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Friday Fun: Song and dance transcend the ordinary on public transport
Singer in Chicago subway

A singer performs in the Chicago subway. Song and dance are no strangers to public transit around the world, and they have the power to transform public spaces frequented by urban residents every day. Photo by Joseph Mietus.

“Some sociologists say that modern modes of transport annihilate space and time and generate a permanent fright in travelers…we did our best in making one of those daily trips have a meaning beyond its origin and destination.”

Those are the words of a choir in Bogotá, Colombia, that transformed an ordinary commute on the TransMilenio advanced bus system into a community celebration of song in April this year. The same choir producer recently organized another choral performance on public transport in the Santiago Metro, again emphasizing their goal to transcend monotony of the everyday and give journeys on public transport greater meaning.

These two wonderful choir performances on public transport systems in Colombia and Chile, and a recurring Saturday evening gathering for song and dance at the Teatralna metro station in Kiev, Ukraine, reveal the power of song and dance to transform public spaces frequented by urban residents every day.

Choir on TransMilenio part of Slow Movement philosophy

In April 2013 the Chamber Choir of the School of Music Studies at Pontificia University Javeriana (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana) in Bogotá performed a “flashmob” style performance of composer Felix Mendelssohn’s “Forest Farewell” (Abschied vom Wald) on the TransMilenio BRT. Alejandro Zuleta, a New York based composer and pianist who was born in Bogotá, is the Choir Conductor. While the choir asked permission from TransMilenio operators in advance, the performance was a complete surprise to passengers onboard. The idea for the performance was conceived as part of the Despacio Slow Movement philosophy. Despacio is a non-profit organization that conducts research to promote quality of life in all stages of the life cycle, and develops and implements projects to make people feel good. The Slow Movement philosophy promotes a slower (Tempo Giusto), sustainable, humane lifestyle in every aspect of life – from individual aspects like eating, traveling, and organizing time at home and work, to collective aspects like planning sustainable urban spaces.

Santiago Metro performance

The choir that sang in October on the Santiago Metro was the Student Choral Ensemble (Conjunto Coral Estudiantil) from the University of Santiago (Universidad de Santiago) directed by Marta Gajardo Pinto. They performed “I remember you Amanda” (Te recuerdo Amanda) composed by Víctor Jara. See the YouTube video of their performance here, which was also planned in partnership with the Despacio Slow Movement and Bicivilízate, a movement based in Colombia that promotes a better urban experience and healthier cities.

Kiev metro station is home to weekend tradition of song and dance

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday evening in Kiev, go no farther than the Teatralna red line metro station. For about 20 years, the station has been home to a weekend tradition of folk song and dance. Although there’s no amenities provided for the singers and dancers – many of whom are over 60 years old – due to a lack in city funding, these folks have adopted the metro station as the site of a beloved community gathering. Anyone is welcome to join; if you don’t know the steps, someone will pull you into the circle and teach you.

The dancers at Teatralna station say they come “just for fun”, which makes me think they’ve got more in common with the singers on buses in Bogotá and metro cars in Santiago than what you see at first glance. Maybe it’s time for all of us for slow down, take a closer look at the communities surrounding us, and enjoy our commute – and what better place to do so than on public transport?

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