One of the best ways to make meaningful connections with people you don’t know is to dance with them. That’s the theory behind a worldwide program run by a New York City dance company that brought students from Vassar and Poughkeepsie High School, some of whom had never danced publicly before, together for a pair of performances in December. The idea for the shows—one held at the high school and the other at the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater on the Vassar campus—was hatched by Lecturer and Chair of Dance Miriam Mahdaviani and members of Battery Dance, which runs the program “Dancing to Connect” in New York City schools and 70 countries.
Vassar secured a grant from the Mellon Foundation to bring Robin Cantrell, a teaching artist and dancer from Battery Dance, to Vassar last fall. Cantrell worked with students in the Dancing to Connect Intensive class Mahdaviani was teaching, and in the final month of the class, the students used the skills developed to help students at Poughkeepsie High School prepare for their performance.
“It wasn’t always an easy process,” Cantrell said. “Teens don’t inherently trust random adults, and it takes a while to start the creative process and put yourself on display. But it was great to see the bridging of the two communities at the performances at the high school and at Vassar.”