August 31, 2011
The first time I came to Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), nearly every person I met said that I must find a chance to visit Mostar. Of course, I found myself already overcommitted with my dance company’s work in Brcko Distrikt, and consequently left the country without making the trip. Two years later, I found myself back in BiH and right in the middle of Mostar. Now, I understand why everyone was telling me to visit here…it is simply amazing.
Some people like a city because it is beautiful, others because it is interesting, and still others because of the people or the historical significance of it. For me, Mostar is all of those things and I can’t quite think of any other city that resembles it anywhere else in the world. I feel a foreigner could live here for a very long time and still experience a vertical learning curve each and everyday. Thus, it is a pleasure to find myself engaged in a program in this city that involves a partnership between my American-based arts organization and a locally-based association called RINGO Mostar.
My organization, Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC), has previously carried out work in BiH, but this is our first program in Mostar. We were eager to explore the opportunity of a cultural exchange after meeting Tanja Raic Tarcuki, the President of RINGO Mostar, last April. Tanja, a vibrant and enterprising young woman, co-founded RINGO to promote youth engagement in civic projects and cultural events in the city of Mostar in 2008. With Tanja’s knowledge of all elements of Mostar life, our organizations combined efforts to develop a five-week program of professional dance workshops open to all young people across the city. The program officially begins on September 5th, 2011.
Unfortunately, Mostar suffers from the international stigma of a permeating stereotype: “a divided city.” This refers to the geographic design of the city as well as the population distribution. However, one of the first comments one of our young participants said to me clearly indicated how much the international community – and me – has to learn: “Mostar is a place where people want to live together. We are not divided as we are told we are.” Perhaps, over the coming weeks, I will be able to further explore that statement with all of our young, creative participants who seem eager to share their thoughts and goals through the medium of artistic expression.
As I spent my first night here, I didn’t think of The Old Bridge, church bells or the Call to Prayer…instead, I thought about kids laughing, singing and dancing – something that is happening here and all over the world because of the simple nature of the human spirit.