By Abby Weingarten
Dancing is often synonymous with togetherness—choreographed routines, partnered performances, touches, glances, emotions. But during the remote learning period at New College, when even handshakes and hugs are forbidden, the student dance experience has been ultimately forced to evolve.
That’s not necessarily negative, however, as instructors like Leymis Bolaños Wilmott are learning.
“There’s something powerful about being aware of what’s happening in the world, and finding lightness in that experience and staying engaged creatively while we’re apart,” said Wilmott, a New College dance instructor and artist-in-residence who is now teaching classes via Zoom. “It’s important for students’ emotional stability to stay moving. If they’re waking up at 9 a.m. and dancing with us, they’re probably going to do better in their other classes.”
There are presently nine students in Wilmott’s “Dance, Art, Choral Lab” and 16 in her “Intermediate Contemporary Dance” class (the latter is co-taught by Xiao-Xuan Yang Dancigers and Elisha Bylery).
“I’m trying to give my students assignments I call ‘creative tasks’ every day. One task was looking up all the information out there about washing your hands the right way (then creating a 30-second gestural phrase inspired by it, filming it and putting it on Canvas),” Wilmott said. “A second task was to find a mirror and face like it was your partner, then begin to explore movements like undulation and sequential movement. It’s very interactive in a different sense than physical touch.”
Wilmott, who has been teaching at New College for 14 years, holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Performance and Choreography from Florida State University, and she co-founded Sarasota Contemporary Dance. She is currently preparing her New College students for a National Water Dance performance at 4 p.m. Sat. April 18. The event, partially funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, was initially intended to be held at the Jane Bancroft Cook Library but will now be streamed live on Zoom.
“This is New College’s third time being involved in this biennial event. In 2016, it was held at the Bradenton Riverwalk and our theme was ‘stop throwing plastic in our waters,’” Wilmott said. “In 2018, it was held on campus outside near the bay and we invited area schools. For 2020, it will be in our homes (see promo video here: youtube.com/watch?v=UsF5206C4I0).”
The dance, focused on a message of eco-consciousness, is a collaboration with the National Water Dance (NWD) Project, and will include dancers from New College and Sarasota Contemporary Dance.
“The dance will be livestreamed in 65 locations across the U.S., and the students will be filming themselves individually from their homes,” Wilmott said. “I feel like it’s crucial for us to stay connected like this, to remind each other that we’re in this together, and to encourage each other to use our imagination. With that, there’s joy.”
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.