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.

A blog post 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. Joining 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. 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.

2016 Spring/Summer Fundraiser nears it’s goal!

Facebook Post (1)

Thanks to our incredible community of supporters, we are so close to our goal of raising $3,000 by August 1st that we can almost taste it! With the help of just a few more generous friends, family members, fellow dance community folks, and art lovers, we will be able to fund our upcoming dance season.

Wonder where your money goes? Here’s where we propose to use these funds:

Dancers’ salaries: $900
Performance venue rental fees: $850
Composer fees: $850
Costumes & production costs: $250
Marketing/Publicity: $150

Join our community of supporters today!

Go to and choose “for change dance collective” from the dropdown menu.


Every contribution is huge to us. We can’t thank you enough.

Announcing our first summer workshop for teens!

Are you interested in learning more about choreography, improvisation, and how to make dances that can inspire positive transformation in the world around you? Do you have a story to tell?

We are excited to introduce for change dance collective’s pilot summer workshop program for intermediate/advanced dancers ages 13-18: youth CHANGE project



youth CHANGE project


Young artists will learn how to create new movement, work collaboratively with fellow dancers, and turn their thoughts, opinions, and stories into tangible performance pieces that speak to the human experience. Students will participate in modern dance technique classes with fcdc Artistic Director Claire Calalo, as well as learn repertory from fcdc company members, form lasting bonds with fellow dancers, and experience firsthand the uniquely democratic approach to dance-making used by fcdc. Future performance opportunities may be extended to workshop participants.

Join us this summer to discover out how DANCE can create CHANGE!


August 7th, 14th & 21st, from 11am-3pm
Western Sky Studio
2525 Eighth Street, #13A
Berkeley, CA 94710

$60/day, or $110/2 days, or $150/3 days
Space is limited to 10 students per workshop day.
Register here to reserve your spot!

Sample Schedule:
11am – Modern dance technique class & fcdc repertory
12pm – Generating New Movement, composition master class
1pm – Lunch & Creative Conversations
1:30pm – Dancing Our Stories, choreography workshop