Leymis Bolaños Wilmott teaches dance to New College students and community members.
Leymis Bolaños Wilmott teaches dance to New College students and community members.

By Abby Weingarten

For Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, movement is a pathway to personal empowerment—one that should always be accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

That is why the New College dance instructor and artist-in-residence created the “Physically Integrated Dance Series” for the month of April.

The program will include a series of master classes and performances, both in-person and virtual, with specific offerings designed to honor National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. It is an expanded version of New College’s Third Annual Dance for Parkinson’s Partnership Event, and it is open to the campus community and the public.

“There is a big interest in art, health and dance therapy among our students. And, every year, we have something at New College that brings awareness to Parkinson’s disease, integrating our students with people in the community,” Wilmott said, referring to the collaborative dance projects students have done with those from Sarasota’s Parkinson Place nonprofit organization over the years. “Our main focus is to offer a series that will reflect that dance is for everybody—no matter what age, socioeconomic background, abilities or previous experiences.”

The program is part of the New College Connecting the Arts and Humanities on Florida’s Creative Coast initiative, which is funded by a five-year $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The series kickoff will be held at 10 a.m. Thurs. April 1, as 16 dancers from Parkinson Place and nine students from New College’s intermediate/advanced contemporary dance class perform a virtual piece together (co-led by Xiao-Xuan Yang Dancigers and Elisha Byerly, both artists/choreographers from Wilmott’s Sarasota Contemporary Dance company).

“This captures the multigenerational, physically integrated dance experience, and opens our eyes to how dance can be a tool for encouragement, for wellness, for building community and for challenging us,” Wilmott said, adding that working with Parkinson’s participants on movement (as a tool for better quality of life) is one of her longtime passions. “Dance is what connects us. Dance should not discriminate.”

New College third-year Rose Schimmel is among the student dancers in the April 1 event. During the Independent Study Period at New College in January, Schimmel observed the Dance for Parkinson’s class at Sarasota Contemporary Dance that Wilmott has organized for the past eight years. The experience furthered Schimmel’s research on dance/movement therapy and Parkinson’s disease, which she will discuss with the event attendees.

“I strongly believe that everyone has the ability to dance, no matter what state they may be in. Dance and movement have the power to help people physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially,” Schimmel said. “Parkinson Place has so many amazing programs in addition to dance, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them. I love working with different types of people, whether they’re neurotypical or neurodiverse, and helping them through the power of movement.”

The power of movement will be showcased in a multitude of other events in the April series, including an artist residency with dancer Stephanie Bastos that features urban contemporary dance and physically integrated/inclusive dance workshops from April 5 to 10; a Sarasota Contemporary Dance in-studio open rehearsal of Timeline—a dance theatre piece that illuminates the themes of resiliency and vulnerability—on April 9 and 10; an artist residency with inclusive dance educator Dwayne Scheuneman of REVolutions Dance from April 12 to 17; dance and diversity workshops with Scheuneman and Sea Lee from April 12 to 16; a Life After Life film screening and talkback with Scheuneman and Dr. Christopher Bolton on April 16; and a Sarasota Contemporary Dance performance of Revolutions Dance + Revyouth on April 17.

For more information on the “Physically Integrated Dance Series” and a full schedule of events, visit ncf.edu/about/performance-and-lecture-series/mellon.

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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