Diversity in dance

Weber State University’s Orchesis Dance Theatre performing “Where Dance Breathes” in November 2021.

The Moving Company at Weber State University has the opportunity to go to Panama to teach dance and learn about the culture and lives of the Panamanian people through Movement Exchange.

Amanda Sowerby, co-director of the Moving Company, said the Movement Exchange is a non-profit program that works with universities to go to rural areas in Panama and provide dance education. They will be there for seven days teaching dance and learning about their culture.

The Moving Company was teamed up with Karlies Kelly, a choreographer from Panama, who is choreographing a piece for them and helping them prepare for their time in Panama.

The piece is about migration and the Panamanian culture. The dancers are wearing traditional skirts called polleras to showcase the culture.

Kelly hopes that, through her piece, people can see we are all connected, even with our different cultures.

“I hope that for these students to really not think about this dance or experience to be something interesting, but more of themselves being interested,” Kelly said.

Dancers are going to a country some aren’t familiar with, but they are preparing now to be able to teach and communicate with those in Panama.

One of the ways the dancers are preparing is brushing up on their Spanish. Kelly will use Spanish during their rehearsals and has also helped share some of the Panamanian culture.

Juan Carlos Claudio, co-director of the Moving Company, has also been helping students learn Spanish. Claudio encourages dancers to use the Spanish language as much as they can, in greetings and throughout the rehearsal process, so they can train their ears to the language and understand it a little better.

Dancers are also conducting their own research that connects their field of study with a part of Panama or the Spanish culture.

“Each one of the 11 have a very distinct research project they’re working on, where they explore cultural diversity, accessibility, inclusivity and advancing their own field of study,” Claudio said.

The Moving Company is also doing an outreach program at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Weber-Davis. Dancers go every Friday to teach a dance lesson.

“As they prepare to teach in Panama, they are devising lesson plans, which they’re using and crafting when they go to the boys and girls club,” Sowerby said.

Dancers are learning about the development stages of children and which movements are appropriate for those age groups.

WSU students and the Ogden community can see Kelly’s piece along with student choreographed pieces and an aerial artist’s performance in the dance program’s fall concert series on Nov. 3-5.

Stacee Perry, a student choreographer on the Moving Company, choreographed a piece for the concert that gives a platform for student voices. Perry collected responses from students and is using it for her music.

The performance will also have audience members surrounding the stage in hopes to get them to feel a part of the performance as well.

The Moving Company and dance program aim to bring more cultural awareness and diversity to Weber State and become a more inclusive community.