Associate Professor of Dance Cadence Whittier’s course, “Community Arts,” engaged with local youth on a semester-long collaborative dance program. The initiative focused on promoting wellness and social change through collaborations with staff and students from Hillside Children’s Center – Varick Campus, a care facility for children and teens. The Hillside staff and students joined Whittier’s “Community Arts” class 13 times during the semester.
As part of that collaboration, six young people and three staff from Hillside performed with Whittier’s class in a series of site dances in March and during the Arts Experience festival’s gala celebration in April. The collaborative dance was inspired by “patterns in relationships and the community,” a result of the first three months of this semester’s coursework. The dance evolved by first exploring patterns and relationships in nature, art, design, movement and musical rhythms.
“I thought it was beautiful to see the Hillside youth open up to a complete group of strangers,” said Sophie Halter ’15, who was enrolled in the course. “I think this strongly reflects the power of aesthetic education in community-oriented institutions like Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The most rewarding aspect [of the project] was seeing two communities engage grow closer together and establish strong relationships by creating a community art performance.”
The ambitious project also included hosting student workshops during the Arts Experience festival. In accordance with their emphasis on social change, the class encouraged environmental responsibility by discussing ongoing issues such as the Gas-Free Seneca initiative, examining visual art, and then developing dance pieces. In addition to workshops on campus, the class traveled to the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva to conduct their lesson, which explored the past, present and future environment and climate of Geneva through dance, sculpture and collage.
“Through collaboration with each other and members of the Geneva community, the students in this course learned how to create and implement arts programming for diverse learners,” Whittier said.
Whittier’s dance course follows a tradition of service-learning efforts at HWS, in which both students and community members benefit.
Later in the semester, Whittier’s class continued their social action in celebration of Earth Week. Students constructed large sculptures of trash in the atrium of the Warren Hunting Smith Library to symbolize waste rates versus recycling rates on the HWS campus.