Alumni Spotlight: Gabriel Vanaver

Alumni Spotlight Special

It’s been a minute since we had our last alumni spotlight but we couldn’t wait to share this one with you! As Bill & Livia begin their 3rd annual year of teaching in Auroville, India, their son, Gabe, reflects on the time he spent in Auroville with his parents last winter. Gabe’s insights into his upbringing are both thoughtful and inspiring, and the artistic work he contributes to the world is a clear reflection on his life in The Vanaver Caravan.

SPOTLIGHT: Gabriel (Gah-bé) Vanaver

BIO: Gabriel (Gah-bé) graduated Naropa University Spring 2017 with a double BA in Music and Traditional Eastern Arts/Yoga Studies. Since then, he has been writing and producing music with his band and other local musicians, teaching yoga, dancing whenever possible, practicing Cyr Wheel, working as a massage therapist, and working on his musical storybook, Water Wings. For the past 2 years, Gah-bé has been working with an incredible team to create "Water Wings” a musical storybook experience; combining the traditional illustrated storybook format with a fully immersive musical audio play. Working with world-class musicians including Guy Davis, members of Elephant Revival (Dango Rose, Bridget Law & Darren Garvey), The Super Saturated Sugar Strings (Alaska), Xerephine (Colorado), and The Front Range Strings (Colorado). With masterful illustrations by Katherine Breen. 

We caught up with Gabe, here’s what he had to say!

In what ways has your upbringing with TVC impacted/shaped the life you live today? My rebellious efforts to differentiate myself from my parents drove me to become a musician/singer songwriter/dancer, of course. Haha. Like many other kids, I rebelled as a teenager. But my rebellion was to the current voices prevalent in Hip-Hop, Rock-N-Roll, and Pop culture. Not that I just listened to whatever the media fed me—rather, I saw these formats as a way to connect to people on a global scale. What better way to connect to a collective consciousness than through music and dance? People need that sense of togetherness in their lives, and The Vanaver Caravan really instilled that importance in me. Community, celebrating diversity, and the constant curiosity, engagement and sharing with people of other cultures; these are the core values that I was taught, and they still hold up strong in my life.

Tell us a story about your life in The Vanaver Caravan! How to sum up a lifetime of memories? Traveling, dancing, playing music, learning and sharing… I guess the most prominent memory on my mind was my most recent travel to India with my parents. Last Spring, 2018, we spent our time in Auroville and the surrounding villages near Pondicherry, teaching dance in the local elementary school.

So there I was… Auroville, India, Friday night at the Unity Pavilion, performing my own music in the show and also accompanying my parents with the doumbek and 12-string guitar—and dancing of course, let’s not forget the dancing. Three profound experiences occurred this night.

The first was performing my music for my parents and the audience, and having my message in my music synchronize seamlessly in the show. It was surreal to say the least. I played my song “Chaos” after Bill sang Pete Seeger’s “Garbage”. To give you some context, Pete’s song is about garbage and how wasteful we can be as humans and my song is about the ideas of living alternatively outside the capitalist consumer paradigm.

Second, was performing the “Newspaper Dance”—a structured improvisation dance about single use consumerism and the busy life of capitalism. To bring it up a peg, we brought in some local talented dancers and thespians to collaborate on this piece. We only had a couple rehearsals before the show, and we just had a ball performing it on stage. Probably my favorite dance I have learned from the company.

The third experience was the end of the show where we got people up and dancing. We always do these great folk dances to get people moving. Well, this time I decided its time to incorporate a little Hip-Hop and show how culture lives on in today’s world. I taught the art of the cypher (where people stand in a circle and go in the middle one by one to express themselves and break it down for their peers). The cypher is a sacred space across all street dance styles. When we go in the middle we give to the cypher; when we stand on the side, we feed the person in the middle; cheering, clapping and encouraging that release of energy and listening to the story of the body. So that’s what we did. We made a few circles, I put on a beat, and we didn’t stop until the neighbors complained because we were having too good a time.

Any other parting thoughts/reflections you'd like to share? If there is one thing to take away from The Vanaver Caravan’s mission, it is to look at everyone we meet, and instead of disdainfully judging for not being more like us, engaging with these differences and celebrating all people. Just like the only thing that stays the same is change, the only thing that will bring us all together and understand one another is to accept and celebrate each other’s unique qualities.

Give us three to five words you'd use to describe the overall feeling you get when you think of that time.  Folk, World, Community, Unique, extravagant.

Thank you, Gabriel. We love you!

Keep an eye out for his upcoming children’s book, Water Wings! The Kickstarter will be launching in February if you’d like to pre-order or donate to his children’s book experience.

IG @waterwingsproductions / / (website launching soon)

I am in the business of investing in and creating positive energy. I believe that through music, art and storytelling we speak to the heart of the youth. I believe we must go beyond sustainable practices to regenerative practices. It is not enough to survive in this world, we must thrive in this world. That is why I started Water Wings Productions. We weave and share these stories of positive reinforcement and growth to build confidence, and inspire youth to thrive through life. When I say positivity I don’t only mean happy - la dee da - bliss, I am talking about working through every aspect of the Self and engaging with life to nurture and cultivate resiliency and compassion.
— Gabriel "Gah-be" Vanaver