By: Belle Alvarez
This past Saturday, KYL/D had its second Story Circle with an immigrant family from the South Philly community. The Story Circle, a method adapted from Cornerstone Theater Company, is a forum through which the dance artists and collaborators engage with community members and collectively generate conversation, associations, images, memory, commonalities, etc. from personal experiences that can, directly or indirectly, inform the work. One of the questions the group considered was “What does it mean to be American?”
The company was joined by Maria*, Carlos*, and their two children. Maria and Carlos are originally from Mexico City. South Philadelphia has been their home for 10 years. They spoke in Spanish and English about the difficulties and accomplishments woven throughout their story.
They spoke frankly of the isolation experienced during their initial arrival and the challenges of assimilation. Maria and Carlos acknowledged the realities of racism, xenophobia, and language barriers. Eventually, they discovered independence and a sense of entrepreneurship through their careers. For Maria and Carlos, home, orel hogar, represents work, better opportunity, and a better future for their children.
The Story Circle participants asked questions and shared remarks on the meaning of Thanksgiving Day as a first generation immigrant, and what it meant for Americans to celebrate Día de Los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo. Maria and Carlos viewed the coexistence of Mexican and American traditions as an effort to exchange learning. For their family, assimilating traditions is a way of integrating their experiences and identity.
A prominent theme that emerged during the story circle was the value of family. Maria, Carlos, and several dance artists spoke of the bond they have with their family. In spite of geographical location, family is a foundational source of support and community. The conversation took on a very poignant tone when participants admitted how much they missed being near their families. In the midst of transient circumstances and geographical distance, family is invaluable.
“On behalf of my family, many thanks for involving us in your project and for giving us the opportunity to share with everyone.” -Maria
*Names of participants have been changed to respect the family’s privacy.