A Letter from Ana Lejava, Director of Smashworks Advocacy

I am an immigrant dancer from Georgia, a product of post-soviet nationalism, and abstract realism; I am the generation born after the fall of a Berlin wall and one that idealized the American sense of freedom, diversity,  individualism, and activism. I grew up doing homework on candlelight, training in the frozen studios with the broken windows and no heating. I saw poverty and struggle since early age, and lived through two wars and never, but despite the challenges growing up, dance gave me the conviction and strength to look beyond the upsetting realities, imagine the better world and to dream about change. Decade ago dance brought me to the States. Without any knowledge of English language,, I was able to assimilate with American culture and make a new home for myself through the powerful and universal language of dance. It has become my passion to use dance as a vehicle for individual transformation and positive change in the society, especially addressing such social justice and human rights issues like immigration, a topic directly impacting mine and my friends’ lives. For the past two years, I have been trying to find the outlets and resources to actualize my social entrepreneurship pursuits, building a network of like-minded artists. It was meant to be that exactly at this moment in life, I was reconnected with my college classmate and a friend, artistic director and founder of Smashwork’s Dance Collective  Ashley McQueen. After sharing our ideas and objectives, we found mutual vision and the purpose. We believe that Dance as an art, carries more responsibility and weight than just a form of entertainment or artistic pursuit, and it our calling to be the social entrepreneurs, driving change with specific causes using our skill set. I could not have wished for better timing for this opportunity to present itself, and I can't think of a better person and the team to work work on this cause.

Introducing: SMASHWORKS ADVOCACY

A letter from Artistic Director and Founder Ashley McQueen:

Growing up in Alabama, I was always a passionate artist fueled by the injustices of the government system. Getting into heated debates at the lunch table in fourth grade, I advocated for a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, and equal rights for the LGBT community.

Since moving to New York, I have utilized Smashworks Dance as my creative outlet, and a platform to promote dialogue about complicated issues.

Over the past two years, I tried organizing events and collaborating with other groups: our first Smashworks Film Festival was a curated dance film showing, a free opportunity for artists to have their work screened and promoted, that donated all profits to Planned Parenthood, and our performance of “For Which It Stands” took donations for Dancers Responding to AIDs. I desired to initiate even more direct community outreach, but didn’t have the resources or even know where to start.

Since finishing my MFA in Dance through Hollins University, I began questioning my greater purpose and wondering how I can create political work that actually makes change outside the theater. How can I integrate political action and artistic expression? How can we as artists truly give back to the community?

I first met Ana almost five years ago during our time at Birmingham-Southern College. We serendipitously reunited last year when she attended our political-satire performance “For Which It Stands.” When we finally sat down and reconnected, our mutual desire for political action and arts advocacy was overwhelming, and three weeks later the Smashworks Advocacy Branch was founded. In hearing Ana’s experience as a refugee and immigrant, I knew that our first campaign must focus on shifting U.S. immigration policies and empowering those who struggle within this system. 

Smashworks is a diverse company of movers, featuring women from Mexico, Italy, France, Canada, Georgia, and the U.S. We are proud to represent a variety of backgrounds and heritages. I am proud to work alongside such strong and passionate artists, and look forward to expanding this advocacy branch to include campaigns that focus on other pressing topics, such as gender equality, women’s healthcare, LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, and more.