CariClub Nonprofit Spotlight: Mark DeGarmo Dance
Over sixteen students stood in front of their gleaming computer screens. A resounding beat began thumping away and the kids rolled their shoulders backwards, then forwards. The teacher instructed the class to start “swinging” and “twisting.” Soon enough, the music changed and the students broke seamlessly into a choreographed dance. They were dancing separately, kept at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, they were also dancing together.
This was one of the culminating dance sharings put on by Mark DeGarmo Dance, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate NYC communities and children; create, perform, and disseminate original artistic scholarly work; and promote intercultural community through dance arts. CariClub was lucky enough to (virtually) sit down with Mark DeGarmo himself and hear more about his experiences and thoughts about dance education.
“I had not really been exposed to dance as a child; I’d seen a little classical ballet in Poughkeepsie, New York, and it never spoke to me…When I saw modern dance at Jacob’s Pillow, I was 15 and it just blew my mind. The next day I announced to my family that I was going to become a choreographer,” Mark told us. He would go on to do just that and ultimately found Mark DeGarmo Dance. Further, the organization’s mission is meaningful to him, as he feels lucky to have had an education that emphasized the importance of giving back to the community and empowering others.
“Our goal [at Mark DeGarmo Dance] is to use the arts to create a consciousness awakening, to create an understanding of the value of the self, and not in an egocentric way, but in a communitarian way where the children are learning about democracy,” Mark says. And in watching their students’ recital, it appears this goal is being met. In addition to supporting one another, the students offered some of their thoughts about dance in general. So much of what they said was (presumably) unintendedly profound:
“Motion is movement from one place to another — it can happen in many directions,” said one dancer.
“When you are in motion, you are constantly changing,” offered another.
“Dance taught me a lot.”
Through their classes, Mark DeGarmo Dance offers dance programs for children with special education needs.
“We had a child who was a selective mute, who had brain damage as a child and had been homeschooled until 2nd grade. We worked with this child’s classroom, and as part of our process the child started speaking, not only in our dance journal writing component, but in the classroom as well,” Mark shared during our call.
Part of what was impressive about the program was how quickly it adapted to the current environment and social-distancing regulations prompted by the pandemic. Mark told us that when he “looked into the first class and saw our children in PS 160 carefully framing themselves in their Zoom portal; they were aware and prepared.”
Mark DeGarmo Dance has been a nonprofit partner of CariClub since April, 2019. We are so proud to work with them and are continually inspired by all that they do. If you’re interested in getting involved in CariClub, please check out our website or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay up to date about what CariClub is up to, follow CariClub on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.