Human Family Dances Together

Amy Mevorach
Issue Date: 
December, 2018
Article Body: 

People of all ages, backgrounds, and dance experience gathered Saturday, November 3 from 2:30-4:30 PM at Common Street Spiritual Center for Natick’s first Human Family Dance for Joy. Conceived by Nellie Goodman, the event introduced sequences from various cultural dances: Bollywood Indian dance led by Archana Menon, salsa guided by George Cometa from TODOS Dance and Fitness Studio, and Israeli dancing taught by Rina Wagman. Between segments, the Natick Drum Circle led by Dave “Drumhead” Curry, Bruno Giles, and Greg Haggard, kept the rhythm going.
As part of the curriculum for a Landmark Worldwide leadership course, Goodman was given the assignment of creating a project that would benefit the community. Her passion for dance and community-building entwined to generate The Human Family Dance for Joy. “Dance,” Goodman said, “is something that brings people of all backgrounds together in a joyful way.”
A key intention in the planning was for children and adults to dance together. “There are classes for kids or adults but there aren’t a lot of places around here to come together and dance for fun.” For adults with children, the inclusive element can mean the difference of being able to attend or not. “It feels isolating,” said Goodman, a single mom of a seven year old son. To attend an event that is meant for adults only or is not adequately prepared to include children is an often insurmountable prospect. “It’s not that I don’t feel welcome, but I could just not make that happen, or spend $60 on a babysitter. It means I can’t engage in all the things I want to be and ways to self-express. I can’t do things that might nurture me. We need space to have the kids there.” The Human Family Dance for Joy embraced all ages, with babies reclining in strollers, children, college students, and adults.
The project received a stipend from “For the Love of Natick, a weekend of Creative Placemaking,” an endeavor organized by the Natick Cultural Council, the Town of Natick, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to award grants to local artists to transform public spaces in Natick Center with creative expression. The weekend of November 3 and 4, paintings and other art forms were installed throughout the Common and surrounding spaces, such as the bridge over the train tracks.
Goodman, with her co-leader Pamela Stich, created the inclusive space with the help of many volunteers and collaborators. “The whole community was able to make it happen.” The community collaboration extended into the event itself, as people aligned rhythms and movement with each other. In the Israeli folk dance, participants formed a circle and moved as one unit toward the center and apart. “Humans have always danced together and moved together so it felt right as humans to be dancing together. All of us being together was the biggest thing in the room, not the differences,” said Goodman.
One participant expressed gratitude for the opportunity to dance without having to wait for a wedding. “People stop themselves from painting or other creative pursuits at a certain age,” Goodman said, “because they think, ‘I’m not a painter.’ Creativity is self-expression and fun. People who don’t often dance got to have that experience.”
In the process of preparing and directing the event with much support, Goodman came to the conclusion that “You can do anything you can dream up.” Goodman is in the process of dreaming up another iteration of Human Family Dance for Joy, possibly in March, featuring African dance, Zumba, Nia, contra dance, and a potluck supper. “I think of it as a contribution, a tikkun olam,” she said, “which is a Hebrew term for repairing the world. We are all responsible for healing the world.”