At Night, We Go Inside to Sleep

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).

all at once everything shifts, slowly. 
by Jessica de Leon

The process of dance-making for fcdc always begins with an idea, if you can even call it that. Often, it’s amorphous; a feeling or experience one of our collaborators has been contemplating. As we begin to discuss and flesh out this vague, undefined concept, more often than not we discover a universality about it. We may not all relate to or even define the idea in the same way, but we inevitably are able to draw inspiration from it. And the process changes and evolves with each project we tackle. This summer, with a seasoned group of collaborators, we embarked on an exploration of survival.

I hear sirens.
Can anyone see me?
I am no stranger to death.
This will be what defines me.
I survived.

The concept of survival is instinctual, primal. We do whatever it takes to continue existing; fighting against all odds and bearing the unbearable. But how are we changed by the experience?

The concept of survival is something that Claire has been thinking about since her first trip to Nicaragua in 2009. Welcomed into the homes of a community that was displaced by Hurricane Mitch, and re-built from the ground up, Claire found the stories of survival, resilience, and compassion towards each other inspiring.

Since then, Claire has been compelled to dig deeper into thinking about how humans use community to overcome adversity. I joined Claire on her third trip to Nicaragua this past spring to work with our friend Katie Fitzgerald, who is the founder of Teatro Catalina, a program that teaches theater and builds community in the rural village of Villa Catalina near Chinandega. On this trip, I had the privilege of bearing witness to that community of people who managed not only to survive tragedy but who learned to thrive and find hope, even in the worst of circumstances.

Armed with the idea of “survival”, Claire engaged the seven fcdc collaborators involved in this project in numerous discussions. We shared stories, abstract discussions of “survivor”  characters, and listened to each other’s definitions of what it means to survive. We let all of that inspire movement explorations. We created poetry. Some of us simply wrote down what we’ve personally survived.

And that is where our signature “democratic dance-making” process began. With a wealth of movement and text to draw from, we worked collaboratively to start piecing bits together.  Carefully layering and massaging and weaving together our survival stories. Sometimes they were dissonant. Other times, poignantly similar. The structure of this piece is admittedly unconventional and is the result of letting the subject matter dictate everything from the movement to the partnerships to the timing.

all at once everything shifts, slowly. is the first iteration of fcdc’s exploration of this subject matter. We are looking forward to the continued work of sifting through this material over the next year, letting it grow and transform. This is just the beginning of a larger project but we are excited to share the beginning stages of this journey with an audience on September 18 at 8:00pm at Z Space as a part of the 25th Anniversary of the West Wave Dance Festival, produced by SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts.

Beneath the Stories We Wear, by Claire Calalo

January 11, 2016

The first day of rehearsal at the beginning of a new project is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. For me, it’s the equivalent of the writer’s blank page (or perhaps an empty Word doc these days) because I usually don’t prepare anything before walking into the room. No music…no steps…no counts. Usually not even a solid idea about where the rehearsal will take us.

I would venture a guess that some dancers might hate working with me because of this fact. And I don’t want you to get the wrong impression–it’s not that I’m unprepared or lazy. What happens during the first rehearsal of a new piece is incredibly sacred to me, because the room of dance artists whom I know, trust, and respect becomes an incubator for the growth of inklings, the proliferation of inquiries, and the exploration of impulses. We begin by asking each other the simplest of questions, “How are you?” and follow that with, “What is on your mind?”.

From here, we discover together the questions that have been simmering for each of us, and how those questions resonate with each other or create discord. Where do the worldviews of these 10 individuals–in this room, at this moment–collide, intersect, change, or resonate with each other? What rises to the surface of our conversation and compels us to deepen our understanding through explorations in movement, sound, and storytelling?

The fcdc dance making process asks a lot of the artists who constitute the collective. As the founder and Artistic Director, I come into rehearsal with no counts but many expectations. I expect each collaborator to tell me about their personal life. I expect each collaborator to open up artistically and expose the sensitive, raw, and vulnerable aspects of their humanity. I expect each collaborator to invent movement passages, to speak words with true, personal meaning, and to critically evaluate the work we create together.

