From the February 2021 Desktop News | From year to year, one of the most anticipated productions from UA’s Department of Theatre and Dance is Dance Alabama!, a program choreographed and performed entirely by students. Hundreds of people flock to Tuscaloosa to watch as dancers perform a wide variety of genres and styles. But this isn’t the students’ only chance to perform. Over the past six years, Dance Alabama! has taken its show on the road, performing at elementary schools across the state.
Throughout the spring semester, the dancers and choreographers travel to underserved elementary schools across the state. Here, they perform pieces from their program and host an interactive “talk-back” session for students to learn more about dance. After these activities, associate chair of dance and associate professor Lawrence Jackson says that he hopes students will have a better understanding of the importance of the arts.
“Many rural areas in Alabama have limited access to the arts, so I initiated this project to engage and educate those regions by awakening interest, excitement, imagination and creativity to those areas that have historically had limited exposure to the arts, particularly dance,” Jackson said.
These performances are supported by the Alabama Touring Artists Program through the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The program, which is free to schools, allows underserved schools to book performances by artists, and provides resources such as study guides for students to prepare questions for performers and post-performance activities.
“It is imperative for artists to develop and maintain relationships throughout the communities for which they serve,” Jackson said. “Integrating the arts within our community enriches each member of that community, and because engaging in the arts brings individuals together, it fosters a sense of community.”
This year, the Dance Alabama! team plans to still bring their performances to elementary schools through a virtual format. The schools will each receive a link to a pre-recorded version of the performance, and the talk-back will occur via Zoom. Because of the program’s importance to expanding the arts around the state, as well as fostering real connections between the dancers and the schools, Lawrence said he wanted to make sure these performances still happened, even if they couldn’t be face-to-face.
“I hope that presenting art at the heart of the communities we tour enhances the lives of members within each community by stirring hard-to-articulate feelings and inspiring them to look beyond what they believe to be possible and imagine a more vibrant, exciting future,” Jackson said. “I also hope these experiences assist our students in understanding the importance of fostering relationships for the communities in which they serve.”