Over the last seven weeks, I have been working closely with children and youth from across the city of Mostar in preparation for a culminating performance scheduled for October 6th, 201. Although much of my work has been focused on developing our one-year plan for a continuous program in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this particular performance played an important part in launching that plan publicly.
Any performance is certain to cause stress and affect an Artistic Director’s nerves, but in this case, our presentation entitled Live Life sparked a few more butterflies than normal because it would also reveal if a key component of our work over the last two months had been successful: integrating a group of children (mainly Bosnian Muslims) from the East Side with a group of youth (mainly Bosnian Croats) from the West Side.
On Thursday, October 6th, over 200 people crammed into the Naradno Kazaliste Theatre to see Live Life. The performance started before the performance; in fact, this is precisely what I mean because we decided to invite our audience to watch our students warm up all together on stage. This has been a significant portion of the training and I wanted it to be shared with the public, particularly so that non-dancers could understand the amount of effort and concentration that is invested each and every day into this type of youth development. Thus, we had everyone from 6 year old Ilvana from Egipatsko Selo to 26 year old Dajana from Erigo Dance Club on stage doing the exact same exercises – a perfect example of the powerful, equalizing effect of dance. Indeed, at that moment, as I looked out at 400 eyes in the audience and 35 youth of all ages and ethnicities on stage, I knew we were accomplishing a major goal of this project.
The performance then “officially started.” It included a slideshow, a documentary film about our work with the children at Egipatsko Selo, and two choreographic works. Perhaps the best part of the evening for me was the diversity of people in the audience. We had kids from all different economic backgrounds, leaders of youth organizations, representatives of NGOs, dancers, and various members of the general public whose curiousity had been peaked throughout our radio and internet marketing campaign. What was perhaps even more fulfilling was that all of these varied groups found the performance engaging and positive. It means a lot to me whenever I am approached by complete strangers and told that my company and our team here in-country are doing something “important for children.” After all, that’s really the entire point of all of these dance classes and everything that goes into this type of work.
Three days later, I found myself saying good-bye, at least for the time being, to our new Country Director, Tanja Raic Tarcuki, and our newly appointed Youth Leader, Sanja Elezovic. They will work with RDDC/USA to continue everything we have started here. My departure marked the end of a project, but the beginning of a program.
As I boarded the plane, I said one last “do vidjenja” (good-bye in local language)…24 hours later, I would be in Guinea, West Africa.