Chris Johnson, associate professor and director of dance, was invited to Tanzania to work with students at Peace House Secondary School (PHS) - a school for AIDS orphans and vulnerable teens near Arusha. In June 2009 she took 6 Beloit dancers with her to engage with the PHS students through dance and movement workshops emphasizing the intimate communicative power of dance.
While there they got to know the students and staff, and made deep and meaningful connections. Johnson says that the experiences they had will live in their hearts forever.
They have been invited to return and hope to make that happen soon. The trip in June '09 certainly offered those who were along a life-changing experience that will impel them to continue to use their art to create positive change in the world.
The Beloit dancers who went on the trip, Ivy Aires '08, Ameliah Croft '09, Trevor Johnson '08, Lindsey Knight '09, Matt Porter '12, and Larissa Thomas '06 helped conduct the workshops and performed dances that were created before the trip.
The Beloiters and PHS students also created pieces during the workshop to present in a culminating performance at Umoja Arts in Arusha at the end of the visit.
Trevor Johnson '08 served as the photographer/videographer to help document the experiences at PHS.
An additional goal of the trip was to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis and the PHS students as well as gain support for Peace House Foundation.
To that end, Chris Johnson and Beloit dancers will begin work on a new dance piece that will tell the story of the PHS students. This piece will incorporate text, images and video as well as dance and music.
They have been invited by Peace House Foundation to perform the new dance at the opening of "Colors of Hope," Peace House Foundation's annual fund raising event that happens in Minneapolis. They expect more than 700 people in attendance. The event is scheduled for November 14, 2009. Beloit will also feature the new piece in Chelonia 2010 - Beloit's annual main stage dance concert.
Johnson says she is very excited about this project. Human rights and social justice issues have been a focus of her work for many years. This was an incredible opportunity to work directly with people who are deeply involved and to help raise awareness as well as support. The direct contact and interactions we had with the PHS students will inform the creation and performance of the new piece on a deeper level than we would otherwise have been able to achieve.