UNCG Dancers’ Collaborative Project Makes Art Come Alive

Posted on January 29, 2024

UNCG dance students Liz Anderson and Tiffany Moss Hale dance in the Weatherspoon hallway.

Art may be set in stone or hang upon a wall, but it’s never lifeless.

Viewing art as dynamic and fluid is something that students in UNC Greensboro’s School of Dance appreciate more than anyone. With UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum, two graduate students created a pilot program where art inspires dancers, and dance inspires artists.

Liz Anderson and Tiffany Moss Hale are the brains behind “Drawn to Dance,” a series of free public events at Weatherspoon where UNCG dance students improvise performances for art students to sketch or film. After getting a great response from the performances during the Fall 2023 semester, they’ll hold another free show on February 1 at 6:30-7:30 p.m.

“As a dance artist, I am a collaborator at heart,” says Anderson. “One of our goals is to make dance and art less removed from each other.”

Thanks to a grant from the School of Dance, they’ll further that goal through a pilot program called the Dance Lab, providing dance students with more opportunities to practice and experiment.

School of Dance Director Lee Walton says, “We want to turn the School of Dance inside out, so that it becomes more accessible, and the public becomes collaborators in our research.”

Art Begets Art 

During their first year studying for a master of fine arts in dance choreography, Anderson and Hale began a graduate assistantship aimed at brainstorming new dance programming with Weatherspoon. Anderson had seen a program where dance companies held practices at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. They asked Mei Méndez, Weatherspoon’s assistant director for strategic engagement, if they could create a similar experience in Greensboro.

A UNCG art student does a sketch on an easel of a dance student performing in Weatherspoon courtyard.

On February 1, museum guests will be able to watch the dancers as they pass through Weatherspoon’s atrium or look down from the second-story overlook. They’ll have paper and pencils on hand for anyone who wants to draw them. During one of the fall events, Hale was touched when a little girl sat down to draw alongside the UNCG students. “We gave people a way to see dance that isn’t just on the proscenium stage that they’re used to,” she says.

Méndez is excited to host an event centered around movement. “Liz and Tiffany had a vision of the museum as a place for not only exhibiting art, but for the practice and creation of art,” she says.

Hale says Weatherspoon’s exhibits encourage the dancers to improvise. “I would look at the mural on the wall in the atrium and mimic the lines within it. Dancers would interact with the sculptures in the courtyard and let them influence their movement.”

“The art students were fascinated with how the dance students interacted with the space,” says Walton, who is also a professor of art. “They got to see all the things they were learning in art – line, tension, rhythm, pattern – embodied in their performances.”

It’s Okay to be Imperfect 

Walton wants to foster more collaboration between the disciplines of UNCG’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), especially in ways that create more access for people to experience art. “Communities benefit from the CVPA making art, artists, and research accessible,” he says. “And our students and faculty benefit greatly from the expertise within our communities.”

Dance students Tiffany Moss Hale and Liz Anderson pose in the Weatherspoon Art Museum hallway.

Weatherspoon has historically partnered with UNCG dance students. They performed during Night of Inquiry in 2022. In the fall semester, Jonah Carrel ’23 choreographed a performance in the atrium, based on the last Kaua’i ʻōʻō bird of Hawaii, famously declared extinct last year.

Méndez hopes more dance students will look to the museum for inspiration. “We want to be a place where students feel welcome to collaborate with us and propose new museum programs that capitalize on their experiences and interests,” she says.

Walton was proud to see first-year students work alongside graduate students in “Drawn to Dance.” “Within their first semester, they were performing publicly. We were inspired to see them take that chance, to know that they felt supported.”

UNCG art students draw in Weatherspoon courtyard.

This spring, Anderson and Hale secured funding from the Sue Stinson Enrichment Endowment, a grant created by Dance Professor Emerita Sue Stinson to promote dance within a context of social justice. They’re developing “The Dance Lab” to create mobile, interactive events for dance students and the public.

Anderson says it will make dance students more comfortable with letting an audience in on the process and imperfections. “In the School of Dance, we say, ‘we’re not afraid to fail.’” she says. “What you make may not look great initially, but you get some nuggets of fantastic material that you can develop later.”

Room to Grow 

Hale, who is from Rock Hill, South Carolina; and Anderson, who is from Covington, Georgia, say they were drawn to UNCG for the chance to study a diverse array of movement styles, its rigorous academic opportunities, and the stellar faculty.

“As graduate assistants and eventually teaching assistants, we get two years of teaching experience here,” says Anderson. “I came here for mentorship, guidance, and to become a better teacher for higher education.”

Walton and Dance Graduate Director Ana Paula Höfling felt that Anderson and Hale brought a balance of experience with a fresh newcomer’s perspective that would lead to impactful community programming. It’s why Lee wanted this project to be student-led. “There’s so much that students learn from the process of collaborations and project development,” he says. “By giving them this opportunity, they discover they already have a lot of the skillsets to do this important, impactful work.”

Anderson and Hale are eager to organize more events like “Drawn to Dance.” “It got us into this whole idea of community engagement,” says Hale. “We really want to keep pursuing that and provide more accessible events in the future.”

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications
Photography by David Lee Row, University Communications; and Lee Walton, College of Visual and Performing Arts

Slow shutter speed image of dancers at UNCG

Move to Your Own Beat.


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