In Favor Sabbatical

I’m almost done with my first month of a sabbatical period and I’m absolutely loving it. I went to undergrad in Philadelphia and worked there for 5 years afterwards – so it was my home for a total of 9 years. I knew I wanted to relocate to meet some new career goals a year ago.

Downtown Minneapolis.

I’m grateful that I had a full year to prepare for and process this transition, as it was not easy to leave a place where I had so much community, deep friendship, and soul family. But I was ready to go.

To prepare, I saved money, applied for scholarships to training programs, and reached out to friends for hospitality. I worked hard and diligently to organize my summer enrichment, and now that I’m in it I can honestly say that I’m super proud of the season I’ve built for myself. I get to participate in a total of 7 weeks of professional development, go on a road trip across the country, make new friends, and move to a new city!

I earned $1,100 in scholarships to train for a total of 7 weeks with Ananya Dance Theatre, Urban Bush Women, and Contra-Tiempo, all directed by some of the most relevant, nationally recognized artist-activists and womxn of color choreographers. I see what I want to grow into in their respective work and approaches. I’m thrilled for the timing and opportunity to be based in Los Angeles later this summer where I will be surrounded by a community of Afro Latin movement artists.

For me, taking the time for a sabbatical has been worth it for two critical reasons:

1. I am finding artistic mentorship that I wasn’t finding in Philly.

The Philadelphia arts community has a strong peer and collaborative network. There are venues to self produce. Independent artists are creative, resourceful, and inspiring humans. But it wasn’t the place for me to have the opportunity to join an established touring company that aligned with my values. There are dozens of established independent artists that deserve to be generously resourced by local and national foundation money.

What I see in the leaders I am training with, that I don’t see from leaders with touring companies in Philly, is that they are cultivating a younger generation of empowered leaders, taking risks, and engaging their audiences around social justice and transformation.

2. I need to rest.

After years of working as as a teaching artist, adjunct professor, curator & arts based organizer, I didn’t have the breadth of time I desired to cultivate myself as a performing artist. I gave and gave and gave and gave and gave of myself to youth, young adults, and creative organizing projects as I emerged into my post graduate years. The majority of my time commitments were output, not personal cultivation.

What I did gain during that time was wonderful and formative experiences, especially through foundation and grant programs for professional development. Shout out to my friends from the Bartol Foundation! They are groovy people doing incredible work supporting community arts education all over Philly. Another huge shout out to the Painted Bride for all their support during the BrideNext residency in 2017! It was a formative project that significantly shaped the trajectory of my dance theater work.

Taking sabbatical for me means claiming space for a more authentic expression of my life’s mission- right now that looks like cultivating with people who are at the intersection of arts-activism. And right now I’m rooting this in Afro Latin diaspora movement. Seeking mentorship and taking a necessary break from leadership is bringing me to transformative enrichment, all progressing to a more realized and robust expression of my gifts and passions.

To folks following this blog, it means a lot to stay in touch and to have your moral support from a distance – it’s never been easy for me to move. Don’t hesitate to write and call!

For more updates and day-to-day content, follow me on Instagram: @alvarezmovement

For my peers who are considering sabbatical, here’s a checklist for ways to get started:

  • Identify what you would like to research and grow into
  • Seek mentorship
  • Travel to be in proximity with teachers and/or community you want to learn with and from
  • Rest your body, mind, heart*

*This is huge. Autumn Brown talks about sabbatical in her podcast, How To Survive The End of the World, about a some key things during sabbatical. Things like taking care of your nervous system. Drinking water. Sleeping and reading. Ample time and space to unravel.

Here’s a list of practical ways to support your time away from a current role or relocating:

  • Save money
  • Ask your network for gifts to go towards a specific project – outline the costs and what the community’s gifts are going towards
  • Apply for scholarships to training programs
  • Contact friends for hospitality to save on room and board
  • Use flight tracker apps to find affordable plane tickets (I like Hopper – I saved close to $200, compared to current prices, on my round trip flight to NYC by tracking)

Books to support personal deconstructing, deep reflection, and reshaping of core values:

  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – This is a 12 week workbook facilitating a deeper spiritual connection with creativity and caring for the child artist within. I found morning pages to be a very effective exercise and there are beneficial tasks in each chapter!
  • Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown – This book is based on the question – How can we make justice the most pleasurable experience? It’s a great read for listening for a “yes” from a deep place within, and using that to guide life pursuits and organizing. The curation of essays and practices shared gave me a vivid image of interconnectedness between pleasure and justice.
  • Emergent Strategy Adrienne Maree Brown – This book is great for thinking about how we show up in the world and how to shape working together in collectives and organizations. Also a great way to think about how all interactions, starting with awe of fractals in nature, lead towards the vision of a more liberated world.

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