Butler University’s chapter of Movement Exchange developed a partnership a local program in Indianapolis called Dream Academy. Dream Academy is an elementary school after-school program that focuses on three pillars: “skill-building, character-building, and dream-building” (“About the Dream”). Movement Exchange at Butler has supplemented this program by teaching two dance classes every week for an hour in the fall of 2015. I have been teaching one class a week since the end of September.
When I first contacted the director of the program, she explained her desire to expose the children of Dream Academy to dance. The children had no formal dance training, which put them at a disadvantage in high school when they participated in dance auditions for school events. The children had very strong desires to be involved in dance, but became discouraged when they were not able to pick up steps. Her hope was for the members of Movement Exchange to expose the children of Dream Academy to many styles of dance to equip them with more skills for the future. In addition to explaining her hopes for our dance classes, the director also explained the living situations of many of the children. A number of them were raised by single parents or relatives, due to incarcerated family members. She stressed the difficult lives these children had led in a short amount of time.
While I have only worked with these children for a few months, I have noticed a tremendous transformation in them. During our first class, most of the children were sheepish and unwilling to participate. Now, they are eager to invite their classmates in to watch the dances they have learned. The boys were particularly self-conscious and would not dance to their fullest abilities, but now they are excited to see us each week. One of the boys cried and left during our first class, but now you can see his potential as a dancer. The girls were also shy about dancing at the beginning, but now they beg us to repeat the dances. Their confidence in their dancing as well as talking to the Movement Exchange members has grown as well. Their personalities are now shining through, as opposed to them staring at the floor and begrudgingly moving around. I am amazed at how far they have come in only a few months, I look forward to their progress after another semester of work!
On November 10 (a few days after the official MTCD!), a group 15-20 students from the All-Stars Project of Dallas visited SMU’s campus for the second time to meet current students, watch an open dress rehearsal of SMU’s Division of Dance’s Fall Concert, and have a meaningful discussion with our department chair and one of the choreographers from the show about the works and the artistry behind the works.
The All-Stars Project of Dallas is an organization that provides students from underprivileged schools in Dallas with performance education and college preparation. We have coordinated with them several times in the past (we collaborated to create an empowering talent show with their students last semester) and we plan to maintain our relationship with them going forward. Fantastic!
We had 4 Movement Exchange members present, and the evening lasted around three hours. It was incredible to open the All-Stars’ students eyes to the power of dance performance and to pique their interest in obtaining a college degree. I can only hope that they gained a deeper appreciation for performance and are interested in expressing themselves through art too! I love to share my passion for dance with those who have never really been exposed to it, and based on the students’ reactions in our conversation after the show, they were deeply affected and felt inspired by the dance that we have been working so diligently to prepare for the past few months.
Move to Change day has been in the works, and this year was the first year I had the opportunity to participate as a “mover” and a “changer.” Adele Switzer organized a Move to Change performance at 621 Gallery in Railroad Square the Friday preceding Move to Change day. In this event, a bowl full of “values” was set up. The public could write their values, or something they’re thankful for, and place it in the bowl. Once the values began piling up, us dancers entered the space. We randomly selected a value from the bowl, said it aloud, then preceded to improvise given the writing on the slip of paper and all that it entailed. This was a heart-warming experience, not just for the dancers, but for the audience as well. When improvising in a public gallery space, where people are walking around observing the art on the walls, it can be intimidating to feel as though you’re interrupting their experience with your movement. In this event, it didn’t feel that way at all. I started focusing on the few others I was improvising with, but as I became more comfortable, I saw the audience gather around us, observing their values being expressed through movement. It was a truly touching experience, and one I will remember for a lifetime. After experiencing that, I can say I understand what Move to Change day is all about.