“Look Up”: Reflecting on the ASC! Launch Party
By: Nicole Armos, ASC! Research Assistant
Clap, slap knee, slap knee, Clap
Clap, slap knees, slap shoulders, Clap
A diverse crowd of artists, changemakers and community members was assembled in a circle, being led through a beat boxing rhythm game by Rup Sidhu to kick off our ASC! Project’s Launch Party in the Vancouver Dance Centre on Friday, April 25th.
As I tried to mimic and sustain the evolving, lively routine, my mind flashed back to a profound dance lesson—and life lesson—I learned two years ago in a dance circle much like this one. I had been travelling around Spain when I stumbled upon a folk dancing festival in the little town of Girona and ended up learning to dance the polka, the waltz, and traditional European circle dances till dawn in an ancient stone square. Then, like in the ASC! Launch Party, my mind had raced to learn the steps; however, as we danced the classic Greek circle dance Kalamatianos, my new-found friend Agustí reminded me “don’t look at your feet, look up at the people.”
And this is precisely what I did in the Launch Party, both literally and metaphorically. “Looking up” to the circle of smiles in Rup’s beat boxing game, I was reminded once more of the potency of art forms like dance in forging intimacy and a sense of community amongst strangers. Whereas at the beginning of our ASC! Launch Party we were milling around on the outskirts of the dance floor, like shy teens at a highschool dance, after the games and dances lead by Rup and our very own Judith Marcuse, the floor was full of vibrant dancing and mingling for the rest of the evening.
Further, after months immersed in the flurry of activity of our research lab—where we’ve been designing external and internal web platforms, planning and promoting our various upcoming events, and researching over 150 ASC organizations across Canada—this was our chance to “look up” and meet the dynamic community we’re working with and for. I was only able to talk to a fraction of the crowd at the party, yet I spent an inspiring evening matching faces to names I had heard of, conversing with people about the work they are doing in the ASC field, and hearing a variety of experiences of how art had sparked personal and social change in their own lives. A lot of these thoughts and experiences on arts for social change were captured in the various video interviews and 70 questionnaire responses we collected over the evening, which will be very helpful for our future research. Lastly, it was also quite exciting to share the objectives and progress of our research with our party guests and see their enthusiasm and support reflected back. It’s great to see the impact our research “legwork” has so far!
– Nicole Armos is a student in the Faculty of World Literature at SFU and Research Assistant on the ASC! Project.