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Report from Asia

Under cherry trees
there are
no strangers

- Basho

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A Sense of Community 2013
From my recent experience in Asia 
by David Anderson

As I get older, my sense of what a community is grows.  Its boundaries expand.  I recognize its many variations:  familial, friendships, colleagues, artists, students, Farm Store, Stewarts, people in prison, funders, people you meet at the post office, the people you wave to in passing cars.  It cultivates its own sense: a sense of community.  Like the other senses, if activated, it can give us a profound experience of the world, of the other, of ourselves, and of belonging to something greater than ourselves.  A sensation of participation.

WTD turned 15 years old last year.  We have reached the age in which we have worked with enough artists and students to populate a good-sized town, and reached enough audiences to populate a city the size of Albany. Together with many, many others, we have created an intentional community -- a community that seeks the revelations of our humanness through an experience of the arts. We may not share the same political views or religion or sense of humor, and we may occasionally experience challenging differences; but we do share an experience of what Yo Yo Ma called "art for life's sake."
In the past four years, I have been visiting Asia, expanding the community of our work to include people and places in China, Taiwan, and Japan. This work is supported by contributions and gifts from those communities and fulfills our artistic mission.  But it also connects the community that might read this to other groups of people who can't, but share our questions and our hopes for the world.

One unique aspect of the fast-growing world of China is the level of depth, sincerity, and hunger I experience in their questions and their desire to learn and understand.  Is there a correlation between the depth of questioning and the acceleration of growth?  Certainly the work comes and lands differently in such an environment.  What I bring incorporates more and more elements that I did not immediately see as connected to the arts I work with.  For example, in one workshop we included food, looking at experiencing qualities of life through comparing biodynamic carrots with conventional supermarket carrots.

This year brought 7 performances of A Christmas Carol to 6 cities, 36 days of workshops to over 700 people, help directing 8 theater productions, as well as private sessions, mentoring, and talks. In schools, I worked with every grade level, from Kindergarten students to class 12.  I worked in public schools, Waldorf Schools, a Montessori School, with teachers and people learning to teach, with professional actors and people learning to perform, and even with employees at a wealth management company in a golden skyscraper in downtown Guangzhou.  No matter where the community is, the basic principles and the spiritual laws that unite us illuminate themselves through this work.  What "this work" is changes and evolves through these encounters, and so does my sense of what it is really about.  Not least of all, it awakens our senses -- even ones we haven't named yet.

Though we do not share a common spoken language with most other countries in the world, many universal languages unite us: gesture, movement, atmosphere, voice, image.  In Asia, I cannot communicate with most of the people I meet using English.  But, as we know that if you take one sense away, the others become more acute, so too, by taking away the word-play, the poetry, the love, and the personality I can experience in English, other ways of connecting with people emerge. This may be the greatest gift these communities have given to me and my work: by taking away one of my main instruments, I learn to play the others better. Moreover, I learn to listen with other senses.  And one of these senses is:  a sense of community.

In elementary school, I started with five senses.  As I get older, I realize that they were only the beginning.  And now, again, I wonder:  what new senses are waiting for my discovery this year?

This community-expanding, sense-expanding, artistic research and these discoveries would not be possible without the community that supports WTD and its work in the world. Thank you for being a part of this community!


View the Report from Asia Photo Gallery

Visit Walking the dog Theater in Asia on Flickr


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