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Inspired by the Archive: A Celebration of Culture

by Samantha Hill

Dill Costa with the Evanston Escola de Samba Band

Courtesy of the artist

Tonight is Samantha Hill’s second installment of The Happenings, a series of three performance workshops inspired by the MCA's history. Read about the inspiration behind her project below, then join us tonight at 6 pm.

Life imitates art far more than art imitates life

—Oscar Wilde

Dear Friends,

As I was digging through the MCA's archive for my second program of The Happenings, I discovered that the MCA has a rich history as a performance venue, hosting a variety of music and dance events at MCA Stage over the years. In response to this tradition, I decided to create a Happening honoring the history of dance and music at the MCA with a bit of a twist. For this event, I want the audience to become a part of the show by dancing with Chicago's vibrant samba community, and I hope you will join me in the fun.

As an artist, I take inspiration from life’s moments as source material for my performances. I am interested in the various ways people celebrate through spontaneous dance. When people gather together to dance, beautiful and exciting moments are created in response to the music. I had the opportunity to experience this phenomenon while dancing samba in Chicago.

Samba is a Brazilian musical genre and dance style with origins in West Africa that is recognized around the world as the music of Carnival. Over the past several months, I visited various samba events around Chicago with my sister Nicole. She was my guide into the samba community. She introduced me to musicians, dancers, and enthusiasts on the scene. The dancing I observed at the clubs amazed me: People from all walks of life, dancing with fast footwork and slick moves to samba music; beautiful passistas performing quick step dances in colorful, feathered costumes. Passistas are key players in the samba school and one of their roles is to keep the party going, so they would leave the main stage to dance with the audience! As I watched the passistas engaging the crowd in dance, I thought samba was the perfect way to include the museum audience in a participatory performance experience at the MCA.

Anjalee Natasha Verma dancing with the Queen of Samba 2015

Photo courtesy of the author

One of my goals in art making is to allow the audience to participate in the development of a performance. Samba culture allows people to express themselves through communal dance and song. The audience joins the performers to create a joyous space for celebration and unity. Everyone is invited to participate in the dance. When I began my exploration into samba, I didn’t know any of the steps. I stood on the sidelines watching in awe as everyone danced. One of the wonderful aspects of dancing samba is that the community will teach you the dance so you can join in the fun. As time passed, the community pulled me onto the dance floor. They cheered me on as I danced and gave me a hug for joining the party. Even if you have two left feet, the most important thing in the samba community

is that you're “shaking your bunda” to the music and having a good time!

Tonight, Chicago-based samba group Bossa Tres, featuring artists Dill Costa and Marcos Oliveira, will be at the MCA with passista Tania Daley. We would love for you to join the party.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Your friend in art,