KEEPING THE FIRE ALIVE

Eryc Taylor Dance’s Outreach Program Partners with Lantern Community Services to Create an Online Dance & Movement Workshops Database for Supportive Housing Clients & Staff

Digital Launch Date: May 11, 2020

Eryc Taylor Dance’s Outreach Program Partners with Lantern Community Services to Create an Online Dance & Movement Workshops Database for Supportive Housing Clients & Staff

Video: Dance Magazine Video Profile on ETD Outreach Program

New York, NY, May 5, 2020 – Giving back, providing inspiration and uplifting those in need are the core of the values of Eryc Taylor Dance (ETD). The ETD Outreach Program is a special branch of the company that serves the most vulnerable communities in NYC. Their mission is to help others find their fire and spark a light in the darkness

ETD Outreach thrived on providing workshops on-site to multiple partners and organizations across New York City. Due to the pandemic and social distancing requirements, these in-person activities have all come to a screeching halt. However, the need for these programs has become increasingly vital. Most of the people served by the ETD Outreach program are confined to places such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and supportive housing facilities. In this incredibly isolating time, it is so easy to feel hopeless. It is crucial to continue to work with the vulnerable communities and individuals in New York City who need it most and to support the team of instructors, many of whom abruptly have no source of income. 

Fortunately, thanks to the creativity and shared vision of Artistic Director Eryc Taylor and Karisa Antonio, Director of Arts, Culture, and Fitness for Lantern Community Services, engagement and activities can continue to serve the community from the safety and comfort of their homes. Lantern Community Services is a supportive housing agency whose clients are a broad range of people from all ages and backgrounds who have been threatened by or experienced homelessness. Their unique approach of serving the whole person and offering a rich living experience — not just providing a four-wall shelter — has set the organization apart since 1996. Together, Taylor and Antonio have developed an online database on Lantern Community’s Vimeo Channel to offer mini-movement workshops created by ETD Outreach instructors. The videos vary from a vigorous Afro Dance stretch routine, rousing Rumba, and Dancehall grooves from a chair — all considering the diverse spectrum of needs and physical abilities of the participants. 

The initial commission is set for ten videos of 15 minutes each. If successful, there are plans to continue. ETD Outreach is offering similar initiatives to other partners to replace the live, in-person workshops that were the primary income source for the company. The next phase for ETD Outreach is to offer live online Zoom workshops featuring an even broader range of dance, movement, and wellness classes that will be available 24/7 on a digital database following the live stream. “The future of my dance company depends on these videos,” Eryc Taylor stated, acknowledging the importance of adaptation in these challenging times. 

When forced to cancel the scheduled and contracted ETD Outreach Workshops this spring, Karisa Antonio — who is in charge of Lantern Community Services clients’ “social, cultural, physical and expressive needs” — had many things to consider. “Without the ability to hold in-person workshops, I had to figure out a plan to provide our clients from sixteen supportive housing buildings, one shelter, and our 150 staff members with a sense of structure, stability, and support during these stressful times. I inquired — ‘What do people need physically, emotionally, and structurally right now?’ People love movement that takes them away from the stress of the moment. How can we use movement in a way that physically and spiritually rejuvenates ourselves? And how can we do this within our limitations? We have to adapt and evolve.” But the Lantern Community folks were not her only concern: “Our broad mission is to support people in need and try to circumvent the causes of homelessness. Canceling contracts could lead to a lack and the threat of homelessness for the instructors as well. We have to consider creating things that benefit everyone through inventiveness, problem-solving, care, and working together.”

The instructors and attendees are also eager to engage again, even if in a different form for the time being. Past participants have extolled, “Before I started taking these workshops I was sad and depressed, and now my spirit and my soul have started to feel marvelous.” ETD Outreach instructor Johari Mayfield — who has been praised by clients for her warmth and fantastic energy — has called her work with the program, “humbling because it has forced me to slow down and meet people where they are,” and expressed eagerness to create from her home studio space. She also noted the challenges that arise from the lack of person-to-person interaction: “Dance is a communal art form that lives where we create relationships with one another. How do I create high touch, high trust experience that’s built by being in close proximity to other bodies through a computer is a question I ask myself often.” But she believes that the rewards will outweigh the obstacles and hopes that the clients will take advantage of the opportunity. “One of the site directors told me about a student with a mental health challenge who was practicing her exercises while I wasn’t there. She said, ‘The dance teacher told me to practice my exercises.’ I was over the moon with joy!” 

ETD Outreach participating instructors include Ziiomi Law, Rebecca Brown, Liethis Hechavarira, Johari Mayfield, Jessica Phoenix, Jeo Flemming, and Isabel Estrada-Jamison. 

FREE ONLINE DATABASE. To engage, view, support, and participate, please connect on Lantern Community’s Vimeo Channel and ETD’s social media accounts on ETD Facebook and ETD Instagram. Those interested in learning more can contact info@etd.nyc. The ETD Outreach Online Dance Database intends to inspire and encourage movement and creativity during these uncertain times in partnership with Lantern Community Services. However, for the sake of continuing such programming and keeping these vital programs and participating artists afloat, please consider donating to Eryc Taylor Dance and Lantern Community Services.

