The Healing Power of Dance

Whoever says dance can’t be used to tackle heavy subject matter hasn’t seen the work of Rebecca Davis, a Philadelphia-based dancemaker and head of The Rebecca Davis Dance Company. This month, she’ll premiere 1994 in Philadelphia, a dance-theater piece created with 10 area teenagers.

 

The work is the creative outcome of a month-long trip she took to Kigali, Rwanda, last summer. While there, she researched the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of more than half a million people in less than 100 days. (Today, 42 percent of the population is under the age of 14.) “I was so impressed with how the kids and adults who survived are able to live in that environment and bring optimism to the reconstruction of their country,” Rebecca says.
    

 

She also collaborated with Rwandan choreographers, teaching them ballet while they taught her Rwandan dance, and worked with street orphans whose
parents had been massacred or died from the AIDS epidemic.
    

 

“What I experienced as an American was juxtaposition,” she says. “In the morning I would visit a memorial and see the devastating sources of remembrance and pain. Then I’d go teach these young children dance they’ve never seen before—after I’d seen exactly why these kids don’t have parents. It made the experience very powerful.”

 

Now back in the States, while creating 1994 in Philadelphia, Rebecca will share her experiences with Philadelphia teens, giving them a chance to learn what life is like for their Rwandan contemporaries. “A large component is helping kids here understand what their peers are doing halfway across the world—to make them develop a sense of the hardships and the accomplishments of kids who are faced with difficult circumstances,” says Rebecca.
    

 

It’s a weighty subject that must be handled delicately, but Rebecca is quick to point out that dance’s power to heal outweighs any creative or academic challenges. “From a personal perspective, having an opportunity to go and see firsthand how dance is used to overcome one of the worst atrocities reaffirmed to me as a choreographer the importance of dance,” she says. For more, visit
rebeccadavisdance.com.
                        —Kristin Lewis

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search