“The only reason we got where we are today is because we’re all passionate and we shared that passion with other people” – KateAshley Clarke, rising senior, BFA double major in dance and Africana Studies at the Alvin Ailey School and Fordham University.
Passion Fuels the Fire
From Friday, May 25, 2012 – June 13, 2012, KateAshley and members of Tuzina - one film studies major and 4 other dance majors will travel to Northern Uganda to lead a rehabilitative arts program and document their experiences. It’s going be a remarkable cultural exchange, aimed at inspiring and empowering victims of war trauma. The trip was only planned last year and made possible by tenacious fundraising on Kickstarter, totaling over $20,000 to cover all major travel expenses for participants on the trip.
I had tea and scones with KateAshley this week. You would think that hearing about people younger than you and doing seemingly super-human and more awesome work would be intimidating, but it wasn’t at all. It was only uplifting. It was uplifting because this brave, 21-year-old young woman was basically venturing into the unknown to do something she’d never done before.
“I always wanted to use dance to its maximum,” KateAshley shares, “because I believe it’s the most powerful form of expression.” Growing up in suburban Oregon, KateAshley first learned about conflict in parts of Africa in 8th grade. This was about the same time that her family adopted a daughter (KateAshley’s younger sister) from Russia, and it was then that KateAshley began developing an interest in helping societies and cultures impacted by political strife.
As a teenager, KateAshley went on social missions, including a summer in a migrant camp in Mexico. She and other dancers on the mission performed for the camp children that year. ”It was my initial experience communicating through the body,” KateAshley reveals, as she didn’t speak Spanish and wasn’t able to communicate as she normally would with the youth. Yet she was excited about the work and hungered to deeply explore it. This spring she finally has that opportunity.
Gaining Strength from Networks
For the next three weeks, KateAshley and Tuzina will partner with the nonprofit Child Voice, as well as local junior high and primary schools to teach technique, do exercises in dance therapy and work on choreography. They wouldn’t have been able to take a project of this scale without the profound support of their network. “In the past year,” KateAshley says, “I learned not to necessarily think of myself as an innovator. We’re always adding to other people’s ideas, and I feel we should acknowledge those that have gone before us.”
Tuzina’s debut is facilitated by having secured a partner organization. In the beginning, KateAshley recalled sending out 30-40 outreach emails until eventually finding the right fit with the host organization Child Voice. In terms of the future, KateAshley hopes to achieve 501c3 status herself and continue to focus on Tuzina, as well as be a professional dancer.
I asked her which dance companies she liked to watch perform. In addition to Alvin Ailey (where she studies dance), she beamed, “Cedar Lake.” I followed up by asking her if she had a favorite dancer, to which she replied, “Ebony. Because she’s strong and fluid.”
The traits that we so dearly admire in others are the traits we aspire to possess.
What is it that you would like to do – to its maximum?
All crazy ideas start with a vision and materialize with the help of ardent supporters. You, too, can be as revolutionary, brave, strong and accomplished as KateAshley Clarke. First you must dare to have it in you.
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