Spreading a message through the art of dance

By Rachel Gibson | gargoyle@flagler.edu

We all have that rhythm inside. The beat of our heart flowing down to the step in our feet and in every move we make. Dancing is all around us, and for some, it is held near and dear to their hearts.

No matter what kind of music you listen to, no matter how good you are, each and everyone of us have the ability to dance. Sometimes, all it takes is a single step or gesture to become part of a worldwide movement mostly commonly referred to as the art of dance.

Finding someone who has created a life centered around dance is difficult, but Savannah Simpson, a junior at Flagler College, has made it her mission to involve dance into every new stage of her life.

“I’ve danced my whole life, it’s my passion,” Simpson said. “It took me through school, and high school, and even into college, and now I’ve made a career out of it.”

Simpson joined Flagler College Dance Team when she was a freshman at Flagler College, and has recently become the coach for the St. Augustine High School dance team.

“Now I can be more of a role model with it. I see these younger girls coming in and I can see it as a good outlet for them, because high school is really hard, and it gives them something else to focus on which is a lot of fun,” Simpson said.

For many kids growing up, they focus on sports like basketball, soccer or football. But for Simpson, dance was – and continues to be – her sport.

“It’s something I’ve always done, and it has always made me happy,” Simpson said. “It’s also something different and I think that’s pretty cool.”

While it might seem like any ordinary activity, dance is also a great way to communicate. Different movements and music have a way of showcasing different emotions while also telling a story.

Becky Guerrier, a senior at Flagler College and the current captain of the dance team, is extremely passionate about the message dance can spread through different movements.

She and the rest of the dance team have put on two pop-up dance events where students can come and learn a choreographed routine. On April 23, Guerrier created a dance to honor a Los Angeles rapper who was shot and killed, as well as to inform the student body about gun violence.

“This dance was to honor Nipsey’s life and his music, and all the things he has put into this world,” Guerrier said. “It’s celebrating his life and how dance can help to tell his story.”

Guerrier has also been apart of the dance team since coming to Flagler, and has dedicated a lot of her time and energy into something she feels very passionate about.

“I love to dance and to perform, because it allows you to not fake who you are, but instead to become this whole other person to express however you want,” Guerrier said. “I just love the energy of everyone, dance was just that thing at Flagler even if I had the worst day, I knew I would still be going to practice. It’s like a stress relief, and so enjoyable, just dancing to music and grooving, it’s a good time.”

The Flagler Dance Team recently attended a competition where each dancer choreographed their own routine.

“You can just see from each person how their dance represented something different. It’s crazy how dance can show a contemporary emotional piece that really tugs at your heart, and then it could be something super hard hitting, and you get crunk with it, or it could be something super fun that gets the crowd excited,” Guerrier said. “I think dance can tell different stories that you can’t express through words, but instead through movement, and it’s beautiful that someone can connect with that even if they don’t know you. You can do anything with dance.”

Many athletes place their focus in sports to help cope with stress of college and personal lives, and the same can be said for dancers. Samantha McGuire, a sophomore at Flagler College, said that dance was something she could always count on.

“I can’t stop. I really need this, dance is what helps me get through the worst times. I just knew I was supposed to be here, and that I’m supposed to be a dancer,” McGuire said. “It’s a different mindset, dance really does make a change. Dance is movement, it’s letting loose, and can spread so many positive messages.”

Although these dancers share a common passion, dance itself does not require you to be a part of a team in order to move. Megan Bewernitz, an Assistant Professor at Jacksonville University (JU), has always admired dancers.

She interviewed dance participants with Parkinson’s disease as part of her research through a program at JU called ‘Dance for Life.’ Her main interest was to see how participation in activities affects the quality of life of the people participating.

The Dance for Life program works with individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders to not only address movement, but also cognition and social connectedness.

“In her class everyone is a dancer, including me,” Bewernitz said. “ I am also involved with the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program in Jacksonville. I want to speak with people about their experiences with participating in the community, and want to research ways we can improve opportunities for people with disabilities.”

The JU Dance program, and Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation have teamed up to create more dance programs for people with and without disabilities in the area.

“For many, including myself, it’s motivation, acceptance and encouragement that possibilities are endless,” Bewernitz said.

Just like the dancers at Flagler College, Bewernitz believes that dance can communicate how we’re feeling, and who we are through variations of movement. As an occupational therapist, she helps to facilitate participation and safety of the people that come to class, as well as how to learn and express herself along with the other participants.

“I love the openness to being as inclusive as possible, and learning what I can contribute to address the needs and barriers of participation in these types of programs,” Bewernitz said. “Both Dance for Life, and Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation are more than organizations; they are communities of people who support each other.”

These individuals have made a choice to express themselves creatively and freely through dance, no matter how good they are. Their stories flow with the music, and the movement, and that is just the way of life for a dancer.

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