Feeling the Groove

Published: Feb 24, 2014
The workshops at The Ella will lead into the Urban Bush Women community engagement residency at UT on March 25–31.
The workshops at The Ella will lead into the Urban Bush Women community engagement residency at UT on March 25–31.
A group of UT students — all dance majors or minors — and their professor, Susan Taylor Lennon, are leading creative movement dance workshops with folks who have a range of physical abilities.
A group of UT students — all dance majors or minors — and their professor, Susan Taylor Lennon, are leading creative movement dance workshops with folks who have a range of physical abilities.
From her chair in the middle of the community room, dancers encircled 92-year-old Mildred Allen.
From her chair in the middle of the community room, dancers encircled 92-year-old Mildred Allen.
From her chair in the middle of the community room, dancers encircled 92-year-old Mildred Allen. They passed movement to each other through silent communication and touch, ebbing and flowing to the music in a spontaneously choreographed dance.

Earlier, groups of three created movement to poetry, bringing to life the words on a page. And then there was the general dance party to Motown, warming up the participants and creating bouts of laughter.

A group of UT students — all dance majors or minors — and their professor, Susan Taylor Lennon, will spend every Friday this semester at The Ella at ENCORE!®, part of a 40-acre master-planned, mixed-use redevelopment community just north of downtown Tampa’s urban core. They lead creative movement dance workshops with the residents, who come with a range of physical abilities.

“Dance isn’t just for a dancer’s body,” said Laura Remillard ’16, a writing major with minors in dance and psychology, from Auburn, NH. “We want to be engaged in the community to get everyone moving. It helps us, but hopefully the residents have a good time too.”

As applied dance minors, the students study in the classroom how to use dance to serve communities and individuals. Lennon, director of UT’s dance program, pointed out that the residents of The Ella hit on two of the bourgeoning populations the UT students are studying to serve — the elderly and those with mixed abilities.

“It’s excellent hands-on experience for our students,” said Lennon, who brings a handful of students to interact with the 20 or so residents weekly.

The workshops at The Ella will lead into the Urban Bush Women community engagement residency at UT on March 25–31. A dance company of women of color based in Brooklyn, Urban Bush Women work as both a performing company and a leadership institute, leading and implementing community engagement programs throughout the country.

Gypsy Eden used to dance professionally, performing tap, ballet and acrobat movements across the nation. Now at 77, Eden joins the UT dancers to feel connected to her love of dance.

“This feeds me,” said Eden, elated. “I’m just flying.”

For Bianca Lee ’14, a music major from Long Island, NY, the experience is more than about academic improvement.

“The energy and interaction with the residents really lightens and brightens my spirit,” Lee said. “It’s inspiring to know that even when you’re older and have mixed abilities, you can still do what you love. It gives me hope.”

 
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