Learning and executing movements can be incredible experiences alone, but there so much more to dance than steps. Each style has its own history, theories, and development that result in what we see today.
Take hip hop. Last month, hip hop dancer Duane Lee Holland spoke and demonstrated the development of this style. In the 1970s, the Bronx was central to the underground rise of hip hop music. With the construction of the Bronx Express Highway, people were displaced—uprooted. These communities began channeling their resistance and energy into music and movement.
Through this history, we learn that dance has the power to communicate: it is its own language.
Holland’s dance company participated in a cultural exchange program called DanceMotion/USA. He travelled to Eastern Europe and Russia, where they performed and collaborated with local companies. He had no knowledge of the spoken language, but he was able to connect with the dancers: “I don’t speak Russian, but I speak hip hop.”
As Holland said, “we need to start seeing hip hop as a language that develops globally as a form of resistance.”
We need to understand that our bodies can speak just as well as words.
I am heavily involved with the dance community at Colgate, and have been pushing to have dance integrated into the academic curriculum and receive equal recognition as fine arts, music, and theater have on campus. Dance’s strength as an extra-curricular on campus is immeasurable. Dancefest (a semi-annual showcase hosted at the Colgate Memorial Chapel) is always packed beyond what is established as a safe number by the fire department. It has the student support from the audience, as well as the passion and talent from the participants.
Dance develops skill sets that are incredibly valuable inside and outside of the classroom. We learn about stage presence—having that confidence to stand up in front of 750 people and perform something personal. We learn about trust—knowing that other members of your group (who have likely become family) will catch you during the falls and pull you up during the lifts. We learn about bodies—understanding where we are in space and being aware of others around us. We learn about teamwork—developing those relationships with other members and being comfortable enough around them to explain the past experiences and emotions that go into a piece. We learn about passion—committing ourselves to the pieces and the people.
This is why I dance.
And this is why I am a NY6 Fellow: to present dance as academically rigorous and valuable coursework; and to spread appreciation for dance as an insightful experience of corporeality and inspiration.
This blog will feature profiles of students, professors, and alumni who have been involved with dance in an effort to encourage others to consider dance in a more serious light. It will also display photographs and videos from my work with the Colgate Dance Initiative, which aim to showcase the talent and passion of students on campus, with the hopes that we can garner a greater appreciation for our art.