Catching Up, Branching Out

This photo, taken by Bronx resident Charles Berenguer on a June walk, shows the flow of water from a nearby fire hydrant as it carries trash from the street to the storm water drain.

By Paloma McGregor

So much has happened in the past couple weeks, this will be like a news briefs column with several entries.
Everyone Loves a Parade
In 2005, my first summer in New York, I joined a couple dozen people who marched in the Hunt’s Point Fish Parade. I was there because I was project manager of INSPIRIT dance company’s Project: BECOMING, a pilot coming-of-age program for girls that now has national reach. It was a small, unpretentious affair without much in the way of big presentation.
Seven years later, I found myself back in Hunt’s Point taping blue streamers to a canoe and designing a bumble bee made of a used water bottle. A small, diverse group – from a toddler to a grandfather, black, white, latino – spent a few hours in the shade of a tent cutting out fish to attach to bike helmets and bikes. Josue salvaged some wood from the Parks Department and attached them to a canoe to form huge “legs” and “antennae” for a water bug.
The parade attracted 50 or more folks from several Bronx-based groups, including a school band that played a repertoire of several songs to encourage us along the way. Residents came out onto sidewalks, and peeked their heads out of open windows. I wondered how this parade could become a larger community engaged event, with residents lining the sidewalks in anticipation (like parades back home).
The water-bottle bumble bees were a big hit, and by the time the parade ended, Jessica and I had given ours away and taught several kids – and a couple adults – to make their own. We finished our day on the East River, whose more volatile temperament is influenced by its proximity to an ocean inlet. Small waves lapped toward us, making the ride a little like a gentle roller coaster. Because of that, we just canoed in a small circle. Still, every moment on the water is a shift in feeling.
When “Retreat” Really Means “Move Forward”
The day after the Fish Parade, we gathered with iLAND community to share tools and our work. Our time together felt too short because it was so invigorating. The simple act of zooming out to share the intimate experience of nascent collaboration is at once terrifying, exhilarating, confusing and heartening. Our presentation allowed us each to share some of our practice and thinking, and brought up our strengths and the areas we have yet to explore.
Our project has really begun to root itself in the mapping and making connections in the community we are working in. Now we are grappling with how to add layers such as community members’ stories and embodied research. Will that be a function of the data dictionary? Could low-tech mapping, such as Damian’s exercise where we mapped a special place from age 10, help us find more options.
Some great questions emerged, including “What is the Dance equivalent of a Data Dictionary?” It got me thinking about the following:
–       When mapping a dance, what are the landmarks/characteristics?
–       What could we learn about relationship of body to landscape by mapping a dance or people’s everyday movement through spaces?
–       What data would we try to collect if Movement Mapping?
I’m excited to work with these ideas, observing the way people move in the community we are working with and discovering how that corresponds to the movement of water in those areas.
The retreat not only pushed ideas forward, but also inspired me to revisit what I hoped for at the outset of this work. I see now the opportunity for exploring game structures to reemerge, and am excited to explore that.
Rain, Rain Go Away
We were hoping to explore some of the curiosities that came out of the retreat and our previous research on June 25, when we invited community members to walk a couple blocks with us and do some of the activities we’ve developed.
But it rained. On the one hand, I thought it might be cool to actually “follow the water” while it’s raining.
But we couldn’t invite people out into thunderstorms, and much of our work required dry sidewalks and interactions with folks just sitting outside. So we are postponing that engagement until July and August. I would, however, love to go out there next time it rains as I think that will give another sense of the behavior and infrastructure we want to explore and reflect.

In the days prior to the walk, Charles – the grandfather we’ve long wanted to engage in this work – joined us. He is a philosopher and photographer and is strikingly curious and wise. He will be joining us for a weeklong intensive July 9-15, and I am so excited to have him working with us.



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