The JMU Sichuan Dance Project, according to O’Hara, is a cultural dance exchange between JMU and three schools in Sichaun: Chengdu University, Aba Teachers College and Guangya International School (K-12). Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan, the second largest of China’s 23 provinces and the epicenter of the 2008 earthquake that killed 70,000 people and left another 18,000 missing.
Children who have been orphaned by the earthquake have been involved in prior dance workshops with O’Hara and Trammell–as have Chinese students who speak only Chinese and JMU students who speak only English. “That’s something beautiful about dance,” says O’Hara. “It doesn’t even matter.”
What does seem to matter is that both Chinese and JMU students are getting the opportunity to share their dance expertise and learn from one another inside and outside of the classroom. This give–and–take dynamic is allowing Chinese students to expand their contemporary dance repertoire and JMU students to gain exposure to minority and traditional dances.
The cultural connection has brought dance professors from the Sichaun schools to JMU, and has escalated the importance of community within the JMU dance curriculum. According to Trammell, “Going to China and experiencing their approach to dance emphasizes that the concept of dance and community goes beyond just performance. It infuses our world-view and stresses the possibility of dance outreach to special populations.”
For more information on the JMU Sichuan Dance Project and its fundraising activities, contact Shane O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.