Inspiring Voters with Art and Dance – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Inspiring Voters with Art and Dance

Davenport-00006In advance of Election Day 2018, the Rochester-based Artists Coalition for Change Together, co-founded by HWS Professor of Dance and Department Chair Donna Davenport, teamed up with the University of Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement to host an interactive art and performance installation exploring democracy, activism and civic discourse.

At “The Reckoning: Night of the Missing Vote,” Davenport’s movement installation unpacked themes of human indulgence, denial, rationalizations and voter-self-suppression. Titled “I Don’t Like EITHER Candidate,” the installation featured Davenport, Associate Professor of Dance Michelle Iklé, Isabel Urquiza ’22, who is in Davenport’s first-year seminar “The Mindful Body,” and University of Rochester first-year student Kate Carnes.

The installation, which investigated the influence of technology in voter engagement (and disengagement), positioned Urquiza in a chair with a laptop on her lap and surrounded by cell phones, an image of a voter consumed by technology, while Davenport, Iklé and Carnes moved around the space, voicing reasons for not voting.

For Urquiza, who had never performed publicly, the improvisatory nature of the piece mitigated her apprehension and challenged her to get out of her comfort zone as she helped bring attention to the importance of voting, which she says “should be seen as an opportunity to make a change and have a voice.”

Davenport says she was honored to be among an impressive group of artists to contribute an installation to this event; it was her first time creating a visual installation for theatrical, movement improvisation and her first time performing non-stop for two hours. Davenport’s choreography was featured among the work of interactive visual artists, filmmakers and other performers exploring relevant issues of equity, justice and human rights — all in a push to turn out the vote.

“It was amazing how each piece came together…[and] to be a part of that and help people go out and vote,” says Urquiza. “I learned much from this project and that being in a piece can be so powerful through movement and words spoken…Overall, this was an engaging and eye-opening experience that is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would have never seen myself doing. I learned that I can make a difference through only movement because I did not speak but just acted, which in this case shows how actions speak louder than words.”

“The Reckoning” was co-directed by Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp and Mariah Steele from the University of Rochester, and Jeremy Tjhung, visual artist.

Davenport’s movement installation is part of a series of events on campus geared towards inspiring citizenship and voter engagement. For the second year in a row, the Colleges were named the top liberal arts institution for service in Washington Monthly’s 2018 College Guide and Rankings, which considers in its criteria the HWS campus’s voter engagement.* In 2016, HWS Votes was ranked as the No. 1 campus nationally for registered student voters among all colleges and universities using TurboVote’s registration system.

Read about other HWS community engagement efforts around voting this year.