Dance to Give Back

College programs dive into outreach.

Oberlin College Dance Diaspora students performing at a street fair. Photo by Adenike Sharpley, Courtesy Oberlin.

College is a time to explore not only your own dance journey, but how the form fits into the outside world. Through outreach programs, students venture off campus and bring dance to their local communities, while honing their skills in teaching and performing. “Interacting with students through Q&As gave us time to share and reflect on our experience at Hunter College,” says Kristina Dobosz, an alum who participated in the school’s lecture-demonstration program that works in New York City high schools. “The ‘real world’ and our dance lives in the department crossed.” 

Oberlin College

Oberlin, OH

oberlin.edu

Degree offered: BA and minor in dance

No. of majors: 12–18 total

Outreach opps: Dance Diaspora, a by-audition group, explores African dance and culture. Oberlin also runs Girls and Boys in Motion, a mentorship program that partners with local schools and a Boys & Girls Club.

The details: Dance Diaspora students perform in community centers, churches, prisons and schools; lead youth summer camps in Cleveland and Oberlin; and travel internationally to work with performance groups in the communities they visit. Past destinations include Cuba, Puerto Rico and Nigeria. For Girls and Boys in Motion, Oberlin student mentors teach after-school movement-based workshops to elementary- and middle-school students.

Related coursework: Dance Diaspora students are encouraged to take jazz, blues, West African, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian dance. They also perform in two on-campus shows each year. Girls and Boys in Motion mentors take a course on community engagement through dance and a training course taught by student leaders.

Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr, PA

brynmawr.edu

Degree offered: BA and minor in dance

No. of majors: 2–4 per class

Outreach opps: Bryn Mawr has a Dance Outreach Project, open to all students, and offers a course on teaching the arts in educational and community settings.

The details: The ensemble performs an original work each year for over 1,000 students in Philadelphia schools. The performance connects to the schools’ curriculum, and is often used as a teaching tool. As part of the arts education course, students are placed in schools or communities where they assist and teach arts programs four to six hours per week.

Related coursework: In the Dance Outreach Project’s classroom component, students learn the history of arts education and education approaches.

A Hunter College lecture/demonstration. Photo by Maura Donohue, Courtesy Hunter.

Hunter College

New York, NY

hunter.cuny.edu

Degree offered: BA and minor in dance

No. of majors: 50–60 total

Outreach opps: All dance majors are required to participate in Hunter’s lecture/demonstration program for one semester. It gives New York City high school students an idea of what it’s like to study dance in college, and teaches them about different dance forms.

The details: Hunter students visit six high schools over the course of the semester. They perform two student-choreographed works, plus ballet, hip-hop, West African and folk pieces choreographed by faculty members.

Related coursework: Students are required to take two levels of contemporary dance and one level of ballet technique before participating, and it’s recommended that they also take hip-hop and West African dance. 

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