Connecting to the Fleur d'Orange Residency

by Ruth Faris
Ruth (right) at the Opening Reception by JK Photo

When Karen invited me over to Ruth's house last weekend for a party to paint a shingle on her new Little Library (which was great fun, by the way.  If you don't know anything about these little libraries, you should check it out!) I immediately thought, oh wouldn't it be great if she could share with us some of her thoughts on the residency!  Ruth is such a beautiful, vibrant, enthusiastic person.  I am so glad Karen introduced me to her!  -Nicole

When Nicole asked me yesterday to write something for the blog about my experiences last week during the Fleur D'Orange residency, and Karen added 'yes you were one of our main supporters,' I felt like 'what, who, ME?....how can I have been seen as being out-front in any way, and what can I possibly say about DANCE?' So, my train of thought developed from that powerful initial response, and I decided I could write on identity (fittingly enough) and community.

When I met Hind at the opening reception at Brickbottom, she asked me something like ‘what kind of dance do you do?’ to which I quickly replied ‘oh no, I am not a “dancer”!’ Similarly, the following night when I went to sign in to the dance workshop at the Armory, the young woman at the door asked something along the same lines, and again I gasped ‘no, not a “dancer.”’ At a party or a club or a wedding, I am the last one up dancing, for the most part, unless I am muscled or guilted on to the floor by a friend. So, clearly, being A Dancer has never been part of my Identity. Ever.

So, why was I even at these events? Well, I was there because I know Karen, and because she had sent some information way back a few months ago about her intention to bring this Moroccan troupe to town. I generally will make an effort to go to something that a friend promotes, where I would be unlikely to go if it’s a ‘cold call.’ Also, I happen to be on the Board of the Center for Arabic Culture, and I help set up a collaboration between CAC and Monkeyhouse…..so, I was thrilled that this was coming about, and had written the dates into my schedule as soon as Karen mentioned them at our first meeting about it. All of this then made it very likely for me to participate….which I think is a truism for organizers of any sort, that the personal connection with someone is the biggest motivator toward attendance/participation.

I step back a bit further; why do I even know Karen, and thereby get this email from her about a Moroccan dance event? Well, I know Karen because we went to Morocco together, twice in fact, as part of a Sister Cities exchange between Somerville and Tiznit. And I grew to love and value her so much over those shared experiences.  And how had I come to be part of those delegations, considering that it was mostly teachers and artists, of which I am neither? …Well, that was because I am a longtime resident of my neighborhood, and had witnessed the Armory over many years….seen it as a wretched mess of a building, serving as an RMV outpost, an occasional bingo hall, and even an actual armory when Reserves units came to muster….then, totally empty and abandoned and looking worse than ever. So, when the Armory was renovated, I was excited to check it out, and went over when I saw some balloons outside in some version of a community open house. Wandering through the building, I saw to my amazement that there was something called ‘the University of the Middle East’ (UME) there, and I introduced myself to the staff member who was there….and probably a year or so later he thought to email to me to let me know about the upcoming Sister Cities project.

All this to say….what, exactly? I’m not sure what I can say that will be of any use or generalizability to others. But being asked to do this did force this train of thought and taught me some things about myself: for me, community is a powerful draw. Left to my own devices, I am happier to stay home and read a book, but if you invite me to something that’s meaningful to you, I might venture out. Also, though I don’t seem it as much these days, I am a shy person, who has only belatedly and even reluctantly learned that putting out a bit of social energy might actually be okay, and even GREAT.

And, that I have a certain fixed idea of my identity, and it takes a whole lot of extenuating circumstances to find myself being a Monkeyhouse cheerleader! When I am around Karen, its possible to feel that I am A Dancer, though don’t say that too loudly.

1 comment:

k said...

Ruth - Thank you for such an articulate and charming post. I am beyond flattered by your comments especially because you are such an inspiration to me. By the way, if you have not seen Ruth dance, she is delightful to watch...so vivacious and fluid.


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