Eryc Taylor Dance in Mexico - Workshops. Outreach. Impact.
On His Company's Third Tour to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Eryc Reflects on His Work and Plans to Return
Eryc Taylor and company members Nicole Baker, Chris Bell, Taylor Ennen, AJ Guevara, and Alex Tenreiro Theis traveled to Chocholá and Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico this past November — their third tour to the country. Their program in Chocholá included free public concerts, workshops for professional dancers, and movement expression workshops for young survivors of violence, mistreatment, and abuse. In Mérida, ETD hosted outreach movement workshops with young residents from Refugio Casa Crisal AC, an orphanage for girls. The tour concluded with a show at the International Dance Festival Avant Garde at Teatro José Peón Contreras.
Sammi Lim for The Dance Enthusiast: Hola, Eryc! ¿Hablas español?
Eryc Taylor, Founder of Eryc Taylor Dance: Sí, pero necesito practicar más.
TDE: How about Mayan? Did you pick some up in Chocholá? From my understanding, it's one of the few remaining cities where Mayan is spoken. Were things often lost in translation?
ET: One of our drivers, whose family is Mayan, tried to teach to us a little bit, but we experienced so many different dialects of Mayan, it was too hard to remember. However, we did get featured in a Mayan newspaper, La Jornada Maya (K'iintsil)!
TDE: What traditional or folkloric dance(s) are the locals most proud of?
ET: I don't know the exact names of the dances, each region has their own special traditional folk dances. In Chocholá, they presented a trance-like folk dance in which the women (40-60 years old) balanced clay pots on their heads while moving in intricate circular patterns. The youth presented a more lively Flamenco-like dance, in which they used fabulous decorated costumes and loud, intense chants during the choreography.
Left to Right: AJ Guevara, Chris Bell, Alex Tenreiro Theis, Taylor Ennen, and Nicole Baker.
TDE: How did Eryc Taylor Dance come into cahoots with Umbral Danza Contemporánea?
ET: In 2014, one of their festival producers happened to watch our New York City season at the Rose Nagelberg Theater. She loved our innovative choreography and technology, and a month later, sent us an official invitation to perform at the International Dance Festival Avant Garde. Since then, Eryc Taylor Dance has gone on tour to Mexico each year, performing at the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras, Chocholá Municipal Palace, and teaching countless workshops to local Yucatan dancers as well as victims of serious mistreatment and abuse (girls from Casa Crisal Mérida).
TDE: What time did you begin a ‘regular day’ of workshops begin in Chocholá? Give us an idea of the itinerary.
ET: A normal day in Chocholá consisted of:
7:00-8:00AM | Company wake up
8:00 - 8:30AM | Breakfast
9:00AM - 12:00PM | Company Warm up
12:00 - 12:45PM | Lunch
1:00 - 2:00PM | Rehearsal
2:00 - 3:30PM | Children Dance workshop (5-9 yrs old)
3:30 - 5:00PM | Teen Dance workshop (12-18 yrs old)
5:00 - 6:30PM | Adult Dance workshop (30-60 yrs old)
TDE: What is the general view on domestic violence in Mexico compared to home? In Malaysia, for instance, it can be deemed a shameful ‘private matter’ to be sorted out within couples or family members, but not to be exposed.
ET: My general understanding of domestic violence to young girls in Mexico is incredibly disheartening. It seems that young girls who are abused are often ostracized by their own families, friends, and community. They are not viewed as victims but instead, are cast away due to cultural and religious reasons.
TDE: Does dance training have a palpable impact on the survivors?
ET: ETD is honored to provide workshops for organizations like Casa Crisal Mérida. The children come into the workshops very guarded, timid, and careful but by the end are smiling, laughing, and engaging with everyone.
In June, I personally took the opportunity to visit them during my summer trip to Mérida where I guest judged a four-day dance competition by Umbral Danza. It was wonderful to update them and answer all their questions about life in US and New York City. They also gave me so many hand-made gifts, beautiful necklaces and bracelets made from recycled cereal boxes and cardboard.
TDE: What are some takeaways (specifically) from this third trip to Mexico?
ET: Besides the humbling experience and positive impact from the workshop, it is always thrilling seeing my work presented on such a grand stage. Interacting with the locals on a daily basis gives a wonderful amount of cultural exchange. Seeing my dancers sign autographs for all the children and audience members always makes me smile.
TDE: Was there an individual or a new friendship who/that added value to the recent tour?
ET: Yes, I made an outstanding contact at the US Embassy in the Yucatan, Tricia Olivares, Cultural Affairs Director. She helped promote the show to all English speakers (lots of expats) in Merida!
“We all made it back to New York safe and sound, after a really fantastic tour. We've already been booked for a 2018 return to the Yucatán.”
Says, Eryc Taylor, “On the plane ride home I reflected with pride on this very successful end to our 2017 season. Working with the children and adults at The Casa de la Cultura in Chocholá, and the students from four of the local dance schools in Mérida, was an amazing experience. It was an honor to receive an award of achievement from President Obet Alcocer of Chocholá for the second consecutive year, and an honorarium award presented by Juan Hernandez, Chief Critic of El Universal, from Cristobal Ocana, producer of the International Dance Festival Avant Garde.”
TDE: What can dance enthusiasts expect from ETD in 2018?
ET: E A R T H is a very exciting project we hope to premiere in 2018 (if we get the funding — fingers crossed)! It will be an immersive, interactive experience using dance to highlight the slow death of our home and what we can do in response.
The Company will also be performing sets of repertory for the annual NYC Season and Mexico tour.
The Dance Enthusiast Asks Questions and Creates Conversation.
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