Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Ann Cooper Albright
Interview by: Sydney Garvis
Ann Cooper Albright is a professor of dance and theater at Oberlin College. She started Girls in Motion 12 years ago when she saw a confidence gap growing between middle school boys and girls. An Oberlin College Experimental Course (Exco) now helps Oberlin College students train other students to be mentors who run the Girls and Boys in Motion program in the middle school.
Q: Can you briefly describe how Girls in Motion started and the goals and motivations behind it?
A: When I started Girls in Motion 12 years ago, I was a soccer coach for a co-ed team. I started to see girls that were physically fierce, but started acting goofy and backing away from the ball when it came near them. There was a lot of information and research around what they called the confidence gap. [These girls] start out really confident and doing well, but then they start to pull back. I wanted to create a program that would focus physically on getting the girls to stay. At a certain point, I noticed that it wasn't about soccer for me. It was about kind of physical presence in the world and the connection between physical and intellectual presence. Girlslearned how to take up space, support one another, be involved, create movement, and perform in public. All of that would be ways to practice a sense of presence, confidence, and physical fierceness that would help combat this kind of confidence gap.
"Girlslearned how to take up space, support one another, be involved, create movement, and perform in public."
Q: Did you have a vision of a connection between the college dance program and the community?
A: In the sense that I'm using mentors, but the mentors are not all necessarily from the dance department. I also teach a course called Moving into Community that is a service based learning course where we learn history, but then we also do a project in the community. So I would say it's migrated from the feminist and gender studies into dance. The mentor leader now is not a dance major at all she's an education major. It's not a super direct dance connection, it's more movement.
Q: How do you see the connection between the boys and girls that dance, and the mentors?
A: I would say there are many mentors who become very committed to the program and stick with it for a while. If [the mentors] see the students, they recognize [each other].
Q: How do you choose the mentors that work with the kids?
A: There's a program of mentors and mentor leaders and they teach an Exco class where they actually train the mentors. I am in contact with the mentors, but the training happens student-to-student for the most part.
Q: Is there something very unique about the Oberlin Girls in Motion?
A: What makes the Oberlin Girls in Motion unique is that there's not a prescribed formula. We work with whatever the students from a certain class bring us. What I think makes it useful, for the College students who become mentors, is that you're working with what happens when something doesn't work out. How do you adapt, how do you adjust?
Q: Do you see ties between the college and the community growing?
A: I have hours worth of anecdotes. We have this thing called the the Girls in Motion sun salutations, and I'll have one mentor tell me that one of the students from Langston told her she was angry at her parents, and instead of just screaming and yelling she went up to her room and did the Girls in Motion sun salutation. There are lots of stories where we've made a difference. Whether we've made like an actual quantifiable difference in the community, who knows? But it's a program that's lasted and I think that's really important.
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