Music blasted from Emerson Suites as students, faculty and family members walked in for the “Moving Together Ithaca” Charity Event on Nov. 4. The crowd took up more than half of the large room, cheering for their friends and singing as the dance participants stretched.
This charity event consisted of eight dance groups on campus, including IC Unbound, Island Fusion, Katalyst K-Pop, Pulse Hip-hop, IC Defy, Rock Hard Dance Co., IC Ballroom, Tap Club and Ground Up Crew. The groups raised $1,354 for the organization Ballet & Books, which was started by Kevin Swann ’20. This was the first time that eight dance groups at Ithaca College have gotten together on campus for charity.
Ballet & Books is a charity organization for three to 9-year-olds located in Ithaca that combines reading with dance in order to combat falling literacy rates. According to the United Nations, literacy rates among children have decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 584 million children reported to have experienced reading difficulties in 2020. The program offers one-on-one reading, taught by local high school and college students, followed by dance instruction. The students from Ballet & Books attended the Moving Together Ithaca event.
First-year student Addison Thompson is a dancer for IC Unbound and said she thinks joining reading and dance is smart because they are both considered escapes for so many people.
“Ballet & Books is trying to teach confidence in young children through reading and dance,” Thompson said. “That is what dance brought me: confidence. When I am dancing, I am the strongest version of myself.”
Planning for the event was collaborative, with every dance group being part of the planning process in some way. Junior Maddie Kramer, chair of performance for IC Unbound, said she had been dancing with the group since her first year at the college and that she really enjoyed working with the other dance groups on campus to create this event.
“We had this idea about a year ago of collaborating with all the dance companies,” Kramer said. “We tried to make it happen a year ago but with COVID-19 it was too hard. We wanted to choose an organization that would directly impact Ithaca, and Ballet & Books was perfect.”
Kramer and her team requested money from the Student Governance Council to fund extra parts of the event, like food, water and games. All of the money made from tickets went straight to Ballet & Books.
Senior Em Reynolds has been on the Katalyst K-Pop Dance team since their first year and is now the vice president. Reynolds printed posters to put up around campus and made social media graphics for this event.
“I am really happy that we ended up working with the organization that we did,” Reynolds said. “I love to read, that’s what I do in my free time. I want everyone to have access to reading because I know that it is hard for some people so I am glad that we are donating. We also have the ability to volunteer with the organization and help teach kids how to improve their reading skills.”
Island Fusion, a Caribbean dance team, started off the event dancing to five different songs. The team had bright lights above them with reds and blues and smiles on their faces.
Senior Muhammed Cisse has been dancing for Island Fusion and IC Unbound since his sophomore year and has been dancing since middle school. He said he was most excited to perform in the charity event for a great cause.
“This event truly shows that all dance companies on campus have come together in support of this,” Cisse said. “People really care about our youth, helping children’s literacy and just helping people through dance. This event is very beneficial and I hope they do this again in the future.”
Cisse said that along with caring about children, Island Fusion and IC Unbound care about each other.
“Everyone on this team is very close,” Cisse said. “Everyone is really open to meeting new people, it is just very enjoyable. We try to build a lot of team exercises into our practice times. The team is very accommodating to your skills, it doesn’t matter what level you are able to perform at.”
Kramer said IC Unbound has been one of her favorite parts of college.
“It was one of the things I did get to participate in when everything was shut down with COVID-19,” Kramer said. “Everyone is so nice, and I have loved getting to know the upperclassmen. I never was able to choreograph dances in high school, so being able to choreograph now is really fun. Overall it just feels like I am part of a family.”
Thompson said she loves to perform in order to share her love for dance with others.
“Dance is transformative art,” Thompson said. “It changes how people think and watch the world. You can play a part, or you can tell your own story. You can move and the audience will understand without you ever having to speak. The energy of dance is nearly impossible to describe, and I think that everyone should experience it somehow.”