We wear many different hats at fcdc. We act simultaneously as dancers, choreographers, storytellers, designers, friends, collaborators , and people. And that last bit is the most important part, and our most valuable individual contribution. The many and varied hats we wear reflect where we come from, what we’ve been through, what our family histories are, what we do: for a living, to give us life, or to push us forward–and so much more.

I am struck by the idea of the costumes that we wear, the many stories that we embody, and the ways that we adorn and prepare ourselves for public life. For Beneath the Stories We Wear, we asked ourselves: how many hats do we wear in a single day? How about in a lifetime? How do the hats we wear both define us and constrain us? And what presumptions do we consciously and subconsciously make about others based on the hats they wear?

“It doesn’t fit…it’s getting tighter. It prevents you from looking up.
I’ve always admired a woman who can wear a hat.
I am not that woman, I am a kayak.
I am an impostor in a hat.”
(Beneath the Stories We Wear, 2015)

As we approach our second annual home season, with all of the experiences of our first home season and the last 6 years of collective dance making behind us, we look to our audiences, our supporters, and our wider community to find out how we can better connect with you. How can we engage you in our creative process and in the presentation that we finally make to you? As we invite you to witness what we’ve made, how can we also include you and your many stories, and invite you into our inquiry as we quest (as ever) for change?

Lessons Learned from Tables Turned, by Samantha Nielsen

November 24, 2015

It’s a strange and rare occurrence to sit in the audience, about to watch your own dance company perform. But four weeks ago that’s exactly where I found myself, squirming uncomfortably in the third row of the Levy Dance Salon, where for change dance collective had been invited to perform along with many other seasoned artists. I felt as though I didn’t know exactly what to do with myself, out of place on the wrong side of the stage. I was jealous of the performers that got to share their passion in front of all of us, and I was feeling left out seeing all of my good friends and fellow company members getting ready to perform.

The circumstances in which I found myself in the third row also caused me to fall even deeper into my pity party. I had recently dealt with some health issues and spent the week prior in and out of emergency rooms and urgent cares, both abroad and in the US. As in all stressful or emotional situations in my life, dance was what I wanted and needed to turn to, but that was the one thing I felt unable to do in that moment. Don’t worry though, as in all good stories, there is a happy ending.

It was just a few minutes into sitting in that third row, and witnessing people sharing their craft, their emotions and their passion that I was able to find that dance therapy that I so needed. I was reminded of a lesson that I’ve learned over and over again, that dance can be a healer and a catharsis for anyone touched by it, whether it be the performer, the choreographer or the viewer. I realized I was lucky to be able to watch people I love doing what they love. It reiterated to me what for change dance collective as a company is all about. We’ve always existed under the belief that dance can create and inspire change in a community. And I got to witness that first hand, and felt the change come over me, as an audience member.

This experience completely re-sparked my passion and dedication to what fcdc is doing. Our rehearsal process is also the perfect platform to explore my new found inspiration, allowing everyone a chance to be heard and to express themselves in the dance. We focus on the principle that everyone can and should bring something of their own to what we’re creating, to ultimately be able to dance it and feel it as their own truth. I’m loving creating dance, knowing that people could watch something I’ve contributed to and genuinely feel something in themselves.

Sometimes you need to take a step back, or sit in the audience, to be reminded of the power of what you love. This was a feeling I got to bask in fully during our latest performance at Works in the Works just last weekend. The beauty of this performance series is that you’re seeing pieces in various stages of creation and completion. There is a feedback session at the end where you can hear people’s thoughts on your piece and give your thoughts on theirs. This was my third year performing with fcdc in this show, but no one year is like the last. This year I got to bring with me a whole new set of insights, experiences and outlooks. I loved getting to actually hear exactly in what way our dance moved the people watching it. I got to hear about the power our ten minutes of art had on someone, how we were a part of creating change.

So my hope is, through learning this lesson again, and sharing it, that I can help remind someone like me of the power of art. That I can remind you that whether you are a creator or an appreciator, you are a part of the change. And maybe we’ll even see your face at one of our shows one day, and get the opportunity to inspire a change in you!

a perspective on our process, by Rosie Ortega

September 29, 2015

Summer is winding down, the sun is setting earlier each day, and Karl the fog creeps back into the city by the bay. As one season ends another begins, that is the fcdc 2015-2016 dance season! We are back in rehearsal and excited for what lies ahead in the coming months. After a very successful inaugural home season last year, we are excited to regroup, reconnect and continue our mission of dancing for change.This idea of change is one of the constants of fcdc, not only as our company evolves from season to season, but also as we strive to bring change in the realms of social justice and equality using our collective artistic vision to propel that forward. Many of our past performance themes have focused on personal, emotional concepts that although are unique to each member of fcdc, they are also what bond us as a company.

