Monday, September 15, 2014

A Different Kind of Dance Event

WP 2013 - photo by Carrie Meyer
I've been producing events now for over 15 years.  From organizing the very first Pagan Pride Day in Rhode Island and other spiritually-minded events through The Cauldron of Annwyn (the open-path group I founded), and my first bellydance-themed event "Between the Veils" (2001 in Massachusetts), to "The Temple Gathering" and "Gothla US" in California, "Tapestry Dance Retreat" in Rhode Island, and "Waking Persephone" (RI and now WA).

While many of these events involved different people in various aspects, myriad locations, and a multitude of perspectives over the years, I feel that my purpose in producing them has remained consistent: to bring people together to celebrate culture, raise awareness, and promote education.

Waking Persephone has been the most special to me of all of the events I have produced, perhaps because it became my clearest vision for dance. I stopped being involved with Gothla US primarily because almost none of my students could attend it, since it was 3000+ miles away from them. I couldn't justify putting that much effort into an event (running the website, doing all of the graphic design, vendor and workshop registration, program design, Gala show line-up, etc) and not having my own students benefit from it, simply because they couldn't afford to make the trek. I was also disheartened by the disproportionate number of performers participating in the daytime festival shows compared to actual workshop attendees. It only emphasized the trend I was seeing in the community where the stage was being deemed more important than the classroom. Which leads unfortunately to meaning there's a lot less quality on stage.

So what could I do?  I wanted an event my students could attend and actively participate in.  I wanted to promote a mixture of well-known and up-and-coming dancers for the teaching staff. I wanted to provide an excellent stage show without compromising or competing with the classroom time. I wanted there to be fantastic shopping, opportunities for networking, and a focus on featuring live music.  I wanted to give teachers a chance to teach new/unusual offerings that don't fit in at other events.  I wanted to provide a selection of classes that truly spoke to every aspect of a dancer - on stage and off.  I wanted to promote quality fusion while emphasizing a strong foundation in bellydance.

That is how Waking Persephone was born. The name was sprung from the Greek goddess whose mythical descent down and ascent back from the Underworld gave us our seasons.  "Waking" is a play on the question of whether she is coming back to life, or if we are marking her departure (as in a wake.)

I was not prepared for how powerfully it would come together. I not only have been able to feature some of the most completely awesome people I know (as in they're not only terrific dancers/teachers, but fantastic human beings) but also meet new ones.  WP has become a home for all the dancers who didn't quite fit in anywhere else, and gave them a chance to meet like-minded kin.  It is a safe place for dancers who thought they could only do one style or felt limited to their niche/reputation to try out something new and different. I was amazed by how profoundly it affected the attendees: emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.  And to discover the second year that the first year just wasn't a fluke - that it happened all over again, even more strongly, rooting deeper, branching farther.  It is truly a blessing that I had no idea was possible, and so humbling.

It pained me to move it from Providence to Seattle, because it felt so good in that location and I could see the beautiful changes in the community.  But it's hard to run an event from across the country, and now I have students based here.  As Fate would have it, our home-base, Roots Cultural Center, was sold - and it had taken me years to find a venue in Providence that suited our needs.  Finding one in Seattle wasn't easy either, but we've finally found a very warm welcome with the Lake City Community Center.  Many familiar faces are traveling this way to experience the event again, bringing their great energy to it, as well as new ones.

It's not just a bunch of workshops. It's not just a bellydance show.  It's not just about one style of dance. It's not just some live bands playing or an opportunity to show. It's also not something that will always be there. It's the people who come to it, what they bring to the table and take home with them.  It truly is a different kind of dance event, and I invite you to experience it for yourself.