This week, Professor of Dance Cynthia Williams is sponsoring a workshop for Geneva girls, ages 13-19, at the Geneva Community Center. Called “Project Becoming: Geneva,” the workshop is led by members of the Bronx-based INSPIRIT Dance Company, including alumna Chevon Stewart ’04.
“It feels like everything has come full circle. I’m excited to be back and to be a part of a dance company of substance,” says Stewart. “Project Becoming helps young women find a voice and works to empower at risk teens, to bring that to Geneva is fulfilling.”
INSPIRIT, a Bronx-based dance company, formed to provide a forum for collaboration among emerging female artists and choreographers. INSPIRIT Dance Company’s Artistic Director Christal Brown developed the project’s unique curriculum, which gives participants the opportunity to explore questions such as “Who am I?” “Who do I want to become?” “What makes me strong?” and “What makes me unique?” while dancing, writing, talking and creating.
According to INSPIRIT’s website, the mission of the program “is to create self-actualized women. Through the use of expressive modalities, such as dance, writing and discussion, we promote creative exploration. These experiences encourage an outgrowth of limitless possibilities. We decrease risky behavior, such as teenage pregnancy, drug use and academic delinquency. We increase self-esteem, social, individual and academic responsibility as well as community involvement. We hone the critical thinking skills of our participants, thereby allowing them to assess, plan and act authentically.”
Since its inception in 2000, INSPIRIT has performed in New York City in Aaron Davis Hall, The Joyce Soho, and Alvin Ailey Dance Center; at The Dance Place and The Lincoln Theater, both in Washington, D.C., and in colleges and theaters from North Carolina to California. In 2008, they were in residency at the Colleges for three days, teaching a dance technique master class, performing a lecture-demonstration at Geneva Middle School, and presenting a concert of original works.
Because of their previous experience with Williams and students in Geneva, they were inspired to bring Project Becoming to Geneva.
“Professor Williams has been the greatest community partner we’ve ever had,” says Brown. “Her attention to the program and her efforts to ensure Project Becoming was brought to Geneva were immense.”
The program began Sunday, July 24, with a dinner for participants. Classes are being held Monday through Friday, July 25 through 29. Project Becoming: Geneva culminates with a Saturday afternoon sharing of experiences by the participants in the Black Box Theater at the Community Center.
An Arts Scholar at William Smith, Stewart graduated with a B.A. in dance and psychology and went on to perform with the Urban Bush Women’s apprentice program, Arthur Aviles Typical Dance Theater, Keila Cordova Dances, among other companies. She currently dances with INSPIRIT and Baraka De Soliel’s D Underbelly.
Brown grew up in Kinston, N.C. and received her B.F.A. in Dance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After graduating, she toured nationally with Chuck Davis’s African-American Dance Ensemble and internationally with Andrea E. Woods/Souloworks. She later danced with Gesel Mason Performance Projects and was an apprentice with the Liz Lerman Dance Exhange before moving to NYC and finding a home with the Urban Bush Women, where she spent three seasons as a principal performer, community specialist and apprentice program coordinator.
The project is funded by a New York State DanceForce grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge Grant and is free of charge to the participants. Local area merchants Wegmans, Mark’s Pizzeria, and Subway have donated lunches for the participants during the week.
More on the project is online: http://www.inspiritdance.com/INCommunity-project-becoming.html