In 2009, thanks to Professor Jeanne Leep, I began teaching at Edgewood College as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Theatre Arts. Edgewood is a small Dominican liberal arts institution with deep roots in the Madison community.
The course I teach, “Tap Dance: Technique and Multicultural Perspectives,” gives me the opportunity to further explore my interest in and knowledge of the rich cultural history of one of America’s original art forms, rhythm tap dance. Born of a fusion of African polyrhythmic music and movement and Irish step dance, American rhythm tap has prevailed in the face of discrimination and injustice, from its early beginning in the 1600s to the 21st century. Through sheer human perseverance, artistry, and courage, the form grew, thrived, declined, resurfaced, and re-invents itself today.
Studying the rich history of American rhythm dance offers students new perspectives on the social, political, and cultural history of America.
In the fall of 2016, I was privileged to create, co-produce, and perform WE ARE: Performances about Cultural Identity. I and four other working artists, Fabu, poet, educator, and former Poet Laureate of Madison; Tiffany Ike, UW-Madison student, spoken-word artist, and athlete; Sergio Nute, musician and educator; and Jane Reynolds, composer, pianist, and teacher, presented stories of our personal backgrounds and current work.
In conjunction with the WE ARE project, I developed and worked with students on an Independent Study course, Search In/Speak Out. This grew out of the Common Reading 2016 at Edgewood College, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. In the Spring semester 2017, a small group of Edgewood students delved into their own issues of identity through readings and discussions. This course was initiated by the COR Studies Department at Edgewood College and Susan Pastor. The students personally presented their stories with supporting video to Edgewood students, faculty, and staff, and also to the greater Madison community.
This is an example of the kind of work that enriches my own life and practice as an artist. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity.