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The Growth of Civic Engagement Through International Service Learning in Dance

  • Author(s): Brown, Blair
  • Advisor(s): Naugle, Lisa
  • et al.

This thesis research project is comprised of a written document, documentary film, and choreographic work. The written research examines the role of international service-learning within higher education dance programs and how such opportunities abroad build a sense of civic responsibility within undergraduate dance students. This project is looking into how and if international service learning in the arts develops personal agency to create change in one’s own community as well as internationally. The research was conducted by taking twelve undergraduate students to Panama with the education organization Movement Exchange to teach dance in orphanages as well as the National University of Panama. Movement Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to building civic engagement and cross-cultural exchange within the dance community. The documentary film and choreographic work were presented together at the University of California, Irvine on April 2 and 3, 2015 in the William Gillespie Performance Studio 1100. The presentation consisted of a documentary film entitled Youth in Movement and a ten-minute choreographic work entitled Reflecciones. The documentary followed the process of the movement exchange to Panama through the lens of the undergraduates who participated in the program, and the choreographic work represented their movement reflections from their experience.

The supporting research paper contained herein examines the themes of civic engagement, service-learning, and international dance practices as they relate to the Movement Exchange in Panama. A common finding from the exchange in Panama was an understanding and embodiment of community through dance. The findings of the research draw upon Victor Turner’s notion of “communitas” to reflect upon the shared human experiences had through dance with the students in Panama. Connections are made between Turner’s writings on “communitas” and the observations of the undergraduates’ experience in Panama.

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