This Is One Way to Get People Talking About a City Council Meeting – Next City

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This Is One Way to Get People Talking About a City Council Meeting

Portland, Maine's City Hall

While Boston officials try to foster political engagement with coffee, Portland, Maine, has a strategy that’s, well, a little more Portland, Maine (or Portland, Oregon, for that matter): interpretive dance.

Dancer Sara Juli enlivened a recent city council meeting with handstands, grooves and some time on a zoning committee member’s lap, TV news station WCSH 6 reports. She was invited to perform as part of Mayor Ethan Strimling’s “Arts in the Chamber” series, which was launched last year in a partnership with Creative Portland.

“I know I can speak for my colleagues on the council to say that we are incredibly proud of the deep wellspring of talent that we have in every corner of our city,” the mayor said in a release about the program, which is intended to promote local artists, performers and musicians with a brief showcase at the beginning of city council meetings.

On Monday, Juli performed an excerpt of a dance called “Shadow Artist,” which she described as a piece about “being afraid to be an artist.” It included some fairly typical dance moves, along with a simulation of vomiting and some so-not-typical audience interaction.

“I scoped the audience while I was performing going ‘Hmmm,’ who could I maybe sit on?” Juli told WCSH 6.

She settled on Robert Bartels, who was there to be appointed to the zoning committee. She climbed onto his lap and then lay flat in a sort of plank position across his legs. WCSH 6 has highlights here.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.

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Tags: arts and culturecity councils