NET/TEN Shareback: ABD Productions - Dialogic Art Process in El Salvador

2014 Fall Travel Grant Recipient

ABD Productions (San Francisco, CA) engaged artists and activists in El Salvador in a dialogue addressing the residual losses and traumas of a bloody 12-year civil war. Together they developing new art methodologies and deepened nascent collaborative relationships through attention to the unique socio-political histories of these Salvadoran artists who produce art amidst post-war tensions and scarcity.


This is a Shareback describing our dialogic art process as well as an accompanying video showcasing this process and its steps.  Our Salvadoran collaborators—who work in multiple artistic disciplines—share their musical, artistic, and personal backgrounds and gifts with the facilitation and gentle guidance of our Artistic Director, Anne Bluethenthal and cultural geographer, Luz Mena.

-ABD Productions


Our collaborative process was based in a commitment to inquiry, to allowing the stories, concerns, experiences and urgencies of our collaborators to emerge. We held this intention always in the foreground of an integrative and cross-disciplinary process. For example:

• Each time we gathered there was some time to check in, to socialize, and to reflect on personal responses to the project and process to date.

• We invited a large amount of time for telling individual stories of the civil war, survival, daily life on the front, massacres, and the role music played on the front lines. While we recorded these for later, in the moment we reflected back in word and gesture what we had just heard and seen in the telling. This formed some raw material for later choreography.

• We devoted time at each gathering for the Salvadoran artists to play music; sometimes I would improvise with them through the language of dance. This would reveal themes and moods that informed the shape of the work. Also the music would create connections through memory among our collaborators, which would, in turn, reveal more narratives.

• When I presented movement, word, or music ideas, they were invited to respond with elaborations, and responses to what I presented.

• This process would illuminate where the work needed refinement. We would continue in this call and response format, mining for material through observation and reciprocity.

The process in summary:

o Inquiry into story

o Reflection back of word and gesture

o Eventual identification of themes as the above accumulates

o Inquiry into music

o Reflection back of mood, spirit, rhythm, and how this could be woven with story

o Feedback and further elaboration

ANDARES: In Process, Excerpts, November, 2014

ANDARES: In Process, Excerpts, November, 2014 from Anne Bluethenthal on Vimeo.

ANDARES weaves urgent concerns of collective memory, truth-telling, restoration of indigenous culture and the centrality of the arts as receptacle and disseminator of history. The piece is being developed in both the Bay Area and San Salvador. The excerpts here are from our most recent working session in San Salvador, where we spent long evenings together eating, talking, telling stories, planning, playing music, dancing, and collaborating. Our Salvadoran collaborators are part of a band called Mezoamerika and the flutes you see are pre-hispanic flutes. These are national treasures, bringing back a sound that echoed over 1,000 years ago. The reclamation of indigenous culture speaks to the reclamation of all of the suppressed histories including the countless disappeared people from the revolution in El Salvador, whom we will remember in this work.







Video of Workshop with National Contemporary Dance Company of El Salvador:



The Forgiveness Project

Compañia Nacional Danza El Salvador (Facebook)



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Thursday, August 20, 2015

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