Collaborative faculty and student research project presented at national dance conference

Project grew out of a required course in the dance program
Lauren Minore

Dr. Kimberly Chandler Vaccaro, associate professor of dance, and Gabriella Boes, a senior dance performance major, presented their nine-month-long collaborative research project, that involved nearly 100 people, at the National Dance Education Organization annual national conference.

The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) is the largest and most active advocacy group for dance education and research in the country, according to Vaccaro.

Vaccaro and Boes' project grew out of "Rider Dances: Repertory & Productions," a required course in Rider's dance program.

“Students in this course work directly with professional choreographers to create original dance and hone their creative processes,” Vaccaro says. “The theme this year was dance and social activism and resulted in an evening-long performance entitled the Dance and Sustainability Project.”

At the conference, the pair presented a poster that summarized the project, including the creative process, as well as testimonials of participants and audience members.

The Dance and Sustainability Project partnered students from across campus with environmental groups in the local community and members of a group called Artichoke Dance, which works at the intersection of art and environmental action. There were 35 dancers, six choreographers and many Rider Eco-Reps, filmmakers and other artists involved in the final product.

“Many of those involved and who attended felt the final presentation was transformative in understanding their personal responsibility to the planet,” Vaccaro says.

Vaccaro and Boes submitted their research project after hearing the NDEO was looking for peer-reviewed papers, presentations and posters related to creativity and community and the ability of dance to be a conduit of important communication.

“Our project fit perfectly into the theme,” Vaccaro says. “Ours was among several dozen posters presented to over 900 dance educators from around the country and it was invited to be turned into an article for a national journal on dance education.”

The conference consisted of three full days of more than 250 workshops, masterclasses, panel and paper presentations, social events, and performances. A full day of pre-conference intensives preceded the official start of the conference.

At the conference, Vaccaro and Boes attended more than 15 conference sessions on various topics including inclusivity in university dance programs.

Vaccaro says that working with Boes was amazing and they were able to feed off each other’s rhythms, phrasing and ideas to create “a very cohesive and exciting dance.”

“We worked for 15 hours and created a 10-minute dance that communicates ‘we are all responsible for the planet,’” she says. “I had never worked with a student before, but our intentions were so clear."