DanceForce Member: Cynthia Williams
Partnering Member: Robin Collen
Artists: Tatiana Desardouin, Lauriane Ogay
Community Partner: Hobart & William Smith Colleges Dance Department, Geneva; Boys and Girls Club, Geneva
The goals and objectives of the Passion Fruit Dance Company residency at Hobart and William Smith Colleges were three-part: to provide the company with creative time to further develop their work in process “Dimensions,” to introduce HWS Colleges’ community members to contemporary House and Hip-Hop dance genres, and to bring urban/street dance to the Geneva community, especially youth and young audiences. Passion Fruit Dance’s mission aligned perfectly with our goals: to promote the authenticity of street dance and clubbing styles, to use dance as a social justice/anti-racism inspiration, and to empower the Black community through representation of black people in the arts. These goals were met—our students, audiences, and community experienced the power of Passion Fruit Dance, and the company took full advantage of the creative time residency to make progress on “Dimensions.”
Tatiana Desardouin, Lauriane Ogay, and Mai Le Ho were the primary teaching and performing artists. Additional artists involved in “Dimensions” came to Geneva for brief periods, including dancers Nene Nubian and Gyeun “Soo” Jeong, and technical production staff Elmer Martinez and Geneva White.
Partnerships included HWS Dance and Movement Studies as the anchor, and the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva where Tatiana and Lauriane taught a House Dance workshop for kids in the afterschool program. A former HWS Dance and Education graduate provided much needed interface with the organization and participated fully in the workshop. The afterschool program participants (ages 8-16) were a new population for us, and they seemed delighted with the opportunity.
We continually strive to attract students of color to our guest dance residencies, as workshops participants and audience members. I met with the new director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and explained the company’s emphasis on dance as a social justice tool and encouraged his support of the residency. Showcasing urban and street dance forms in concert and in workshops was new for us; we hoped our outreach would attract new participants.
Two workshops on House dance were taught by Desardouin and Ogay for HWS students. The workshops also had an anti-racism component (Passion Fruit Seeds) and faculty members were encouraged to follow up after the company’s departure with further discussion. The dialogue that ensued was excellent: meaningful and impactful.
“Dance Within Your Dance,” the company’s concert piece shifted from a trio to a duet because of an injury to Tatiana Desardouin. The performance included live dancing and a twenty-minute video which questioned the idea of “groove,” while offering inspiration about self-discovery and identity through dance. Desardouin, Ogay, and Ho engaged audience members in a lively post-show talk back which was informative and interesting.
In discussing the concert the next week with dance composition students, the importance of the company’s presence was made clear as a student declared “I have never seen people who look like me and dance the way I dance, perform here. It gave me hope and inspiration that there IS a place for me in the dance world.”