| My family and I spent nine days in the Netherlands, and two details that will forever stick with me are the incredible number of people riding bikes everywhere—to get to work, do errands, and shop, as well as for recreation—and the equally incredible number of young people who smoke cigarettes. Healthy hearts from biking and sick lungs from smoking—how does one figure that out? Oh, well, I’ll let that one go for now.
Fortunately, I was able to ignore the smokescreens and see through the spinning spokes to observe and be part of some extraordinary dancing and some wonderful sharing and interaction amongst over 800 dedicated dance aficionados, both young and old, from all over the world. At the 10th triennial daCi Conference in Den Haag, I met, talked, danced, and ate with colleagues from Canada, Denmark, Germany, the United States, South Africa, Croatia, Slovenia, Great Britain, Japan, Finland, Sweden, Jamaica, and, of course, the Netherlands. A rather impressive list for a professor from Bridgewater, Massachusetts!
During my 15+ years of involvement in daCi, I have attended only one other international conference, and that was the only one held in the USA—Salt Lake City, 1991. I have also been involved, both as organizer and participant, in the two USA daCi Intergenerational Gatherings. My feelings at the conclusion of all of these experiences have always been the same: These are life-changing experiences! You come away from these meetings energized and reaffirmed in your passion for children’s dance and the need to continue to support daCi’s long standing goal of having EVERY child experience dance in comfortable, supportive, process-oriented environments. If you participate in the workshops, you leave with a feeling of accomplishment at having created dance yourself, and, whether you watch or dance, you return to your home base full of new ideas and anxious to share those ideas with colleagues and students in your work environment.
Some of my personal highlights included:
- The variety and energy of the opening ceremony dances, performed on the Spuiplein, the large open area outside the Dr. Anton Phiipszaal.
- Trying Pilates for the first time.
- Enjoying the pure and sophisticated use of Laban’s language in an improvisational workshop led by Wieneke van Breukelen of the Netherlands.
- Learning from my USA colleagues whose workshops I was able to attend—Judith Nelson, Meg Robson Mahoney, Kathleen Kampa Vilina, Mark and Ella Magruder, Rosemary Clough, Sue Stinson, Joy Friedlander, Pat Cohen, and Anne Gilbert.
- Being unable to keep up, but nonetheless enjoying the energy of the Netherland’s Wijnand Karel, who led a session on the Lindy Hop.
- The clarity and articulateness of the youth who were members of the House of Young Commons.
- Watching one outstanding performing group after another.
- Learning about water dancing for the disabled.
- Taking a “Trip into Darkness.”
- The closing ceremonies, with cyclists and cloggers, on the sun-splashed Spuiplein.
- The blessing of nearly perfect weather.
- Everything else that I did but can’t remember or put into words.
My two teenage daughters participated in the morning sessions to learn the clog dance, and, like many teens, they were rather blasé about the whole experience. But, I know that they will never forget this overseas adventure and their involvement in daCi, and they now each have a pair of wooden shoes which will become permanent souvenirs as they grow and move on. Other students who came with groups no doubt experienced the wonderful “high” of performing their prepared works, as well as learning from experienced workshop leaders.
I suspect that most of us have a few things to complain about—the endless bread and cheese sandwiches, the daily bus rides to Duinrell, the distance from some venues to others, the workshop that didn’t excite us or seemed off target, and so on—but these, too, are part of the experience, and we learn to overcome the minor annoyances and focus on the big outcomes as noted above. I would bet that most of us are already looking forward to the next daCi USA Gathering, at BYU, in August, 2008, and the next international event in Jamaica, 2009, anticipating more life-changing adventures. If you’ve never been, please join us!!