Recent News: 

  • Eryc Taylor Dance launches a GoFundMe campaign on May 5, 2020 aka #givingtuesadaynow requesting crucial support for current and future projects.
  • UNCHARTED TERRITORY — Eryc Taylor Dance’s Dancers in Isolation Project is officially announced and set in motion. For more information read the feature on BroadwayWorld and visit ETD: Uncharted Territory to watch the process unfold.

What’s Next: 

  • Eryc Taylor’s interview on NPR WAMU with Jeffrey James discussing ETD’s EARTH project and how artists are using their unique voices to address climate change. 

ABOUT ETD OUTREACH: Formed in 2015, ETD Outreach, is a division of ETD created to focus on using dance as a healing modality. Since its inception, ETD Outreach has worked directly with NYU Langone, Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, Felix Organization, PROMESA Senior Centers, Acacia Network, Lantern Community Services, CUCS, & Odyssey House. Current programming includes 25 weekly workshops, all at different housing sites in NYC, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx.

ABOUT ERYC TAYLOR DANCE: Eryc Taylor Dance is a New York-based non-profit dance company that performs and tours globally. The Company has performed at venues such as the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Joyce Soho, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater (NYC), New York Live Arts, Teatro Armando Manzanero, and Teatro José Peón Contreras (Merida, Mexico), Martha Graham Studio Theater, Bryant Park Theater, Guild Hall (East Hampton, NY), Busan Cultural Center (Busan, South Korea), and Provincetown Amphitheater (Cape Cod, MA). ETD is supported by LMCC, NYSCA, and funding from the NYS Office of Governor Cuomo.  

ABOUT LANTERN COMMUNITY SERVICES: The mission of Lantern Community Services is to champion the independence and well-being of New Yorkers who are impacted by or threatened with homelessness. Core values include: being engaged, present and open; cultivating safe spaces for our community; celebrating achievements, big and small; being creative in the face of challenges; inspiring and be inspired by the Lantern Community clients; embracing diversity and inclusion; valuing everyone’s experiences and abilities, and being leaders in the field.

Dear Friends and Family,

At the very core of our values as a company, Eryc Taylor Dance (ETD) has always been about giving back. Our ETD Outreach Program serves the most vulnerable communities in NYC; The New Choreographer Grant program offers opportunities to budding talent early in their careers. Our ambitious EARTH project in 2019 gave multiple creators a forum to share inspiration and information on how to heal our fragile planet from the havoc human beings have placed on it.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, the future has never felt so unpredictable. These are challenging times for us all, and we hope you’re in good spirits and health! Right now, we’re doing everything possible to sustain daily operations and provide services to our community. Now, more than ever, our community needs us. And we need you.

If you’re able, we kindly ask for your assistance and generosity by making a secure, tax-deductible donation to ETD today. This donation will help ensure that both right now and when this worldwide catastrophe has finally subsided, we can continue the excellent and meaningful work that we’ve spent years building.

For tax year 2020, the new CARES Act includes a tax change for taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions (i.e., take the standard deduction) by allowing up to $300 in charitable contributions to be deducted from Adjusted Gross Income on their 2020 tax returns.

If you’re unable to donate at this time, there are many other ways you can support us! Set your Amazon Smile preference to ETD and donate every time you check out (more details below). You can also advocate for us by sharing our mission with a family member or friend. Even a quick mention on your social media would mean the world to us.

In times like this, it shows us how interconnected we all are. Thank you for being part of our community. Without you, none of it is possible.

Stay safe and well,
Eryc Taylor & Team

February 20, 2020

ETD Outreach Instructor Spotlight
Johari Mayfield

 

I came to ETD outreach by accident. 

My plan when I came to New York City was to dance, with dreams of “FAME! I’m gonna live forever!” (to date myself just a bit). I can hear the song in my head and can sing it. I grew up with the TV show, went to a performing arts school, and performed in every major theatre in NYC.

Being an expert mover, I had the ability to hide and dodge things. Or so I thought.

You see, hiding in plain sight, I figured, was always the best place to hide. As a seasoned performer, I got so good at role-playing, camouflaging and artfully dodging things that I hid who I was as “the child who loves to dance and move”. I used it to wear a thousand masks instead. Soon, those layers became suffocating enough for me to have to seek out help. 

I met Michelle Cole, a dancer that works with ETD Outreach, because of her connection with Uganda. I went there in 2017 as a volunteer to help support children and communities in need. We were talking at an event that had Ugandan dance and the subject of recovery came up. ETD outreach works in different populations. I’m in recovery. She asked me to demo and I’ve loved every minute. 

Since entering recovery, I have a new life as an artist and personal trainer because I have a greater ability to help others in recovery from a myriad of illnesses and challenges. I understand that change is hard from a deep and visceral place.  I used to be on automatic pilot and just “do do do” whether I was in pain or not. I did not care about my feelings. Numbness got things done. Now that my feelings are returning I see that others have them too. Because I’m being more truthful about myself, I’m less fearful and showing up as myself everywhere I go. I had no idea how liberating that would be. 

