Performers at Sarasota Contemporary Dance
Performers at Sarasota Contemporary Dance

By Su Byron

Dance has a liberating power. Leymis Bolaños Wilmott has seen that power work in her own life, and in the lives of her students and creative collaborators.

“We’ve had tremendous success with students coming out of New College and continuing in the performing arts,” said Wilmott, who has been a professor of dance, performance and choreography at New College since 2006.

Wilmott is also the co-founder and artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD), which is currently partnering with the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence (OOIE) at New College on an exciting initiative.

The OOIE has coordinated part of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will enable six area high school students and six New College students to participate in SCD’s 2021 summer intensive program. This is among several community outreach efforts included in the New College Connecting the Arts and Humanities on Florida’s Creative Coast program.

The focus for the summer intensive program will be on Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students, but everyone is welcome to apply.

“Seeing local high school students dancing alongside college students will be so exciting,” Wilmott said.

And SCD’s three-week-long program (from May 22 to 29, June 19 to 26, and July 10 to 17) will live up to its name. It is definitely intense.

Participating students will learn a host of skills, both on and off the dance floor. Daily classes include improvisation, contemporary, liquid strength, Afro-modern, jazz and repertory work. Three guest artists and three company artists will teach the day-long classes. At the end of the summer, SCD will present six livestreamed performances in which students are invited to participate.

The three guest teachers are rising stars in the field of dance, performance and choreography.

Dazaun Soleyn is a prominent teaching artist, dancer and choreographer based in San Francisco, California.

Jennifer Nugent danced with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company from 2009 to 2014, and with David Dorfman Dance from 1999 to 2007.

Christal Brown is the founder of INSPIRIT and Project:BECOMING; the creator of the Liquid Strength training module for dance; an associate professor of dance at Middlebury College; and the chief visionary officer of Steps and Stages Coaching.

Three SCD company dancers: Melissa Rummel, Monessa Salley and Xiao-Xuan Dancigers, will join the team—teaching a mix of virtual and socially distanced, real-world classes the rest of the day.

“It’s a perfect example of cultivating community and investing in young, local students,” Wilmott said. “The experience creates a direct connection for these students to build relationships while gaining skills and exposing them to the local performing arts.”

For more information on the program, contact Wilmott at 941-487-4360, lwilmott@ncf.edu. 

Su Byron is the communications specialist for the New College Foundation.


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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