Professor of Dance Sherry Shapiro was an invited participant in the Global Summit for the World Alliance of Arts Education (WAAE). The summit, featuring the theme Cultural Encounters and Northern Reflections, was held November 7-10, 2012, in Finland. The Summit was held in Rovaniemi, Finland, and hosted by the University of Lapland, with a focus on learning of and discussing arts education informed by diverse global perspectives such as those from the Arctic rim.
Leaders in the field of arts education were invited to submit an abstract summarizing a presentation for the conference. Shapiro’s presentation, “The Act of Making; Dance as Aesthetic Activism,” discussed dance education in a time of global crisis and how forms of aesthetic activism have become central in struggles from New York to Cairo.
According to Shapiro, in places around the world, activists have found ways to challenge social and economic injustice through creative forms of expression. The paper examined the meaning of the aesthetic and its connection to social change.
“Central to this is the concern for the way that the body becomes the vehicle for challenging, interrogating and resisting forms of social oppression,” Shaprio said. “I drew on the work of social theories and contemporary feminist theory as they intersect with activist art making. The backdrop of this discussion is on the way that aesthetic processes are joined to feminist and critical pedagogies that make the classroom or community studio potential sites of human transformation.”
In the presentation Shapiro illustrated her understanding of aesthetic activism in dance pedagogy through her 2009 experience as a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa.
“Taking the body, and in particular hair as the thematic focus, I described the way that the ‘familiar can be made strange’ so that the assumptions grounded in our everyday world can become the catalyst for a transformed understanding of identity, race and gender,” Shapiro explained. “Laid to bare are the struggles to change the historical normative standards for femininity, power and distinctions of identity as a society is shifting its political ideas. In this sense, dance becomes a process of aesthetic activism in which the body provides a concrete history for troubling essentialist assumptions and offering alternative possibilities.”
The purpose of the global summit was to extend and deepen the reach of arts education in schools, in communities, and in diverse people’s lives as leaders in arts education collectively work to advance the role of arts education.
Shapiro will present Meredith’s Faculty Distinguished Lecture on March 12, 2013.
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