Youth Dancers Find Their Own Groove at Sweet Briar

| April 27, 2012

Sweet Briar College will host its annual Community Youth Dance Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 5, in Murchison Lane Auditorium. The event features choreography and performances by local children who participate in dance classes at the College. It is free and open to the public.

Dance professor Ella Magruder, who directs the youth dance, says that Sweet Briar’s After-School Youth Dance Program aims to “guide self-expression through choreography that is created and performed by the young students themselves, rather than simply copy the teacher’s movements.”

The children are taught by dance majors Cortney Lewandowski, a senior from Amherst, and junior Jessica Murphy from Lynchburg.

“Coming to Sweet Briar, I knew I wanted to teach dance,” said Murphy, who has been taking dance classes since she was 4. “[I] wanted to give back that same joy and passion to the younger generations.”

Murphy admits that she was nervous about teaching students who are so young when she first started the job. Today she calls it “one of the best experiences” she’s ever had.

“Because we teach our students through a more creative, student-centered approach to dance, the movements and choreographic ideas they come up with are so raw and unique,” she said.

For Murphy, being a teacher also means learning from her students, whether it’s improving her own skills as a dancer or feeling more confident about her career after Sweet Briar.

“They have each inspired me in my own choreography and have helped me to expand my movement vocabulary beyond just technical steps,” she said.

“They have completely reassured me that this is how I want to spend the rest of my life. Not just working away at some job I don’t care about, but spreading my passion for dance to all of my students and helping them to achieve any dream they put their minds to.”

Along with Amherst Elementary students Emma and Abby Coleman, Murphy will join Ella and Mark Magruder, director of the dance program at Sweet Briar, on a trip to Taipei, Taiwan, for the “Dance, Young People and Change” dance conference this summer.

Sponsored by Dance and the Child International (daCi) and World Dance Alliance, the conference will host youth dancers from around the world, their teachers, directors of professional dance companies, and dance professionals from colleges and universities from 30 different countries.

Murphy, who is also a candidate for the Master of Arts in Teaching degree at Sweet Briar, will assist the Magruders in workshops they present at the conference, as well as conduct her own research comparing different methods and approaches to dance education from international perspectives.

But the best part about it is that it won’t all be work.

“I will get to see several performances and tour the area a bit before returning to the United States,” Murphy said.

For more information about the concert, email [email protected] or call (434) 381-6349.


Contact: Janika Carey

Category: Dance, Performing Arts, Uncategorized