New dance series provides opportunity for radical self-care
Last semester, Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion Director María Pabón and Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Arneshia Williams began thinking about how to create a space for students to engage in self care in an innovative way. They wanted to help students be confident in their bodies and invest in themselves.
Pabón says that in a society where people are always on “go,” it’s important to take a step back and analyze what we need for ourselves in that moment in order to keep going. It’s also important to simply unplug.
“We live in a generation where we don’t take a break from the news,” Pabón says. “When I was little, it was only at 10 o’clock at night for 30 minutes that you heard about the bad things happening in the world. Now, it’s right here, 24/7.”
So Pabón and Williams developed a dance workshop series to help students think about taking care of every aspect of who they are. The ‘Taking Care of Me, Taking Care of Us’ Workshop Series: A Radical Self-Care Approach brings students together to talk about using dance, their bodies, and those intersectionalities between bodies, gender, and race.
With the college’s Wellness Center housed within the Taylor Center, Pabón is devoted to weaving equity and inclusion into practicing self care — specifically for students from marginalized communities.
In the first workshop of the series, held September 24, Williams focused on using music as a “vehicle to create individualized self care in a communal setting.”
She instructed students to bring headphones for their devices and choose “a song they feel cared for and invested in when they listen to it.” They then went into the space and did whatever movement they felt like doing while listening to their music.
Some people danced, some people just laid on the floor, and some people walked around. During the exercise, Williams explained how some students want to just relax and center themselves — but they get a lot of people looking at them like they should be doing something.
“You ARE doing something,” Williams points out.
This culture of “busy-ness” can make Oles feel as if taking care of themselves isn’t productive; Pabón and Willams are finding new ways to show students that it’s okay “to nourish, invest, and realign” themselves.
“It’s hard for students and every other human being to practice self care, especially with centering their bodies as a vehicle for that self-care,” Williams explains.
It’s hard for students and every other human being to practice self care, especially with centering their bodies as a vehicle for that self-care.Dance Professor Arneshia Williams
After the students were able to improv movements about how the music made them feel at the first workshop, they then created a “self-care movement series or montage,” Williams says, where they incorporated those same movements from the improv section and even the moves they didn’t feel confident doing before.
This workshop not only gave students a chance to be confident in their bodies, but also take a break from the stresses of life. Consciously working toward good mental health requires workshops like these that let students explore themselves internally while in a community setting, Pabón and Williams note.
The other reason they wanted to do this collaboration, Pabón says, is because people in marginalized communities at a predominantly white institution (PWI) “spend quite some time justifying who they are and where they’re coming from.”
Pabón and Williams both know how it feels to always have to explain themselves and not be able to “just be,” so they wanted to cultivate an environment where students didn’t have to do that.
“How do we intentionally get our students of color, indigenous students, LGBTQIA+, and international students — students that, whether they want it or not, have to do this work — into a space where they can take that step back and do this radical self care?” says Pabón.
Taylor Center Director María PabónHow do we intentionally get our students of color, indigenous students, LGBTQIA+, and international students — students that, whether they want it or not, have to do this work — into a space where they can take that step back and do this radical self care?
These are the questions that spurred this radical self care series. Pabón and Williams hope that more students will be inclined to participate in this opportunity to explore their identity and center themselves, and surround themselves with people they don’t have to explain themselves to.
The final workshop for fall 2019 was November 11. There will be two more workshops in the spring, which will also feature a guest dance artist.