Rebecca Davis leads a dance technique class for an enthusiastic group of students in Kigali, Rwanda.
Andrea K. Hammer | May/June 2012 Issue
Integrating dance training with educational opportunities, The Rebecca Davis Dance Company in Philadelphia has launched outreach programs in Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Guinea. Founder and dancer Rebecca Davis uses dancing as a tool for change.
How do you use dance in post-conflict countries?
“Whether a dance class is taking place inside an air-conditioned dance studio or outdoors on a de-mined grassy field, when everyone puts their arms in the air and jumps, or everyone makes a pirouette turn to the left, it is exactly the same. Within this safe environment, new relationships among participants can be developed, and cooperation can be fostered through choreography and group performance.”
Why did you develop programs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Guinea?
“I decided to visit a post-genocide country and see firsthand what it would take to rebuild a war-torn society. I visited Rwanda as part of a human rights delegation. I realized that I had to use my art in a way that would diminish divisions and strengthen a sense of community. Our primary interest is working in environments where ethnic strife has challenged economic growth. These three countries share similarities in the composition of the populations and the historic and present challenges they face. My organization slowly developed a new model for integrating these goals with local employment and capacity-building to strengthen the economic impact of our work in a community.”
How have these experiences altered your worldview?
“After traveling around the world, I have come to realize that children are resilient—even under the worst conditions imaginable. If they are given a chance to laugh, learn and be loved, they will make their lives and the world a better, safer place.”