Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
After a two year hiatus, the Intergenerational Drum and Dance Project will be returning to Swarthmore College. The class involves neo-traditional elements of drumming and dance from Mali and Guinea, but integrates them with more modern forms of expression. There are no age restrictions for participating in the class, and all individuals within the surrounding area of Swarthmore are welcome to participate.
The class emerged approximately 10 years ago in an effort to share the resources of the Swarthmore Dance Program with the larger community.
“I was approached in approximately 2004 about starting a dance class. There are programs offered to students, but nothing [was] offered outside of class where other employees of the college could come and join,” Dance Instructor Jeannine Osayande said.
Over time, the class has evolved significantly. “It was originally a dance class for children […] but the parents would sit and watch for the whole hour. But then they decided that they wanted to dance. So we decided to call it ‘Intergenerational,’” Osayande said. The class was later expanded to include neo-traditional drum instruction as well as dance.
One of the goals of the class is to broaden the very insular environment of Swarthmore College by bringing a wide variety of individuals together.
“With the community itself, the arts are so transformative and empowering. This class creates a sacred space that includes people like students, professors, Environmental Services staff members, people living in the town of Swarthmore. Our goal is to bring a group of people together that wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to interact to learn about specific art forms, and how they are relevant and how they parallel life itself,” Osayande said. “We put the emphasis on community – it was really us coming together on Saturday mornings and being in this space and just making things happen.”
At the beginning of each class, participants sit in a circle and discuss a meaningful question in order to reflect on their goals for the day. After working through the mechanics of the dance, the group reconvenes to discuss the earlier ideas in the context of the dance and to explore the meaning of the movements themselves. The next half of the class is devoted to the drum instruction. Throughout the class, there is dialogue about the cultural significance of each practice.
The classes often become very personal to those involved. Osayande recalled one specific instance of a woman coming to class after a very recent family tragedy. Osayande decided to modify the curriculum that day. “We purposefully played specific rhythms for [her] so that she could just get through the next 24 hours,” Osayande said.
Two Swarthmore students, Sedinam Worlanyo ’17 and Eileen Hou ’16, became involved as interns as a part of their class “Art and Social Change.” The two helped during the planning process of the class and will also be participating as instructors once the classes begin.
“It’s been a good opportunity to apply what we’re learning in class to this community project. It’s been nice to see this come together and to help out in a real world situation,” Hou said.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn dances that you otherwise might not have been exposed to. Also, I get to teach some dances from Ghana, so I’m very excited about that,” Worlanyo said.
“We have this amazing space and amazing music and dance program. We have these resources, and we want to open the doors to neighboring communities and give them the chance to engage with the community here,” Osayande said.
The classes are $20 for a single session and $110 for all six classes. Interested students can obtain scholarships from the Wellness Center to minimize the tuition. The classes will be held on Saturday mornings from 10:00 am-12:00 pm starting on April 5, with a culminating final performance.
Featured image courtesy of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsoNQ08_TLU.