Dance is more than choreographed steps on a stage.
It’s a performance created to encourage people to take action.
The Dance Ensemble at the University of California, Pennsylvania in Washington County creates dances that focus on the art of movement and advocacy for topics such as autism awareness, suicide prevention, and health. mental.
Their most recent dance highlights domestic violence.
“You can use your time on stage to just dance, or you can use that time to make the world a better place,” said Diane Eperthener-Buffington of Coraopolis, who has been teaching dance at the university for 12 years in the Department of Cultural Media. and performance. She also taught psychology for eight years. “We dive into the subjects. These dancers are selfless. They want to make a difference.
Courtesy of Diane Eperthener-Buffington
Diane Eperthener-Buffington, of Coraopolis, has been teaching dance at the university for 12 years in the Department of Cultural Media and Performance.
Its philosophy is “Dance with a goal”.
The movements are considered modern and contemporary. The facial expressions of the dancers help tell a story. There are spoken parts as well as written words indicating where people can go for help.
The 24-minute dance aired on Wednesday at a college event called Strike a Spark Research Conference.
It is available on YouTube.
It’s National Victims of Crime Rights Week.
Eperthener-Buffington has reached out to help the Alle-Kiski area HOPE center in Tarentum, which serves victims of violence and abuse in the northern counties of Allegheny and Westmoreland, as well as the center and Greater Pittsburgh Women’s Shelter, domesticshelters.org and Southwestern Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Services.
“I love the social change segment that they incorporated into the art of the dance ensemble,” said Michelle Gibb, executive director of the HOPE Center.
In the video, each dancer is in a physically different space. They have been separated because of the pandemic. The dance ended virtually.
“To see them in different spaces, and the fact that they’re all isolated, until they’re all displayed on the split screen, is very powerful,” Gibb said. “Often the victims are isolated in their own homes, a place where most of us feel safe. “
Gibb noted the juxtaposition of backgrounds from an empty garage or basement to a furnished living room and in front of a beautiful arched window. This shows that domestic violence can affect people from all walks of life.
“For social change to work, society has to change,” Gibb said. “This group of young people has a better understanding of the root causes and foundations of domestic violence. If you aren’t aware of a problem, you can’t stop it from happening.
Gibbs said having the performances available on YouTube extends its reach.
The dancers are from first year to seniors. They are volunteers and devote six or more hours per week.
“I love that we are standing up for something that is such a big issue,” said Rachel Wells, a psychology student at Brentwood. “We need to talk about these issues. “
Wells, who started dancing at the age of 2, said Eperthener-Buffington made learning easier by breaking down steps.
“It was an experience that I will remember all my life,” Wells said. “As students, we are under the stress of exams and everyday college life. Being able to work with Diane on this dance really helped us all in our 40s. I don’t know what I would have done without it.
This question is even more important now because of the last year of quarantine, Wells said.
“What Diane does has always been relevant, but it is even more relevant today,” Wells said. “Society needs to talk about these issues. If our dance only helps one person, it will all be worth it.
Wells said there was definitely a learning curve in the beginning with virtual instruction.
Eperthener-Buffington credits the undergraduate research center with former research director Gregg Gould, who is an associate professor of mathematics and physical sciences, for providing a home for the dance ensemble. Dean of Librarianship Douglas Hoover, Secretary of Librarianship Barbara Engle and Associate Professor of Social Work Azadeh Block also played roles in the project.
She also said that Michael Slavin, who is retired and who was the former chair of the university’s drama and dance department, believed in the project. Eperthener-Buffington was inspired to begin these dances because of her son, Colton.
At 18 months, he was diagnosed with autism. She wanted to give a voice to children who are on the autism spectrum.
“We talk pretty deeply about topics like suicide awareness and the resources available on campus,” Eperthener-Buffington said. “We are talking about addiction. And the deeper we go, the more emotional we can become. But we also talk about the light at the end of the tunnel. Depression, drug addiction and domestic violence are all on the rise, and more children are witnessing domestic violence at home. “