Quentin Robinson knew something big had happened when he saw his friend Fasil laughing with a man from Pakistan. They were Marines, serving in Afghanistan and they weren’t supposed to be battling in the rec room, but Quentin had a tendency to organize dance battles without permission. He and his buddy would put up cash prizes, sometimes as much as $2000, and whether the men came to battle or just to watch and hear some music, all of them welcomed this chance to cut loose. Everyone on base was invited, men from all different backgrounds. And here’s the thing: Fasil was from India. He had hatred for Pakistanis.
“You mean everyone in Pakistan?” Quentin asked him. “Yes. Everyone.” Fasil would answer. “Did everyone in Pakistan hurt you, though? Every Pakistani person didn’t do anything to you.” Quentin went back and forth with him, but there was no getting around his thought process. “They’re all bad,” Fasil insisted. Until that night in the rec room…and there was Fasil, dancing to Wiz Khalifa’s "Black & Yellow." With his new friend from Pakistan.
Who Is Movements 4 Movements Founder Quentin Robinson?
Quentin has always understood that dance has the power to break down barriers, both inward and outward. He started dancing when he was 12 and is an accomplished dancer. He’s shared the stage with amazing people and he continues to perform, but somewhere along the way, he realized that what he wanted wasn’t to see his name on a billboard. What he really wanted, was to spread the feeling dance gave him. To facilitate those breakthrough moments, where people forget their differences, their inhibitions, even their pain…and surrender to the joy of movement.
In 2018, Quentin formed Movements For Movements (M4M), a non-profit organization comprised of five dedicated individuals including Quentin. They conduct workshops, outreach programs, retreats and one-on-one sessions, all with the aim of creating positive waves of change via the language of movement.
What Does Movements 4 Movements Do?
Because movement is so fundamental to our existence, the potential for this conscious application is limitless. M4M works with people of all ages, from all walks of life. Their tailor-made workshops have been extended to women’s groups recovering from cancer, youth groups, refugees, corporate retreats and families working stuff out together. Some programs are designed for people processing trauma, some are for immigrants struggling with immersion.
Movements 4 Movements Helps Refugees
Of course, Quentin didn’t just jump from organizing illicit battles to running a non-profit. He knocked on doors, participated in programs and productions while wrestling soulfully with the why and how of what he wanted to do. The real impetus came in 2017, when he went to Uganda with ARC (American Refugee Committee, now known as Alight). He’d attended a HATCH convention in Montana and ran into some folks from ARC in a coffeeshop after the event. They needed a ride to the airport, which he offered and on that serendipitous ride, they mentioned their plans to visit the Nakivale Settlement, home to 120,000 refugees. The eighth largest refugee settlement in the world, where the average person waits 20 years before being re-settled. They were leaving in two months and would he like to come?
Quentin got involved in planning and fundraising for the trip. He went to Nakivale with the goal of teaching a dance routine that would be taught at different locations around the globe. The people he met there had fled from unspeakable horrors, lost loved ones, lost their homes…and yet, the exchange they shared with him, was one of exultation. They were in a field together, dancing and laughing.
No words could do justice to describing that experience. It became the inspiration for M4M and importantly, Quentin crystalized his approach, which in essence is the approach of an activist. You organize, you mobilize and you follow your heart. Quentin did teach that same dance routine in Burundi and in several American cities, but his vision had expanded to something more wide reaching and longer lasting than teaching routines.
The Universal Power of Movement
He’s learned that some people run when they hear the word dance. They think they might be getting into something that requires special skill or a gift they weren’t born with and that can be intimidating…but we all move. We all speak and feel and express with our bodies. We all have pain that needs an outlet. We’ve all felt the failure of gaps in communication and we’ve all been short-changed, by cultural barriers that don’t need to be there.
Often, when we move away from words, which we’ve used to solidify our thoughts and perceptions, we come closer to ourselves and each other. We allow ourselves new ways of relating and expand our notions of what we’re capable of. Sometimes it’s as simple as releasing pain. Emotional trauma is stored in the body and begs to be released through the body.
It is always M4M’s first objective to find mobility. Often, they won’t even start with music. They’ll start with a word and have everyone attach a movement to it. Then a few more words. They create a flow that way…and Quentin smiles, “If you happen to turn some music on…and everyone’s moving how they would like to…then we’re dancing.”
When Quentin speaks about founding M4M and running a nonprofit, he glosses over the tedious details involved in such an endeavor. The grant writing, team building, planning and phone calls. He just waves his hand in the air, “You know…It’s a web of connections. The constant work.” He prefers to focus on the WHY of what they’re doing. That moment when a shy kid throws down in front of everyone, the day when a woman who hasn’t left her house in three years can sob and dance and laugh with nine strangers.
Quentin feels the outcomes for their efforts are outstanding. Every exchange has been extremely positive and that’s how he measures M4M’s success. The biggest challenge is funding, of course…but when funds are lacking, M4M doesn’t sit on their hands and wait. Their credo is movement, after all. They simply ask themselves what they can do— with or without funding. They’ll get the personnel together and set about finding a space they can use. Someone might donate a location. Some volunteers might come on board to help situate the space or cook for participants.
The Evolution of Movements 4 Movements
True to the fluidity of their cause, M4M is a mobile and constantly evolving group. There is no building with their name on it, no set schedule of classes or formulaic methods. These workshops happen in schools and shelters, in studios and AirBnBs.
“It’s never cookie cutter, because when you have ten people in a room, there are thirty different situations going on at once. So we have a sit-down with whoever we’re getting ready to do a facilitation with. We have a consultation where we’re like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? What’s the environment like?’ That’s prior to the workshop and even when we get there, we ask multiple questions.”
Though the situations vary widely, they all have one thing in common— there is always that breakthrough moment. A new level of understanding is reached. Those positive waves for change are set in motion. That is M4M’s mission and their reward.
In a workshop at CS Porter Middle School in Montana, the students each wrote a poem that told “their story” by attaching the words to movements. The teachers then learned those stories and performed them with the students. In the course of this 3 hour exercise, the teachers realized that their “problem student” was living in a car. There was good reason why he was late and always asking to go to the vending machines. He was hungry and looking for change.
From 2018-2019, M4M found a natural momentum where one project led to another. The connectivity was on fire. They partnered with other organizations like Camp Mak-A-Dream and Soft Landing. Based in Missoula, they traveled to several states and solidified plans to go to Ecuador and Africa. Then the pandemic hit.
Quentin’s right eyebrow shoots straight to the top of his head when asked how that affected their ability to function. “In every single way. Our work is on-location type of work…everything we’d booked just cancelled out.”
What Does The Future Hold For Movements 4 Movements?
They did go ahead with some virtual workshops and after a daunting stall in activity, they’re building back. They’re wearing masks, taking tests, implementing precautions and moving forward. Projects are starting to roll in again, locations are opening back up and they’re in the process of planning trips to four countries in Africa next year. Sometimes the whole world is stopped in its tracks…but that’s no reason not to keep moving.
Throughout life, we encounter barriers. Cultural, physical, financial, mental…and it’s always our job, as living beings, to move through them. Like water which flows unstoppably, so does life. We know that, but often don’t how to start. In our struggle to survive, or problem solve or ponder, we lose our flow, or feel it’s been stolen. If M4M were to have a motto, it’s “Can you take a step? Yes, you can.”
For more information on Movements 4 Movements, visit movements4movements.com.
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A version of this article first appeared in Honeysuckle's 420 print edition, featuring Lil Wayne and Young Money. Get your copy now.