Saturday, April 19, 2014

The JUSTICE Project

Last week our wonderful dance professor Darla Johnson was enjoying watching a seven week project come to powerful fruition at McCallum High School Fine Arts Academy. Co-directed with Texas Tech dance faculty Nicole Wesley and helped by student intern Sarah Wingfield, who also edited and directed a new dance film at the high school for the show, The Justice Project was an incredible examination of the personal stories of these high school dancers and what justice meant to them.

Dancers against Nicole Wesley's film

How did The JUSTICE Project start?

Darla Johnson: This is actually the sixth manifestation of The JUSTICE Project. We started because we wanted to bring the students together from ACC and Spelman College. Nicole had danced in my company (Johnson/Long Dance) and she was teaching in Georgia at Spelman. I got funding from the VP’s office at ACC to take us down to Atlanta for two weeks.

With the diversity of ACC and the traditional background of Spelman being an all black woman’s school, the project had a lot of themes surrounding racism and justice. Those themes have been a central part of the project since.

McCallum dancers in The JUSTICE Project.

The project is what the participants bring. We use the same structure but it’s always different material. We’re crafting the same ideas but the movement is unique to the dancers. The whole thing evolves from structure, creation, and the exercises Nicole and I give the dancers.
One of the big themes that this JUSTICE Project explored was community; being a group.

Sarah Wingfield: They talked a lot about what makes a leader different; the differences between being a leader and a follower.

Lauren on the right.

Lauren Lym, a Junior at McCallum, and Cohen Lewis-Hill, a Senior and dual-enrolled student with us at ACC, had a great experience throughout the collaborative process.

What was it like to be a part of something like this?

Lauren Lym: It was crazy! What Darla has done is incredible and breaks my hear that I’m going to lose all the seniors after we’ve grown so close. The experience of sharing stories, creating together; we learned how to really all dance together. The whole process was beyond fun – it was really special, we all became like sisters. We all started out in these little cliques, some people I had never had the courage to say hi too I was too shy, but now we’re all together in this. I’ve never felt so connected to my class.

Cohen Lewis-Hill: It was intense. The project is a lot more involved than most high school projects we’ve done before. It demands a true emotional and mental commitment. We do a lot of emotional and intellectual performances at McCallum but this brought it to a new level.


What was the biggest challenge of the project?

Cohen Lewis-Hill: Opening up and telling our stories was the most challenging, but the most rewarding too. Being that vulnerable is hard, but it made [the piece] what it was.

What was the video process like?

Sarah Wingfield: Miss Adamez had seen the video I made in Jose Bustamante’s Dance Film class at ACC, so she asked me to make one with the students here. I played with a lot of different materials because I wanted to show the students that dance isn’t just what you do onstage – movement is in what you do. I wanted the students to experience what movement could be. Experimenting with light showed how movement flows in a different way and helps you appreciate small things as something whole. The paint was to see the final product of movement initiated from the body. The cornstarch section was to give the students another way to connect to how their bodies can manipulate another medium, and how that medium moves on its own. What quality can you add when you’re influencing that movement?

I put the video together as a kind of documentation of what that process was; a look what we did organized in a visually aesthetic way.  

A still from Sarah's film

Pictures by Anne Wharton

No comments:

Post a Comment