A small group of students seated on the floor of Trotter Multicultural Center listened attentively Monday night as Jeremy Neal, a principal dancer from the critically acclaimed dance company Abraham.In.Motion, introduced himself.
“My name is Jeremy and I identify as a queer artist, as a listener and as a friend,” he said to the group.
Neal led participants in the Dance and Identity Workshop, an event co-hosted by the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs and the Trotter Center.
First, Neal asked the group to consider how dance movements can connect with one’s own identity, focusing the event on the ties between individuality and movement.
“Being able to understand your identity through movement can make a better non-verbal communicator, which is a very important skill to have,” Neal said.
During the dance workshop, Neal asked students to improvise dance movements that corresponded with the spelling of their names. In another exercise, the students took turns “sculpting” themselves using the body of their partner.
Kinesiology sophomore Kamaria Washington participated in the dance workshop and said she thought the exercises were both fun and enlightening.
“I loved it,” Washington said. “It was a great way for me to freely dance, and it was amazing how Jeremy tied in how you identify yourself and how you want others to identify you with dance.”
Neal said he wanted the participants to get comfortable with body parts they do not normally use.
“It was a combination of getting them to really think about moving their bodies in ways that hadn’t thought about before, and also it was way to get them to open up and explore different ideas,” he said.
Sophia Deery, a junior in both LSA and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, who interned with Abraham.In.Motion last summer and was a main organizer of the workshop, said the event was created as a platform for members of the dance company to interact with a variety of students off the stage.
“We wanted Abraham.In.Motion to be able to interact on a level that extends beyond the typical performance audience, which is usually comprised of only performing arts majors” she said. “We wanted to make sure the rest of the student body could also benefit from the company’s visit.”
She also said thinking carefully about one’s identity is a key element to success at college and in the years that follow.
“The University is fostering the next generation of leaders,” she said. “We call ourselves the Leaders and Best, and in order to be the best leaders, we need to have a strong sense of who we are.”
Neal also said understanding your own identity is vital to understanding others.
“I don’t think you can really tell somebody else about themselves unless you know yourself,” he said. “If we take more time to look at ourselves and gain a clear understanding of our own ideas, we can then navigate the perspectives of others.”
Overall, Neal said he hopes participants left the event with a story to pass along to others.
“Even if they leave and share negative experiences with others, bringing up these types of issues is important in building a better society,” he said.