BOLD - Builders, Organizers, & Leaders through Dance
The Philosophy Behind Urban Bush Women’s Workshops
*Why have Urban Bush Women facilitate a workshop for my organization—which is not a professional performing group?
Leveraging dance as a catalyst for social change & consistently seeking the broadest range of engagement possible has led UBW to train rigorously in dialogue facilitation, analyzing racism and its manifestations in group dynamics, and in the field of brain compatible dance education (a holistic practice rather than dance instruction as mimicry)—in addition to concert dance technique & performance.
UBW is unique in our facilitation methodologies, including:
- -Movement as metaphor—relating an organization’s core values or important themes to physical experiences to foster deeper internalizing
- -Acknowledging the Intelligence of the Body—creating a physical experience as the entry point for discussing topics which can be difficult to approach
- -Multiple Truths—honoring & valuing multiple experiences and varied modes of expression
- -Harnessing Performance Skills—utilizing the assertive, decisive, poised, and charismatic presence that performers cultivate in order to bring groups together, shift energy, and manage groups
- -Deliberate use of Language—utilizing imagery and inspiring, accessible language (as is the case in the best dance classes) in order to expand thought processes and shift from operational to visionary thinking
Urban Bush Women (UBW) has been at the forefront of activating the intersections of professional & community art-making, civic engagement, leadership, and group dynamics for over two decades. We facilitate multiple workshop possibilities for a variety of different groups and contexts from dance studio to board retreat, using a unique blend of dialogue and movement. Urban Bush Women facilitators tailor each experience to suit the goals of participants, gathered through a relationship-building process prior to the workshop(s); every UBW offering is anchored by our mission statement and these values:
Movement as Equalizer
Groups transform as we sweat, clap, & create together. Communicating nonverbally is both freeing in a debate‐based society such as ours, and allows for an intimate and authentic way of knowing other people. We deliberately harness the joy and unifying power of rhythm and movement to inspire respectful physical and verbal dialogue.
Practice for Group Processes
We use art as a lab for struggling together and working across groups for a greater good or understanding. Dancing and creating together are the physical parallels to dialogue, a method of communicating that prioritizes equity among multiple perspectives. We offer practice and tools for interacting physically and verbally.
The art‐making process & product are models of breadth. They relate to the ideals of participatory democracy, civic engagement, & invested visioning. Our community arts practice reflects UBW’s belief that we are each an important part of our larger whole. We encourage active participation instead of passivity.
Culture is a human right as set forth by Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; building & maintaining culture is essential to the health of a community. Dance classes are often expensive; we offer professional training across the board, not just to those with expendable income. We also honor and affirm the art that various groups are already practicing or producing.
Asserting the Voice
We show that art is a means of expressing oneself. We offer that dance can cathartic, particularly for young people who may not have found satisfactory outlets for their feelings and experiences & for older adults who may have lifelong inhibitions about their permission to move.
Grounded in History
We emphasize the historical contexts of the places & people we engage with. We take a rigorous approach to research and deep listening as aspects of asset mapping and key components of Entering, Building, & Exiting Community. We are grounded in the larger movements that birthed dances and share that important history with
We offer a model of wellness, and a joyous group experience that supports it. Many people do not regularly engage in cardiovascular or muscular work. Ours is a heart-centered approach to increasing wellness for each individual with both compassion and a solid foundation of knowledge about the human body.
UNDERSTANDING UBW'S TERMINOLOGY
Asset mapping is a process of assessing what resources, skills and strengths are available in the group and/or community. UBW's philosophy is that often communities are addressed by what they lack and not by what they offer.
Community engagement work is about creating an environment of exchange where mutual learning occurs that makes makes community-identified change possible. For UBW, this requires extensive planning and conversation with community representatives to define mutually-articulated goals, document and evaluate the process and agree on next step planning. The primary focus of UBW's facilitation is collaborative learning that celebrates and/or addresses issues of interest and/or concern to the host community.
Sharing ideas, information, experiences and assumptions for the purposes of the personal and collective learning. Dialogue is not a decision-making tool, but rather a learning process that will inform decision-making and expand thinking.
Using movement to physically process concepts.
Entering, Building and Exiting Community
Entering, building and exiting community is a UBW concept that has been in development since 1992, when the Company finished a three-month community engagement project in New Orleans. After meeting with some New Orleans partners and visiting some key sites for debriefing and evaluation, Ron Chisom from People's Institute for Survival and Beyond remarked that the most effective part of what we did was how we knew to enter the community. We did not come in with an assumption of participation and a project theme or goal. Instead we asked what people wanted to see addressed; how could we plan together; how could each partner be strengthened at the close of the work. Since that time, we have been building on the concept and developing it into a workshop that is one of our central organizing principles for our work.
Outreach identifies a method of interacting with a community where there is an assumption of a powerful and knowledgeable center, organization or institution that "reaches out" to an assumed less powerful and knowledgeable community. This establishes a hierarchical relationship with the assumed power center giving information to and directing those who are receivers of the information, the less powerful. In many cases, outreach merely focuses on how many are served and developing audiences to fill seats in a theater. UBW supports community engagement and not outreach.