I’m finishing up a conversation with Maru, another Dance for Social Justice participant, and see Celeste, Guadalupe, their mother Nancy, and their brothers running across the street towards the Pittsfield First Street Common playground. Adorned in pink and proudly wearing a Jacob’s Pillow On The Road pin, the nine and ten-year-olds are eager to share their experiences with the Dance for Social Justice Pittsfield Community residency, before they show me their skills on the monkey bars. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
I want to start with you all telling me a little bit about yourself.
G: We both are from Colombia, I’m a little bit of a speaker. We both enjoy painting. We both want to, little by little or by a big step, change the world when we grow up. We enjoy very similar hobbies. Some are not very similar, but we’re both really happy to be with Jacob’s Pillow. That’s one thing for sure. I enjoy being outdoors. But I want to start doing flip books because I also enjoy drawing.
C: I actually tried to make a flipbook, but it didn’t work how I thought it would. It just looked like a little scribble doing dancing, wiggling like crazy.
G: I enjoy coding. I truly enjoy coding. It’s kind of actually complicated, just the way that people are complicated. You need a whole lot of ingredients to make Celeste right here and make me right here. Yeah, but one of my main ingredients, let me tell you, it’s talking.
C: The only thing I can do is make a basketball bounce.
I heard you say that you both are going to change the world when you grow up. Do you have any plans?
G: As a person of color, people just don’t seem to treat me equally, like in a bad way. And I think that has to stop because I know kids who have been suffering way too much because of those people. It’s just that we think it’s wrong. And it’s not okay.
How did you all hear about Dance for Social Justice? Why did you want to join?
G: Well, I, myself, enjoy dancing. And I enjoy watching social justice be committed. My mom had a few contacts that had already heard of it and when they told her, we were all really excited, not just because of what they were offering us, but because of what we could offer them. One of the most important parts was, we as immigrants don’t get to tell our story very often, but we all have stories. Jacob’s Pillow gives us the chance to and then dance for other people to hear it too. It’s like telling a story to someone, who tells it to someone, who tells it to someone else for it to spread. That’s how legends spread, that’s how Cinderella started. And Cinderella does have a happy ending. And even if we aren’t having happy endings, I know that at some point we will.
What was it like to do this with your family, with your mom and your sister and your brothers?
C: It was actually exciting and fun. I loved that you could put your own idea on what we’re going to do. So we all do a dance together, then the adults do their own dances, and the little kids in the beginning, they start the dance. I like that you made your own group, and you could pick which group you wanted to be in. And you could actually say something, and they will include it, they would not just ignore it.
How’d that make you feel, to say a suggestion and then have it be in the dance?
G: Nervous. When I said something, I thought, oh, what if people think this is dumb? Maybe I should have said this before it started, or maybe I should have said this opinion, or maybe not. It was really annoying, and it was bugging my mind. But then when I saw the final showing, that audience member said they loved how the kids started the dance. I think it was really fun to see it.
What was it like being at Jacob’s Pillow and on the big stage?
C: The Jacob’s Pillow property is very cute and beautiful. I love the way that the stage was set on a field with trees surrounding it. When they told me I would be on a stage, I imagined a big house with a theater in it. I loved even more how you could go under the stage. The platform itself was incredible. We got ideas just from the wood on the platform. We perfected our dances when we were under the stage. It was really fun there. The stage was nerve-wracking. I was like, oh no, am I one of the only people of color here? It was nerve-wracking.
What did you all learn from this experience?
G: I learned that I didn’t care much about the environment, I’m sorry to admit. But that was a really important part of the dance. When I saw it for the first time, it had a really deep meaning and it was really important to the dance. Just a few days after, I kept thinking about it and I just started reading a book, it was a Junie B. Jones’ book, and it starts talking about how she watched this movie called ‘Dan Dan the Soda Can’, and I read it and it was about recycling and environmental health. And I’m like, should I have been doing something for the past 10 years of my life?
What was your favorite part of the experience?
C: All of it.
G: My favorite part was that we actually got to put in our voices. Nobody was not excluded, and I’m pretty sure everybody loved it.
Is there anything else you would like to share or add that you haven’t talked about yet?
G: I know people that are racist might read this interview. And they might see us and they might think, oh, cool, bye, but I actually want them to know that it’s wrong. And it’s not okay. And I don’t want to be like, oh, your whole thing is wrong, you’re wrong, you’re a rude person. But we’re normal people too. We’re just born with a different skin color. I mean, like, my favorite color is blue. But if your favorite color is yellow, that doesn’t mean you have to hate me for it. I did not originally want to be in the group about racism. I think it was a turn of fate, because I wanted to be in environmental health one. But that one had too many members. So I got put in the group about racism, and then I met people who I really want to be friends with now. And I met you, and I met the other people. And it was really fun, actually.
Is there anything else you want to add, Celeste?
G: She just wants to get out of here and go play. Not me, I want this to last forever. I would definitely tell my friends to do this.
Written by CJ Donohoe. Edited by Emma Garber. Published September 2022.