Dance in Communities: My year at ATCO

In October of 2014, I was asked to teach dance/ movement therapy classes at ATCO (Advocacy, Training, Careers, Opportunities), a center for adults with disabilities in the Athens Community, along with a fellow student in the Dance Division. I had no idea that simply spending one hour per week with these individuals would make such a significant impact on my life and become the best part of my junior year.

It is often said that it takes a special kind of person to work with a population like the individuals at ATCO. I didn’t think I was that person. I walked in to the facility on the day of my first class questioning how in the world I was going to do this. Would they listen? Would they be violent? Would they even understand what I was saying? I went into the experience with an attitude based on stereotypes of mental hospitals in horror films and TV shows. I could not have been more wrong.

Going into the first class, Grace (my fellow teacher) and I had no idea what our students would be capable of. I was used to teaching trained dancers who had knowledge of ballet vocabulary. For ATCO, we had to approach the class as a movement experience rather than a dance class. We focused on getting them to reach their limbs out into space, use both homolateral and contralateral movements and learn basic rhythmic patterns such as stepping or clapping to a beat. We focused primarily on arm motions because many of the students had to sit in chairs or wheelchairs.

The amount of material our ATCO students were able to pick up and maintain was astounding. In just a few weeks they had improved significantly and could move with confidence. I could also tell that they were more comfortable and enjoying our weekly classes. One day our supervisor, Tami, approach Grace and I to tell us that one of our students who uses a wheelchair said that this was the best she had felt in years. Another student told Tami that dance class was his favorite part of the week. I hadn’t realized how much dance was impacting them. I took for granted the power of movement since I was used to dancing for hours on end each day in my classes and rehearsals.

In early March our students performed at the Disabilities Awareness Festival held at the Athens Community Center. Seeing the confidence in their eyes and the smiles on their faces as they performed the choreography was amazing. I was so proud I could have cried right there.

The next week we had our final class of the year at ATCO. Grace and I were in awe as we walked in to a party thrown for us by our students. We performed in front of the other clients and employees at ATCO and celebrated the year with cookies and fruit punch. Each of our students made us thank you cards, artwork, and one student even sang us a song. We received endless hugs and thank you’s. Tears started to well in my eyes as I thought about the coming months without these wonderful people.

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The individuals at ATCO are some of the most amazing and inspiring people I have ever met. They are kind, caring, funny and intelligent. They proved that anyone can dance and I am convinced that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to. When I began teaching in October, I thought I was just teaching dance class. I was wrong. As my students were learning new ways to move their bodies, together we were collectively learning about each other and how we can come together as a community.

Volunteering at ATCO was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I can’t wait to return in September to reunite with my students. I encourage everyone to seek out an experience similar to mine. Try something new, work with a population you never have before and take a chance because it will change you forever.

 

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Students showcase choreography at The Movement Concert

Students in The Movement Organization, a dance organization at OU, will be presenting their work at The Movement Concert March 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.

With a hectic schedule and spring break cutting into rehearsal time, the show had to be pulled together quickly. However, the students have shown great professionalism and diligence in putting together a diverse and exciting show.

On the program are nine new works choreographed and performed by members of The Movement. The pieces range from two to six minutes in length and range from duets to large group pieces.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. in The Shirley Wimmer Theater in Putnam Hall on Thursday and Friday. Tickets are $5. All proceeds go towards The Movement Organization.

For more information about The Movement. Click here.

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ACDA returns to OU

Ohio University hosted the East Central region American College Dance Association festival this past weekend. The weekend was full of classes, lectures, and concerts. The weekend was covered through social media.

Click the link to see the full coverage of the festival.

[View the story “ACDA returns to OU” on Storify]

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Winter Dance Concert combines artistry and entertainment

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The Dance Division at Ohio University presents its annual Winter Dance Concert, Friday, February 20 and Saturday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are $12.00 for adults, $9.00 for children under 18, and free for OU students with a valid OU ID.

The concert features choreography by guest artists including Nii-Tete Yartey, Artistic Director for the National Dance Company of Ghana, Leslie Dworkin and Lisa Moulton.

Also featured are new and reconstructed dances by faculty members Nathan Andary and Travis Gatling.

Design contributions to the concert include lighting by John Bohuslawsky, and costumes by Marina Walchi and graduate students, Natalia de la Torre, Jennifer Wolff and Kathryn McGaughey, coordinated by Cassandra Paine of the Theater Division.

Mod-estly Psychedelic, choreographed by Travis Gatling, was inspired by the music, fashion, and dancing of the 1960’s Mod scene. The dance originally premiered on a Spring 2011 Concert at Ohio University.

In Face to Face, Travis Gatling’s new choreography, performers explore both literal and abstract representations of physical and psychological responses to various forms confrontation.

Nathan Andary’s new work, Imprint, reveals accumulated corporeal experiences, which capture ethereal and everyday occurrences.

Rise, choreographed by Leslie Dworkin, is a journey that moves steadily forward, embracing both the vulnerability and strength of the human condition. Rise presents a quintet in a reflection on the tension between the human reality and a desired state of grace.

 Each Other’s Angels, choreographed by Lisa Moulton, considers sibling relationships. The shared common experiences of inherently unique individuals are explored within the loosely narrative structure of this dance.

Visiting artist Nii-Tete Yartey, Artistic Director of the National Dance Company of Ghana, choreographed Esum. This contemporary African dance considers the theme of power, its use and manipulation in society. Music from a variety of sources creates an atmosphere that mixes both traditional and contemporary African dance.

For more information contact Hayley Ross at hr332511@ohio.edu

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Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity

On Friday, Jan. 23, The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus hosted a film viewing of Elizabeth Streb’s documentary Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity. The film featured high flying stunts, excerpts from Steb’s current and archival works as well as an in depth exploration of what makes STREB different from any other dance company in the world.

