It has now been a few days since I said goodbye at Logan airport in Boston to my new friends from Iraq and Kurdistan - Ali, Haeder, Halwest, Shalaw, Husain and Mustafa - as well as to their choreographer and coach, Michael, and John and Spencer from American Voices.
This project was never really supposed to happen. The original tour was only going to NYC, Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington DC. However, while I was in discussions with John from American Voices about some work in the Sudan, he asked if I thought that a stop in Boston for the HIPLOMACY tour would be a possibility. Before I could even think it through, the improviser in me just responded and said "Yes".
Although the idea was very intriguing to me and touched on my passion for cross-cultural collaboration, I never thought it would be so difficult to line-up all of the logistics. The two biggest obstacles were venues and money. Most venues I was considering were already full for the fall and since this stop wasn't originally on the itinerary, I needed to find a way to help fund it.
I went after venues first. One of the first places I though off was UTEC (www.utec-lowell.org) in Lowell and they were quick to respond. I felt that UTEC's mission to help and nurture young people was in line with the HIPLOMACY tour and they agreed. The second venue was proving to be more difficult since most universities and dance studios were booked through the fall. My wife Maria - who has strong connections with cultural and creative institutions around Boston - then sent an email on my behalf and within the day we had locked down our second show and venue at Emmanuel College in Boston. They were in the midst of an initiative called Education For Peace so the HIPLOMACY tour fit perfectly.
The second and more daunting challenge was to lock down finances. Because of the timing of the project, we had to look at crowdsourcing as a way to help fund meals, lodging and travel for the dancers and staff. I set a conservative estimate of 1200 dollars and then went to Social Media and email to help raise the funds. While we didn't reach our goal, we were able to cover many of the costs.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank those who made this stop in Boston possible. I think that each of you should know that your donations made it possible to add joy to the lives of many young people in the area. In the middle of the first two games of the World Series, about 100 people came out to watch the two shows, ask questions about life in Iraq and then - as was the case on both nights - communicate with their new Iraqi friends using the common language of dance. This will be a memory that will live with all of these youth for the rest of our lives. It was amazing to watch and each of you made this a reality.
Thank you to:
Drita Protopapa, Joy Carletti, Bill Fried, Dan Binderman, Keith Gemerek, Susan Fleishmann, Maitland Lederer, Maile Shoul, Kevin Miller, Benjamin Sandler, Eddie Mejia, Liz McKeon, Maria Schaedler-Luera and Anonymous.