEN Global Sanctuary for Dance, created in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Established by Lillian Barbeito, Co-Founder and former Co-Director of LA’s renowned company, BODYTRAFFIC, HAVEN offers something unique to the dance community: online choreographic and performative mentorships. Each three-week term focuses on choreographers providing an in-depth glance at their movement styles and artistic processes. At the end of the term, mentees have a performance opportunity (such as creating a dance film) and receive individualized feedback from the more seasoned mentors.

For example, in September, Ching Ching Wong, named in 2017 one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch and winner of The Princess Grace Award, adapted choreography by Isan Rustem to create site-specific solos for the mentees. This month focuses on Stephanie Martinez, artistic director of the newly formed Chicago company, Para.Mar Dance Theater, and her superb group of dancers. I was graciously invited to take an excitingly rigorous contemporary class with Para.Mar’s Chris Bloom followed by an open forum with the company, during which we discussed the kinds of changes we would like to see in the dance world. The conversation settled particularly on dancers’ mental health, a critical issue during the pandemic. I am beyond grateful to have participated in the class and talk-back; the experience left me with a strong sense of community, connecting beyond the superficial with other artists.

Cultivating collaborations and giving back to the artistic community is, by and large, HAVEN’s core purpose. To welcome more dancers into the fold, the organization has already given $31,000 worth of full and partial scholarships to mentees in need of financial aid. Barbeito also seeks to foster diversity by providing artistic opportunities to marginalized groups of dancers. For instance, The Wisdom Project provided performance opportunities for dancers 40+ to combat ageism in this field.

Disturbed by George Floyd’s death and inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, Barbeito sought ways to celebrate artists of color. “…things are born through conversation,” Barbeito enthusiastically explained of HAVEN’s methods of inspiring and producing new creations. A conversation with her web designer, Rachel Walton, led her to meet dance activist Brianna Mims and dancer Austyn Rich. They organized a mentorship and hosted a symposium featuring 5 dance makers of color through these conversations. From a different conversation with a mentee, the Pronoun Dance Festival emerged. Set to launch in March, this festival will celebrate queer and trans dance makers, performers, and teachers. The organization will inaugurate a hybrid fundraiser, Dance-a-thon, during which dancers can participate in online and in-person classes, improv jams, and performances every 45 minutes. The money raised will be used to pay the performers and fund future projects.

Mentees are already enthusiastically requesting that programs be offered again. The first program to run again is the wildly successful Choreographic Mentorship program, spearheaded by David Maurice and Guggenheim Fellow/Stanford Professor Alex Ketley. Round two will occur from February 21 through April 17, with applications due on January 31.

The future that Barbeito envisions for the dance community and HAVEN is optimistic. She hopes to “…keep this sense of oneness, equity, and inclusion.” When the pandemic ends, the organization will continue with a hybrid format, offering in-person and virtual classes and mentorship programs to reach dancers worldwide, thereby inspiring further and more diverse collaborations.

To apply and register or for more information visit https://www.thehaven.dance/

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