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Public health joins dance to put arts into action

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Valeriia Sherina

Professor Katrina Smith Korfmacher, front right, with students in her Environmental Health and Justice course, take a short hike following a tour of the Hemlock Water Filtration Plant. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Last fall, students from a public health course and a dance class got together for a day of combined learning.

In effort to understand how to initiate change in a community, students in Arts and Activism, and their counterparts in Environmental Health and Justice in the Rochester Community, met up in the Linda E. Sloan Studio of Todd Union to create some new moves.

The Arts and Activism students were using dance to explore the relationship between social activism and artistic practice. Earlier in the semester, the students—in collaboration with a local organization—used visual art, film, and performance to create a two-night interactive installation that would show the importance of voting during the 2018 mid-term elections. Now, they would study a new chapter that would explore the theater practice known as “Theater of the Oppressed” as a vehicle for community organization, expression, and action.

“We talk about communication and how to communicate ideas using theater practice,” says Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, instructor for Arts and Activism and senior lecturer in the Program of Dance and Movement.

“I thought my students would gain a broader perspective on communication from this experience,” says Katrina Smith Korfmacher, director of the Community Engagement Core for the Environmental Health Sciences Center. In her Environmental Health and Justice class, students had been working over the semester with several local groups to collect and analyze data for projects such as the protection of the City of Rochester’s drinking water supply as well as the condition of the bike trails for the Genesee Riverway Trail.

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