Because I have a health issue, I’m much more empathetic to being a beginner, to having a (mental)health challenge that requires more patience, slowing down and being reflective. 

My current goals: Travel to Uganda and other parts of the world as a global wellness ambassador. Continue to dance as a woman over 40 and share my recovery story as well as have fitness/nutrition workshops for people in recovery from substance use disorder.

Movement and dance can heal lives. I wasn’t thinking about that before. I wasn’t thinking about much besides myself. Now, I care about people and how they feel beyond what the physical body is able to do.

Movement is the primary focus of my work, but I also have a message: we are more than our bodies, and we have the strength to be brave enough to live within them without anything that alters who we truly are.

Johari Mayfield

February 11th, 2020

ETD Outreach Instructor Spotlight
Rebeccah Bogue 

We are so thankful to have Rebeccah Bogue on the ETD Outreach team.  A true warrior, Rebeccah brings her pure love for dance with her to every class. Inspired by her strength, we asked her to share her story of how dance heals. Read her amazing journey below! 

I trained in classical ballet until I was seventeen.  Which is actually kind of misleading because just saying that “I trained in classical ballet” seems to imply that I was good at it or at least half-way decent and I wasn’t.  I’ve always been inordinately tall and the awkwardness of teenage-me was through the roof. But I danced every day anyway. Not because I looked suitable but because I was in love.  How the music held me…how I felt new muscles that I didn’t even know I had…how I felt so much joy when I finished a phrase of movement with the other dancers…I couldn’t get enough. In my final year of high school I arranged my schedule so that I could go to ballet class during second and third periods every day.  On March 15th—the Friday morning before spring break—I went to ballet, as usual, but after that class I didn’t return home for five months.  

While standing at the barre, warming up before plies, I suddenly vomited and passed out.  At the hospital, CT scans showed a giant aneurysm in my left-cerebellum. I was in a coma for three weeks and in the hospital for the next five months.  After three brain surgeries, six stomach surgeries, and four spine surgeries I was eighteen and had to learn to walk and to talk again. Although I was only in a coma for three weeks I only remember the last two weeks of my five months in the hospital.  During this period I remember fighting with my nurses everyday while trying like hell not to go to physical therapy. PT was tedious and difficult and an insult to my eighteen-year-old-ballerina-self. When therapy hour came, I would lace my arms and legs through the bars of my hospital bed, making it as difficult as possible for the staff to pry me out of bed and get me to physical therapy.  And then one afternoon my childhood ballet teacher came to the hospital to visit me. When I saw her I remembered that I used to dance and I remembered how much I loved it. So—that same day—I asked my mom to please bring my pointe shoes to the hospital. I imagine that she thought I just wanted to see them or something but—no—I actually wanted to wear them. And even though I couldn’t walk at that point, I strapped my pointe shoes on and I pushed a wheelchair in front of me as I icepicked my way back and forth down the hall outside of my room.  I was released from the hospital shortly thereafter and I’ve danced almost every single day since then for the past eighteen years. I’m still not very “good” at it, but now, I especially don’t care. I love movement. I love good music. 

I graduated from college in 2008 and I moved to New York City the next day.  At the time (post-surgeries) I was relatively and inexplicably fine.  Though there were some things I couldn’t do in ballet class (think tour-jetes and multiple pirouettes), I could still run, see, speak, and all around function pretty normally.  But because I couldn’t do my tour-jetes and pirouettes I believed myself to be profoundly disabled and, well, this was my attitude: woe is me. Then I was walking to the subway one evening in 2010 and I tripped on the sidewalk and I hit my head really, really hard.  Over the following three years I lost what still feels like everything sometimes. Today I am losing my hearing, my vision, my speech, my fine and gross motor-skills, my balance…even my ability to pee. I began walking with a cane in 2012 and, in 2013, I was declared “disabled” by the State of New York.  Although I’m smart and creative and capable in many ways, between my limp and my new label, I’ve had a really difficult time finding work here in the city. Thanks to the connections of a friend, I found AHRC three years ago and began working as a “Dance Consultant” for the organization. In addition to teaching with AHRC, I now also teach with Eryc Taylor’s organization ETD Outreach.  With both ETD and AHRC, teaching movement to people with disabilities is one of the happiest things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s amazingly rewarding to see people find movement and unique potential within themselves that only they possess.  And their smiles!!  There’s nothing better than that.

With AHRC, my clients are pretty evenly split between adults with autism and adults with Down Syndrome.  With ETD I’m honestly not sure what some of my clients’ diagnoses are and I’m happy with that. I think it’s beside the point.  As far as I’m concerned, “the point” is that my clients have a good time and learn how to enjoy being in the body they’ve got. Today I was working for ETD at a site in the Bronx and one of my clients said to me “Whatever you do, make it your own.  As long as you try it’s all good.” And I know he was speaking to me but I could say the same thing to many of my clients.