Actions speak louder than words — a phrase Lucille Toth takes literally.
On Board(hers), a dance workshop and performance directed by Toth, an assistant professor of French at Ohio State’s Newark campus, is coming to the Urban Arts Space Saturday through Monday. The event offers an artistic exploration of immigrant women’s stories, highlighting the participants’ immigration experiences through a workshop and performance that allow them to focus on their feelings by writing, speaking in their native languages and creating their own gestures to perform, no matter their dance experience.
Toth said the workshop is open to anyone who was born outside the United States and identifies as a woman. The workshop will be followed by a free performance that people of any gender or ethnicity are invited to come watch.
“There’s a large variety of people that have very different relationships to immigration,” Toth said.
As someone who is white, straight, educated and French, Toth said she is not the typical targeted immigrant, so she uses her privilege to open and facilitate a space for women who might face more discrimination.
“Saturday and Sunday we stay inside the building, and we work together,” Toth said. “I give them tasks. I give them movement that they need to unpack, decompose and create their own movements based on the testimonies they own.”
Monday is the result of an intensive weekend of sharing among one another, Toth said.
“It’s others telling their own story in their own words, in their own language — first language — and the movement would be the translation of the stories,” Toth said.
One such story comes from Yildiz Guventurk, who moved to Columbus, Ohio, about a year and a half ago from Turkey. Guventurk came to pursue her graduate degree in dance from Ohio State, where she met Toth and became aware of the project.
“I was just so interested in being a part of it, and I had no idea what it was, how it was going to be, but just the idea of being in the same room with women from all over the world sounded really exciting to me,” Guventurk said. She joined as a participant and has since become Toth’s creative assistant.
Toth said On Board(hers) has expanded to 20 participants for its upcoming event from its original 12-person project in 2018, when she founded it.
On Board(hers) has brought together participants of different ages, sexual orientations, educational backgrounds, dance skills and ethnicities, including women from Uganda, China and Syria, Toth said.
“We actually needed a space just to be among female immigrants and to share our journey,” Toth said. “And just kind of lay out and just be in a space where you don’t have to justify accents. You don’t have to justify it, and you don’t have to try to fit in.”
Toth said that when she first started the workshops, the group would meet monthly to play with concepts such as walls or borders.
“How do you feel when you cross the border? What type of movements can reflect that feeling?” Toth said. “We put the audience in some sort of vulnerable position when we were speaking our own language that they did not understand, and we decided what was coming into the performance space. So we kind of included the audience into that conversation.”
The workshop — open and free to anyone who was born outside the U.S. and identifies as a woman — is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Urban Arts Space. The performance is at 7 p.m. Monday, free for audience members. More information regarding sign-up for the event can be found at https://www.onboardhers.com/upcoming-events/journey-workshop-2.