A Summer of Celebrating Diversity Through Dance
By: Sharon Yin, 2021 Summer Community Engagement Associate
A colourful new mural has found its place here in Crescent Heights. Located on the north wall of the Papa Johns on Centre Street, this collaborative mural contributes to the Diversity Dance project that has taken root in the community throughout the summer. The project is a marvelous fusion between two art forms: visual arts and dance – two powerful approaches people can use to learn about other cultures and perspectives. This project was a collaboration between the Crescent Heights Village BIA and the Crescent Heights Community Association. Thank you to the Calgary Foundation Stepping Stones grant for making this project possible.
The Diversity Dance project was born from a compilation of inspirations. Delilah Poon, coordinator and director of the Diversity Dance project, thoroughly enjoys documenting placemaking initiatives on her travels around the world, because “it tells you a lot about the community and [the] degree of connection, collaboration, and trust [within it]”. Diversity Dance was in part influenced by the observance of a few TikTok dancers during one of her bike rides along the Bow River, and in part inspired by similar placemaking projects and murals from around the world. Both the interactive mural designed by the Color Factory Delilah had personally witnessed in New York City, as well as the Bronze Steps on Capitol Hill in Seattle (https://www.kuow.org/stories/what-s-with-these-bronze-footprints-in-the-sidewalk), played a significant role in the conception of this project.
On the art side of the token, the mural was designed and painted by Jamie Mason and Kevin Chow, the artists behind Rawry & Pohly. Inspired by New Zealand Kiwis and artist Keith Haring, this mural, entitled “If You Can’t Fly, Dance!”, is a depiction of diversity using the kiwis’ various colours and movements. In conjunction with the artists’ values of “encouraging acts of play and reconnecting with one’s childhood”, the mural is a representation of the “part of [them] that just wants to let go of expectations and dance”. The painting of the mural began on July 10th and ran until July 16th, with the help of some wonderful volunteers from the community.
In attempts to celebrate diversity through dance, dancers from around the community were also invited to be part of a collaborative dance video. Myla Daem was one of those dancers. She has been dancing for nine years and trains in hip hop and street dance at Pulse Studios. While Myla enjoys the “challenges that can come with learning choreography”, she notes that freestyle dance is when she can truly be free and be herself – it’s when she’s able to “really get lost in the music”.
The mural comes at a time when it is “more pressing [than ever] to deepen our understanding of other cultures and to cultivate an appreciation [for] diversity”, Delilah insists. She observes that an open mindset approach to understanding others is crucial to even begin to start listening to what they have to say. To Delilah, diversity is the “inclusion, representation, and the appreciation for other cultures”; Jamie adds that “diverse perspectives are an integral part of [the] exploration and innovation of self”.
So, there seems to be a consensus: whether it’s to “better understand who we are”, or to “make life and our communities more flavourful”, or to help dance styles such as hip hop grow and evolve (as Myla points out) – diversity is essential.