Stefanie Weber and Jojo McDonald tap dance for rain (money, money, money). We seek the humble investment of our community for our January 2015 residency in Nairobi, Kenya and for sustaining our visionary project, They Dance For Rain. https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=9160
Conversation includes project photographer Monika Pizzichemi.
Background music: The O'Jays, For The Love Of Money
Camera + Money throwing: Monika Pizzichemi
Intro Choreographic footnotes: Levaughn Robinson
Thank you Barbara Bonner for your book "Inspiring Generosity"
It’s finally here!
Listen to my conversation with Nairobi Dance Ensemble choreographer, Susan Ateyu and her partner drummer/percussionist Kaboge Chagala recorded in their home in Nairobi, Kenya on January 23, 2014. This episode is produced in part by THEY DANCE FOR RAIN, a dance-making project in Nairobi, Kenya.
Go to the podcast page to learn more about my intentions to utilize it to unify through dialogue and conversation and to celebrate the creative process in all of its mystery and wonder.
“I could make music with my shoes and I could even improvise; I was actually saying things in ways that I never could with words. For this reason I think teaching tap is so important; anyone who can get tap shoes, or even tape coins to their shoes, can express a part of themselves that may have been suppressed.” –Jojo McDonald, They Dance For Rain
Arts education has been an extremely important part of my life, both as a student and as a teacher, and I’m excited to continue that with They Dance for Rain. As a child, some of the most positive influences I had were from arts programs––predominantly, acting at Shakespeare and Company and tap dancing with Stefanie Weber.
Acting camp was one of my favorite experiences growing up, and in the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to return as a teacher. Being an educator there was more challenging and more rewarding than I could have predicted, and it taught me that even when the work was extremely taxing and exhausting, it was still something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. I think it’s so vital to give kids a space where they can feel like they’re good at something; a space where their voice is heard and their opinions about their own work matter. When I was young, it gave me so much confidence and happiness to be in that space, and I firmly believe that we need to give this experience to all children if we want to live in a society with competent, happy, and responsible citizens.
Before my summer of teaching at Shakespeare and Company, I also had a brief opportunity to help teach tap dance with Stefanie. Stefanie works with a program called CATA, Community Access to the Arts, which teaches various art forms to people with disabilities and aids in developing their artistry. The first time I went with Stefanie to assist in teaching the class, we were both in her car and she was preparing me for what to expect. I remember she told me, “the thing to know about this group of people is that they’re just people. Just talk to them like you would anyone else.” That simple piece of advice, as well as watching the example she set in the classroom, has been more helpful to me than she knows. I was sixteen at the time and was so afraid to interact with a population of people who seemed so differently abled than me––how much do they understand? Do I have to simplify my speech when talking to them? What if I say something offensive? What is and isn’t offensive? I felt I had to tiptoe around them because of their disabilities, but once I saw Stefanie laughing with them and calling them out on their quirky actions, I could feel my muscles relax. I thought I had to give them special treatment, that I had to try extra hard to not hurt their feelings, but that only would’ve put up a barrier between me and everyone else in the room. Stefanie is a model for me in terms of how to teach people who are different from me, and going with her to teach in Kenya will help me immensely as I strive to be a better teacher and person.
Aside from the importance I place on arts education in general, I find tap dance specifically to be an important creative outlet for all people. When I first started to take tap lessons, I was immediately drawn in a way that I hadn’t been with other forms of dance, or really any activity that I had learned until that point. Everything else––be it basketball, clarinet, or Irish step dance––looked like it would be fun if I got good at it, but the road to getting good at it was paved with boring technical exercises. I wanted to fast forward to the part where I could do it fluidly and professionally instead of learning one note or one step at a time. But with tap dance, it was fun even at the beginning; I already felt like I could do it. I could express myself musically and physically in ways that I couldn’t do with ballet or clarinet, due to my lack of self-discipline and talent. I could make music with my shoes and I could even improvise; I was actually saying things in ways that I never could with words. For this reason I think teaching tap is so important; anyone who can get tap shoes, or even tape coins to their shoes, can express a part of themselves that may have been suppressed. Tap dance gives a connection to other people musically, a way to communicate without words, and a way to feel good at something. This sense of confidence is so important for everyone.