The documentary gave the audience the feeling of what it is like to rehearse in SLAM (Streb Lab for Action Mechanics) through the eyes of her dancers. Each dancer described what it was that drew them to Streb and made them stick around through the fear and danger placed before them.

One retired Streb dancer said that she had never felt anything like what she felt while performing for Streb and she hasn’t felt anything like it since. Elizabeth Streb does something that no one else has ever attempted. She tries to get humans to fly through  combination of amazing physical strength and elaborate equipment.

After the film, Streb herself answered questions from the audience. When asked what is next for the company she replied that she wasn’t entirely sure, but she hopes to bring PopAction outside the studio just as she did for the 2012 London Olympics.

Not only does Streb inspire audiences with new and innovative ideas for movement but also through her personality. She encourages dancers to be themselves and to think outside the current parameters of what has been done before.

Members of the OU Dance Division had the opportunity to speak with Streb after the film. She shared her advice and encouraged the students to reach their highest potential as dancers.

The film will be available on DVD on May 11. Until them here is the trailer for the film.

 

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Alumna Q&A: Jennifer Petrie

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Jennifer Petrie graduated with her B.A. in Dance in 2009. During her time as an undergraduate student she also earned a B.A. in History, a B.A. in Russian and later completed her Masters in African Studies.

Jennifer is currently working towards her Doctorate in Educational Administration here at OU. She has travelled to Ghana, Africa to complete research in high schools on three separate occasions. Jennifer is currently working as the Graduate Assistant for Programming at the Walter International Education Center. For two years she has worked part time with VSA Ohio, teaching cultural dance at two local schools for children with disabilities. After graduation Jennifer plans to continue her work in policy development for dance and the arts. She hopes to make dance and the global arts more available to children on a regular basis in all parts of the world.

Has your dance education been helpful in your current life/studies?

Yes, my dance education here at OU was helpful in my current life and studies!  The OU dance program gave me the confidence to continue to study dance and dance education in my MA program and doctoral program.  When I started the dance program as a freshman, I didn’t realize dance was a form of intelligence.  I always thought the dance side of me was actually a hinderance to my intelligence in other subjects and a negative to my future professional goals because so many people told me, “you will never go anywhere with dance, ” or “good luck finding a job!”  I had never taken a non-studio dance class and I didn’t realize that dance could blend and intertwine with my “academic” side.

The dance program altered my thinking about dance and what can be done with it.  Having a dance major is an asset.  Dance reveals innovative ways of thinking and problem-solving that is beneficial to a variety of fields.  Biology, math, computer science, cultural studies, education, political science all benefit when dancers are thinking about these subjects.  My knowledge of dance has helped me to receive academic fellowships and scholarships in graduate school in-part because I have unique ways of thinking about research with my dance background.

The dance program also helped to make dedication a habit of mind for me. I have John B to thank for this one.   Learning to keep your word and show up to rehearsals and classes on time over and over again helped build a work ethnic that I have found to be incredibly valuable in the professional world.  Sometimes you have to run to get to something on time because you are accountable not just for yourself, but to a group.  Learning to communicate and work together with the same group of people for four years also prepared me for project work in group-settings.

As far as life goes, understanding the strength of women in modern and African dance instilled in me confidence in my body and self that I am forever grateful for.  Being around other women and men that were exploring women’s body-politics or gender-politics  through movement also makes you think differently about the world we live in.  Do you conform?  Do you not-conform?  These are huge issues in life and being able to explore them openly and creatively in the dance program forever changed my thinking about being a woman.

What do you miss most about being an undergraduate student?
I miss the friendships.  I miss living so closely with people that have similar interests.  I loved being able to walk only five minutes to grab dinner with a class-mate and chat about dance and life.  I also miss being able to enter a studio space so easily and just explore  movement and dance by myself, especially on a warm spring night when the windows were open.  There is something about Athens in the spring time that stays with you.  
 
Is there anything you would change if you could go back?
There isn’t much I would change.  I learned the most from the mistakes and falls I made.  The one thing I will say though is that as a dancer, it’s very easy to put you first, and there are times when you should do this, but, for me, some things in life are more important than dance.  I didn’t realize that as an undergraduate. 
 
What is one of your favorite memories from your undergraduate days?
This is a tough one, there are so many!! So, I will give two.   I was involved in a piece my first year called “For Josephine” by Shawn Curran that looking back, just had a cast filled with amazingly creative people.  It was so refreshing to see so many different ways of thinking about movement and dance.  The experience of the upper-classmen in the piece also inspired me to work harder and think more creatively.  Shawn’s quote, “There’s nothing to it, but to do it,” also sticks with me through-out life.  I still think of that quote when I’m having a difficult run or training-hard for a performance. 
 
Getting involved in the AZA concert in 2007 with Zelma and Paschal was also a favorite moment for me!  The energy in the rehearsals and performance was incredible!  I felt like everyone involved was giving 110% and more! It was refreshing to dance alongside non-majors and majors.  Dancing to the live music was incredibly invigorating and that feeling of excitement and boundless energy that I got while performing is why I continue to be involved with African dance in Azaguno today.
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Struggles of being a Dance Major

As the new semester began, I found myself thinking about all the great (and not so great) aspects of being a dance major. So here are just a few times when we struggled as dance majors.

When classes start after you haven’t danced in four weeks.

When you finally get to shower after class and rehearsal.

When non-dance majors see your panty lines from your leotard.

When your wardrobe consists only of spandex.  

When you get home after rehearsal and all your friends are going out.

When you want to go see a dance performance but tickets are expensive.

When you contemplate stretching after class.

When Tech week rolls around. 

But through it all we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else!

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