As the education and engagement director I get to interact and learn about communities all across Los Angeles. In 2019-2020 HDD became the first Los Angeles dance company in history to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town initiative to embark on a new creative place-keeping project, MOVE WELL @ MLK, on the Martin Luther King Jr Hospital Campus in unincorporated Willowbrook (located in South Los Angeles). Our company has been honored and humbled to receive additional matching support from CalMHSA, California Arts Council, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office, Weingart Foundation, and individual donations from our community stakeholders. MOVE WELL @ MLK is inspired by conversations between Duckler and members of the community, who have invited us to build relationships across the Campus through Duckler’s unique place-based storytelling practice. Our ultimate goal with this project is to advance optimism, empathy and responsibility amongst the residents and surrounding areas which will assist in a stronger more effective community. This long-term residency also aligns with the goals of the Willowbrook Transit-Oriented District Plan, designed by local civic and community leaders to lay the foundation for improvements to the area’s health and education facilities, parks, streetscapes and public art.

One of our current projects is in collaboration with MLK Recuperative Care Center and King/Drew Magnet High School. We began this series by engaging the clients at MLK Recuperative Care Center in movement activities, then allowed them to express themselves via storytelling. Heidi and one of our amazing teaching artist Lenin Hernandez presented the audio stories of the student at King Drew Magnet High School and engaged them in a series of workshops to interpret the stories creatively via dance. The students’ work will be presented April 26, 2019 for their Multicultural Day Assembly. Following the performance will be a screening at the Recuperative Care Center for the participants and other clients to view the expressive dance combinations.

MOVE WELL @ MLK is designed to use the dance-making process to build bonds among medical personnel, patients, students, seniors, and residents in the developing unincorporated Wilookbrook community of Los Angeles. It is important to us that our residency is free and open to the public, and includes community conversations, health and wellness workshops, pop-up performances, and a community festival featuring multidisciplinary artworks (including dance, music, poetry, and visual artworks) from the community members themselves. The residency also will include volunteer opportunities for community members to help make each project activity a successful, engaging experience for our participants. In order to make our work a success, we depend on cross-sector partnerships from local groups, including the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), Department of Public Health, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ staff, and Dwight Trible and the Cosmic Vibrations, among others. The project’s themes explore the importance of movement to support circulation and decrease depression and anxiety, while maintaining focus on the self and building self-confidence among participants. Ultimately, the residency offers an opportunity for everyone to work together to innovate, build community, and advance a sense of pride for the treasures all around that make up this special part of Los Angeles.

~ Jessica Evans, Education & Engagement Director

Move Well @ MLK is supported by the California Arts Council.