For the second year, the Department of Dance offered a Dance and Community class taught by Assistant Professor of Dance Tamara Williams. Last year, students had the opportunity to teach weekly classes at Camino Community Center and this semester, students taught at Aldersgate, a nonprofit retirement community in Charlotte, NC.
Williams created this Dance and Community course to teach students how to enter and exit community spaces respectfully, how to go about researching and creating contacts within the community, and how to cultivate those relationships. "It’s eye-opening and refreshing to be with a different crowd you’re not used to being with," says dance student, Mya Vestel. "It gives you a new perspective."
Students had to create a warm-up and a combination influenced by a style of their choice that could be performed both standing and sitting down, based on the residents' needs. Lydia Heidt focused on African-Brazilian dance forms, Aisha Cannon on dances of the Middle East, Mya Vestel on Hip Hop, and Cara McMahon on Vintage Jazz. In the course, students learned how to use vocabulary that the residents could understand while teaching them how to interpret and embody the movement. Students also learned how to teach a class with a different range of movement abilities.
“I like trying new activities, and my friends mentioned this dance class to me,” said Aldersgate resident, Suzanne. “So we thought we would show support to the students. It was so fun we decided to come back again!” Shelia, another dance class participant agreed, “Yes, when people bring something to us, we want to support it!”
The students taught weekly classes at Aldersgate, which ended in a culminating performance at the community center. "It’s really good being here," said dance student Aisha. "The people who participate have good energy and a lot of joy. You don’t necessarily get that in dance classes that you might teach with other groups of people. The class is open to anyone in the community. Most of the people that came to class in the beginning still come."
"I think it’s really important to engage with people who have been on this earth much longer than you," Ashia added. "American society doesn't always place as much respect on this as it has in the past. This class is also important because as dancers who have an interest in working in different communities, this is a safe setting to practice in, with mentorship and guidance. It could be rough to set up a class somewhere on your own in the community. This prepares you for what you could encounter outside of the university."