Instead of teaching the legacy of Harlem in a confined classroom, Sydnie L. Mosley ’07 goes a few dance steps further. Her course, Harlem Movement Legacies, interlaces physical movement with cultural contexts to explore dance through a frame of time and place.
The Africana Studies Department course engages students with movement styles that were born and cultivated in Harlem — ranging from the Lindy Hop to ballet performed at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Mosley uses interactive learning techniques so that students can experience the dances firsthand: “The physical practice of the dance adds another layer of understanding each movement form’s cultural context,” explained Mosley. “There are things you can know only by dancing.”
Mosley’s teaching methods are diversified through various modalities, such as films, lectures, performances, site visits, and rehearsals. Learning to view dance-related texts and choreography through a lens of critical thinking is one of Mosley’s goals for students as they build a connection between language and technique. To add to the mix, guest artists are featured in class to provide students with the opportunity to learn movement forms directly from professionals.
For their final project, each student will interview an artist on a particular dance form and, as a class, create a public website highlighting their research and findings. This hands-on student participation will culminate in a collection of archives celebrating Harlem’s movement and cultural forebears.
Mosley hopes her students understand that the various dance styles explored are not fixed traditions of the past. By dissecting the fundamentals of legacy and tradition, students are taught to apply skills to issues surrounding movement. “I want students to walk away from this class knowing that there is dance in the streets of Harlem and that it provides a rich legacy for each of us,” said Mosley.
To learn more about the Harlem Movement Legacies course, watch the video above.