I call them "my families". The heads of household range from a teenage mom who got her GED just as her daughter turned two, to a hard-working couple working at different fast food chains, to a stay-at-home mother of one. I see each of them twice a week for only about half an hour. But because we meet in their homes - and because the visits commence when a child turns two, it's a pretty intimate scene. I'm there when the dad is looking for work; I'm there when the children are sick; I'm there when the school-age sibling gets a bad report card; I'm there when the shit hits the fan.
I'm paid a small stipend by Americorps to visit "my families" in a program called "The Parent Child Home Program". It's a part-time job, but fairly consuming. Because the program of visits lasts for two years, I go from being "la maestra" to unofficial "tia" of the neighborhood. Some of the people I work with have some idea that I make dances - it explains why I'm so happy to roll on the floor with their kids, or sing in a wacky voice.
For more than 10 years, I've led this kind of double life, working with kids and families, often Spanish-speaking, around advocacy, literacy - liberation really. Too often the dance world I inhabit doesn't invite much of a range of classes, cultures, languages. So this work helps me to feel balanced, feeds me in a different way from making art. Making THE WELCOME TABLE, I even got to mix my two worlds, incorporating one of "my families" of that era with some of my performer colleagues.
And if you asked me which of my two lives is more rewarding to me, more valuable to my community, more remunerative in the long run, more fundamental to my identity, I'm not sure I could say. Maybe that's why I keep doing both.