In a small village outside of Chinandega, Nicaragua, there is a one-room cinderblock house painted lime green, where the soft-spoken Dona Catalina lives with her husband and 5 children. The kitchen fire burns all day-long, as she cooks for her family, her neighbors, and the American visitors that frequent her backyard. Sitting under the large tree, feet dipped into the plastic kiddie pool she has proudly filled with cool water to provide respite from 100 degree heat, she tells her story. How she came to live here, how her family survived the hurricane that destroyed her home, how they lived in a champa made of scrap tin for almost three years while laboring in this same heat to build all fifty houses in their village. She offers her chair, her cooking, and her home to strangers, and gives so much despite having so little material wealth to give. And this is just one of many similar stories of the people of this community, Villa Catalina.
This October, for change dance collective (fcdc) will present their 2018 Home Season, “At Night, We Go Inside to Sleep,” at Dance Mission Theatre in San Francisco. This world premiere is an evening-length dance theatre work inspired by stories of survival, resilience, and compassionate power found in a rural village in Nicaragua called Villa Catalina.
The families that live in Villa Catalina built their community together from the ground up after Hurricane Mitch devastated a small agricultural community in Nicaragua in 1998. Twenty years later, the children of Villa Catalina are fighting to break out of cycles of poverty and dreaming of creating a new reality for themselves and their community.
This project started as the ambiguously named “The Nicaragua Project.” Its beginnings can be traced back to a few college kids sharing ideas in a class at Santa Clara University in 2008. The course “Social Justice in the Arts,” sparked the idea of using art to create change, particularly for Claire Calalo Berry and Katie Fitzgerald. After college, Katie moved to Nicaragua to start what is now Teatro Catalina, a youth-theatre program founded on the premise that theatre creates space for dreams and dreams create hope for the future. On Claire’s first trip to Nicaragua to work with Teatro Catalina, the stories shared by the residents of Villa Catalina resonated deeply with Claire.
Claire began fcdc in 2010 and as its Artistic Director immediately began talking about the company members about working with Teatro Catalina on a long term project. Over the years, fcdc has grown and so has this dream. In the time fcdc has been able to spend with the Nicaraguan people in this tiny village over a span of the last eight years, we are struck boldly by the generosity, compassion, and fierce determination of the community in the face of cycles of poverty, natural disaster, and violence.
fcdc began working full-time on this project two years ago. As is the case with all fcdc repertory, they worked collaboratively to develop choreography. They enlisted the talents of composer Nick Benevides to be the project’s Musical Director and eventually workshopping sections and soliciting feedback. An ever-evolving idea, “The Nicaragua Project” will find its fruition in fcdc’s 2018 home season performance “At Night, We Go Inside to Sleep.”
“We are thrilled to be creating art around these stories. With the political and social unrest in Nicaragua right now, this work is even more relevant,” said Claire Calalo Berry. “We’ve found connections between their stories and our own. It’s personal for us. fcdc’s governing philosophy is democracy; it’s only right that we stand with our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters as they fight for their own democracy.” In April, mere weeks after the company’s last visit, protests about social security reforms began, quickly escalating into violent demonstrations about even larger issues of corruption, free speech, and true democracy.
“At Night, We Go Inside to Sleep” explores the ways in which people’s lives are differentiated by who they are in the daytime and what they can become in their dreams. In a liminal space between fighting to survive and imagining a world of their own creation, how does one find compassion and repose? And how can individuals tap into the wisdom of their communities, ancestors, and traditions to find spiritual guidance?
Using spoken text generated by members of fcdc and their collaborators, full-bodied technical choreography, gestural phrases, and guided movement improvisation set to recorded music as well as original compositions performed live, this multifaceted dance theater work encourages the audience to draw their own personal connections to the stories being shared.
Having self-produced two prior Home Seasons, this is the largest-scale production fcdc has undertaken. Executive Director, Jessica de Leon, notes, “We are fortunate to have a strong group of financial supporters who have helped us produce our work up to this point.” To support all the artists involved in this show, the company has launched its first crowdfunding campaign through the GoFundMe platform. “We decided to do a crowdfund this season because we really believe in this project.” de Leon, who has been involved with fcdc since its inception, comments on the timing of the campaign, “There is a universality to this piece and we thought this would we a great opportunity to try and expand our network and seek support from people outside of our close circle.” The company was thrilled to reach its goal, but continues to welcome donations.
“We’ve all invested so much of ourselves into this work,” shares Calalo Berry. “Every performer in this piece displays so much vulnerability. Many times, our dreams are secret wishes that we don’t share with anyone for fear of them not coming true. And that’s what makes this so universal: we all have an idea of who we wish to be.” The political unrest in Nicaragua informs us of the dreams of an entire nation. They are fighting for their dreams.
Osmar Narvaez, a Nicaraguan performance artist with Teatro Catalina, will travel to San Francisco to perform and Nicaraguan composer Andres Martinez and American composer Nick Benavides will collaborate with fcdc in the writing of new music for this work. Live music will be performed by Stephanie Valadez (Stephanie Webster Carcaño) is a Mexican-American musician based in Mexico City, Mexico and SopraDuo who is comprised of Alexandra Iranfar (guitar and soprano) and Timothy Sherren (guitar).