Reflecting on the past 2 seasons I have been a part of fcdc, I have been lucky enough to watch the company flourish and progress. Although it is gratifying to complete a piece and perform for an audience, the rehearsal process leading up to those moments are the hours where I not only love to choreograph and explore new movement, but I also love to watch my fellow dancers’ artistic processes. Rehearsal is the place where the choreographic magic begins. Each dancer brings his or her own unique flair from week to week, building and collaborating as a collective to create something new.

In our last few rehearsals, we have started exploring our next project. WIthout giving away too many details, we have decided to emphasize storytelling and the many stories each of us bring to the table not only as performers and artists, but also as human beings. When we really stop and listen to more than one story, it enables us to grow and understand concepts that may have previously been foreign. I hope to hear more stories in the next weeks and months both in rehearsal and outside, and in turn use those stories to shape and guide the artistic process we practice as we prepare for the next exciting season.

January 2015 update, by fcdc collaborator Jessica de Leon

January 8, 2015

For fcdc, 2014 was a year of growth: wonderful new dancers joined our ranks, we collaborated with other talented artists and musicians, and we had the opportunity to work on a handful of meaningful projects. It was a great year filled with a renewed commitment to our mission statement. And 2015 is panning out to be even greater! We are so excited to continue work on a new piece that will premiere at our first home season at 8th Street Studios in Berkeley, February 28 and March 1.

The piece is centered around the idea that the breakage of an object can become part of its history, instead of something to be ashamed of or to hide. This theory is embodied in the ancient Japanese craft of Kintsugi. Meaning “golden rejoining,” Kintsugi takes fine ceramics that have been broken and repairs them with a lacquer resin dusted with gold or silver. The restored object is then more valuable and more beautiful than it was before.

Our collective curiosity in this topic came out of group discussions about forgiveness, expectations, brokenness, and lost causes. I am thrilled that our new company members get the opportunity to start a project with fcdc from the very beginning. Everyone has provided such wonderful, thoughtful contributions to our discussions. The democratic creative process that fcdc employs is unique and part of the reason I love working with this company. Lindsay Wakayama, a dancer that joined us this year, believes that the company and the work “benefits from listening to everyone’s opinions.” Because we are all able to contribute to the life and creation of a piece, each performer feels a sense of ownership. I feel this is especially true about this new work. Savannah Foltz-Colhour, one of our newest members, commented that our process has been “rewarding and makes the movement seem even more relatable.” Savannah says she looks forward to what will come from each rehearsal, and I can’t agree more.

The ideas we’re exploring are big and ripe with potential, both physically and intellectually. But the movement that we’ve generated is very exciting to me. Every week at rehearsal, I’m in awe of how willing each person is to be truthful, vulnerable, and open to sharing their experiences. Rosie Ortega, who has been dancing with us for about a year, said that despite the challenges of our theme, she feels like she has “a strong support system” in the people with whom she makes art. For me, one of the most rewarding parts of starting a new piece with fcdc is discovering new things about the people I dance with. Another new member, Maylise Urrutia, added, “the greater the relationship we have with each other, the more our dance language can really speak to viewers”.

I’m nervous, excited, and curious to share this new work with an audience, and looking forward to our very first home season with this very special piece.

Music video: “I will screaming wake”

April 1, 2014

fcdc teamed up with Molly Murphy of a million creatures to create a music video for “I will screaming wake” and these are some screen shots and stills taken by Molly and our resident photographer (and In-N-Out fetcher) Douglas Berry. It was an incredible day, we found this site while driving around on the Peninsula, and we dubbed it “The Graffiti Graveyard”.

Tires, slanted walls, concrete slabs, chain link fences…it’s like the environment was intelligently designed for movement improvisation! We loved Molly’s song, but hadn’t moved to it much before, so we just played around while she played her acoustic guitar, and the afternoon was sublime. We can’t wait for our next project together.


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