On Friday, February 22, Hunter College opened its doors to the dance community of New York City, as it prepared to welcome nearly 500 attendees of the 2019 annual Dance/NYC Symposium. While Dance/NYC has been holding their symposiums—opportunities for dance artists, educators and supporters from the five boroughs to come together to share best practices, foster community and find inspiration—for ten years, this was the first one to be held at Hunter.
The symposium opened with a kick-off at the Kaye Playhouse, viewed not only by in-person attendees but by wide group of virtual watchers who tuned into the Facebook live coverage. Carol K. Walker, chair of the Dance Department at Hunter College, shared the podium with Alejandra Duque, acting director of Dance/NYC, to welcome everyone to the weekend’s activities, and to set the tone: one of radical inclusivity, with a strong commitment to deepening the dance education field’s work in learning and racial justice.
Jody Arnhold, chair of Hunter’s Dance Advisory Board and spearhead of the Dance For Every Child movement, spoke next. A member of Dance/NYC’s advisory committee, Arnhold brought unique insight into the partnership between Hunter and Dance/NYC and the opportunity the symposium offered for the two institutions to combine forces. Last year, Hunter’s Dance Department expanded, opening The Jody, a brand new dance studio and the Arnhold Graduate Research Center, and launching an MFA degree in dance. These new facilities and programs made it possible for Dance/NYC to cast a wider net to invitees and offer them more programming.
The symposium, the only full day gathering of the dance community in the metropolitan area, got into full swing on February 23rd; after a morning session in the Kaye, the conference-goers moved up to the top three floors of the Thomas Hunter Hall, where a myriad of activities were waiting: legal clinics, discussions, business workshops, consultations, speakers and more. The topics—from fundraising, to racial labels, to leadership, to gender, to immigration, to mental health, to social justice—were wide-ranging and ambitious, and the rooms were packed.
“It was exciting to have so many artists and educators in The Jody studio, engaging with the panelists who shared models for using equity, social justice and culturally responsive teaching in educational dance settings, ” said Isaac, director of the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program and moderator of the K-12 Dance Education for Every Child panel, featuring AGDEP alumni and dance teachers in the New York and New Jersey school systems.
And of course, it all comes back to dance. The entire event was crystallized on Friday evening, when a sensitive and probing conversation about the changing face of dance in America was followed by a student performance. Fiona Tsang ’19, a double major in dance and early childhood education, decided to continue her choreographing projects after she completed the creative track In the Hunter Dance Department. So last semester, she gathered a group of peers and independently choreographed a piece entitled UNNOTICED, a searing dance about the historical underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in Hollywood, partly inspired by the tragically unjust death of Vincent Jen Chin in 1955. UNNOTICED encapsulated many of the symposium’s themes—of agency, representation, activation and activism—in vivid motion.
“We were proud to present Hunter Dance to our community,” said Carol K. Walker, chair of the Dance Department. “It was so perfect that Fiona’s dance blended exactly and artistically with the theme of the entire conference, which was a very inspiring event that brought us all together. Hunter loved being the host—come back soon.”