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Voyagers. A Dance Among the Planets.
Cultural Diplomacy and Statecraft

VOYAGERS: A Dance Among the Planets. The new Kenedy Center Commission

Measuring the cost of war is at once the most impossible, yet most urgent, task. The reduction of lives lost, lives upended, countries shattered and economies -- from those in the heart of the war to those at the center of conducting it -- to statistics, renders the meaning of war as itself nothing more than an aggreggation of those statistics. If anything, that simply makes the next war, the next genocide, the next shattering more, not less, likely. Economies rise and fall. Lives, once lost, are not reclaimable.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a war unleashed under false pretenses, one which had a seemingly simple goal - the elimination of Saddam Hussein. That, in the end, was perhaps the only easy thing in a conflict which carries on to this day in ways large and small.

In 2009, out of a sense of desperation to put a human face on what, in the States, felt like a virtual conflict, Intersections International, ala leading humanitarian organization based in New York City, assembled a team of artists, from choreographers to filmmakers, writers to painters, photographers to playwrites, to travel to Jordan, Lebanon and pre-Civil War Syria, to meet a diverse cross-section of refugees from the conflict that shattered Iraq and those tasked with caring for them. From that experience came a host of works which tried, each in their own way, to make flesh and blood of numbers and reports. In the case of Company | E's Paul Gordon Emerson and Kathryn Sydell Pilkington, the outcome was a work of movement, music and text called "The Wishes of the Sailor." Taken from an old Iraqi proverb, "Sometimes the wind blows against the wishes of the sailor," it sought to gather the stories, the losses and, at the same time, the determination to survive, to nurture and to be more than the war sought to reduce them into being, of those people in that time in those countries.

"Wishes" was a turning point in Company | E's (then CityDance's) sense of itself in the world -- and in the power of art to speak to profound challenge.

"Wishes" became the first -- and to date the only -- work of dance ever to be performed in the U.S. Capitol Building, at the invitation of the Helsinki Commission, known formally as the Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe. That program took the art borne from those weeks in the Middle East and transformed it into a tool of public diplomacy. It was a harbinger of the Company's mission as a Cultural Diplomat.




Company | E's partners District of Columbia Public Schools The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Spain Arts & Culture Washington Performing Arts Bloomberg Philanthropies The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities