Dance Exchange Goes Into the Wild – A Search for the Origins of Energy

The stage is set with a mountainous display of card castles and a toddler’s wooden chair; one rogue breath of wind could blow the whole set away. With that air of vulnerability, three dancers begin an excerpt from Dance Exchange’s “How to Lose a Mountain,” to be completed in the Spring of 2013 based on the experience of hiking 500 miles to find the origins of domestic energy. As the dancers toss the playing cards across the stage, a path is laid before them. Dancers Sarah Levitt and Shula Strassfeld embrace on the precipice of a toddler chair. One foul move and the whole card castle could tumble down, but if they hold together, they can balance on the edge of the cliff.

Photo Credit: John Borstel, Courtesy of Dance Exchange

Dance Exchange and Artistic Director Cassie Meador are on the brink of a transcendental journey to bridge the 500 mile distance from Meador’s home in Takoma, Maryland to a strip-mining site in West Virginia where several mountains once stood, and where the origins of the electric energy that powers Meador’s house begins. In their Tuesday, April 3 concert at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center entitled “First Steps in the Development of How to Lose a Mountain,” Dance Exchange is laying the groundwork for this trek.

After “living off the land” in 2009 for two weeks in a rainforest in South America, Meador had an epiphany – the essentials she needed to survive there only traveled from the source to her fingertips. Upon returning home, she couldn’t shake the thought that she was “surrounded by all this stuff, and I have no idea where it came from,” said Meador.

The program notes read, “Behind every product we use is a distance that has been traveled and a story that can be shared.”

“I have a need to cover that distance, to trace the source,” said Meador. Throughout the eight week journey, Meador, along with several of the Dance Exchange dancers and collaborators, will create opportunities for community members, environmentalists, artists and documentarians to come together at various events, share their stories and even join the walk for a portion of the trip.

The cards that the dancers picked through in the opening piece represent stories to be collected along their path. In each community they hit, Dance Exchange will offer prompts written on a playing card, such as, “Describe an object that means a great deal to you,” or “What is the most valuable part of your inheritance?” The responses will be collected and compiled on www.500miles500stories.com, the interactive website map.

While the journey requires Meador and her companions to strip down to survival essentials, the promotion of such a cause demands extensive technological resources and media outreach. The transcendental expedition is built upon a social media platform, or as Levitt puts it, “taking the experience through technology.”

Dance Exchange will kick off their journey on Tuesday, April 10th, making their first stop at the Kennedy Center at Dance Exchange in Takoma Park at 8:00 a.m. for a “Sunrise Send-off.” In the evening, Dance Exchange will have a free performance at 6:00 p.m. at the Kennedy Center.

To share thoughts and donations, visit www.500miles500stories.com or download the app (TBA) to help Dance Exchange reach their goal of $5,000 $10,000 by June 22nd to help fund the 2013 completed dance work of “How to Lose a Mountain.”

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