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Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House adopts flashmob mentality

Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House believes it can build a more inclusive community through the power of mass dance.
Babette Santos
Babette Santos, a youth co-ordinator at Multicultural Helping House and artistic director of Kathara Indigenous Pilipino Arts Collective Society, says intercultural flashmobs are a great way to bring neighbourhoods together. photo Dan Toulgoet

Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House believes it can build a more inclusive community through the power of mass dance.
Olga Shcherbyna, coordinator of the provincially funded Building Welcoming and Inclusive Neighbourhoods program at the neighbourhood house, is organizing an intercultural flashmob. She’s looking for more lead dancers to volunteer to teach free community flashmob classes this month.

“The goal of the project is to bring people together through the universal language of dance and celebrate our diversity,” she told the Courier in an email.

Babette Santos volunteered to be a lead choreographer because she wanted the opportunity to collaborate with other choreographers and she believes an intercultural flashmob is a great way to bring neighbourhoods together.

“Especially with new immigrants where language is maybe a barrier… dance is a nice starting point,” she said. “I feel that way about the arts in general, it brings people together beyond language.”

Santos, youth co-ordinator at partnering organization Multicultural Helping House and artistic director of Kathara Indigenous Pilipino Arts Collective Society, will teach seniors and youth from the helping house to shrug their shoulders and stomp their feet to the drumbeat-heavy, electronic, bhangra-infused song “Turn Up The Stereo” by local Celtic-bhangra band Delhi 2 Dublin.

Shcherbyna says six- to 12-year-old children in the Cedar Cottage Crew homework club will also learn the moves. Santos and the other choreographers will teach simplified Filipino, Vietnamese, Ghanaian and jazz-inflected dance at the neighbourhood house, the helping house and Trout Lake Community Centre. Flashmob dancer wannabes will be able to view the moves on the Cedar Cottage Intercultural Flashmob page on Facebook.

“I’m really happy already that there’s seniors showing up,” Santos said. “Our society does a lot to separate our generations and categorize them so there’s less intergenerational interaction, which is really important to relate to different generations and being a healthy society… There should be more encouragement amongst community centres and the government and just everybody, in family, to encourage more intergenerational events.”

The flashmob will perform at events at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House and Trout Lake Community Centre in February and in March to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21).

Surprises will come in the form of prominent Vancouverites who’ve agreed to learn the choreography at flashmob classes and for the unsuspecting participants in Cedar Cottage, Trout Lake and elimination of racial discrimination events.

The immigrant integration and multiculturalism branch, Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, funds the Building Welcoming and Inclusive Communities program. It is delivered by 14 neighbourhood houses throughout the Lower Mainland with the support of the Association of Neighbourhood Houses.

Four free flashmob dance classes will run on Fridays at Trout Lake Community Centre starting Jan. 17 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. For more information, see the Cedar Cottage Intercultural Flashmob page on Facebook or phone 604-874-4231.

crossi@vancourier.com
twitter.com/Cheryl_Rossi

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