Breaking Barriers Through Movement

Photographer RJ Partington III documented the Vanaver Caravan Dance Company in India.
Photographer RJ Partington III documented the Vanaver Caravan Dance Company in India.

The Vanaver Caravan danced their way through India in January, teaching movement to children around the world.

Four teachers from the dance company conducted a two-week long pilot program, during which they taught at three different schools to students ages 6 to 15. This project started as a mission to teach world dances, following in the footsteps of the founders of The Vanaver Caravan Dance Company, who traveled the world while collecting traditional folk music and teaching its dances to their students.

The dance company plans on revisiting India and staying for several months to repeat their first visit on a larger scale, Marina Lopez, a massage therapist and dancer with Vanaver Caravan, said.

The four teachers who traveled to India were split up into three schools, each of different socioeconomic backgrounds and taught a specific dance. At the end of the two weeks, students came together to perform what they learned.

“We wanted to teach the feeling of dance rather than just the steps,” Miranda ten Broeke, a fourth-year education studies major at The New School, said.

Ten Broeke dances with Vanaver Caravan and traveled to India, primarily teaching different cultural dances to children ages 6 to 16 at three different schools. Her students at one tribal school didn’t speak English, but ten Broeke said the language barrier didn’t matter after awhile because they could communicate through dancing.

Lopez said she experienced the same challenge.

“They didn’t really speak English in some schools we taught at,” Lopez said. “But we came to learn that when you’re teaching movement, that is the language.”

RJ Partington III, a freelance photographer, followed the group around India and documented their trip. Having someone to capture the moments, Lopez said, was incredible.

The company reflected upon their trip and showed the New Paltz community photos taken in India at Slash Root on Sunday, April 29 in hopes that it would spark an interest in their efforts among the community, Lopez said.

“We want to inspire people to travel,” Partington said. “These little quirks, it’s so hard to communicate those things. We hope that people are inspired to put themselves in a place that’s outside their comfort zone.”

The company’s plans are set to move forward within the coming months if grants and financial support allow. They hope to spread their message even further with a second, lengthier trip to India.

“We wanted the kids to have a general sense of respect,” Broeke said. “We taught with so much love and feeling, and we hope students came out of this knowing that there are different ways to learn.”