IU African American Dance Company to travel to China for cultural exchange

By: 

 Over the winter holiday, the Indiana University African American Dance Company will embark on a weeklong visit to Beijing, China, where it will conduct a cultural exchange with the School of Law and Humanities at China University of Mining and Technology Beijing.

The African American Dance Company, one of three performance ensembles that comprise IU’s African American Arts Institute -- a program within the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs -- will leave IU Bloomington on Dec. 16, returning Dec. 23. The institute’s three ensembles are also classes through IU’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

“This is a remarkable occasion for IU, as the African American Dance Company will be able to engage with their Chinese counterparts and share an important piece of African American culture,” said James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School. “The students and faculty who are making the trip are exceptional representatives of this university, and I can’t wait to learn more about their experiences in China.”

While the group of faculty, staff and 14 students will have the opportunity to visit cultural landmarks such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City during its time in China, the dance company will be busy with multiple performances and interacting with its China University of Mining and Technology Beijing counterparts, in addition to lectures and class demonstrations by Iris Rosa, director of the African American Dance Company, and Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, chair of IU's Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

“Between the performances, building relationships with the Chinese students and gaining wisdom about the culture, this will be a learning experience for the students from the moment we leave Bloomington until the moment we return,” Rosa said. “This is very special for the students, and the presence of our ensemble in an international venue will really bring back a lot of attention to our departments and to the university. I’m so thankful to all of our departments at IU -- African American Arts Institute, African American and African Diaspora Studies, and especially the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs for funding the trip -- for supporting these students on this trip and having the vision to provide them with an international experience.”

Calloway-Thomas was integral in the facilitation of the trip, taking an active role in planning the logistics based on her longstanding relationships and extensive experience lecturing in China.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for IU students and faculty to showcase the beautiful artistic and human aspects of African American culture through performances and lectures,” Calloway-Thomas said. “The African American Dance Company can enhance the Chinese students’ understanding of African American culture and history, while expanding the global reach of IU students beyond the United States.”

Charles Sykes, executive director of the African American Arts Institute, will also be traveling with the group. Sykes said he was ecstatic about one of the ensembles under his watch being on an international stage.

“I’m extremely pleased that the African American Dance Company will be able to showcase its talent and artistry abroad, shining a positive light on AAAI and IU as a whole,” Sykes said. “This experience is something that I’m truly looking forward to.”

China University of Mining and Technology Beijing professor Yingli Zhou, a visiting scholar in the African American Dance Company, also played a key role in the process, graciously offering her assistance in making connections between IU and China University of Mining and Technology Beijing after being impressed by an African American Dance Company performance.

Visit the African American Dance Company’s blog to follow its experiences in Beijing, China.