Mind and Movement Dance
Indya Childs (at right) looks on as students work on choreography fueled by online discussions with invited guests. (Photo by Ceth Williams)

For Atlanta-based artist Indya Childs, the COVID-19 pandemic and last Summer’s social unrest fueled a passion for urging fellow artists to speak out.

“As artists, we must reflect the times,” Childs said.

She took that effort to another level by working directly with 13 students to create Ball State’s first official dance film this Spring.

Ball State’s Department of Theatre and Dance and PlySpace, an immersive artist-in-residency program of the Muncie Arts & Culture Council, combined forces to make it happen.

“Indya is known for her ability to engage the community,” said Melanie Swihart, assistant teaching professor of Dance, who collaborated with Childs on the project. “This was very much about involving students as artists in a wider world of community to have a conversation and plant seeds of change.”

Peace, Love and Dance premiered April 30–May 1 on PlySpace.org. The film’s ethos was informed by four public online discussions—covering politics, racial injustice, female empowerment, and art—arranged by Childs.

For the discussions, Childs matched Ball State faculty and alumni with artists, activists, instructors, and political commentators from Atlanta, Chicago, and elsewhere.

Childs connected students’ creativity based on questions raised by the discussions, Swihart said. “That fueled everything, right up to the filming.”

Energy shift

It was up to the dancers to convey their reactions to divergent local and non-local perspectives. “They were asked to create solo material based on their own individual identities—how they move and think,” Childs said. “The idea was to help them honor their differences and realize we all intersect at some point.”

PlySpace residencies provide living quarters and access to studio amenities and typically span four to 12 weeks. Due to the pandemic, Childs’ residency was compressed into two intense weeks of filming that followed six weeks of dance instruction via Zoom from a studio in Atlanta.

For dramatic effect, actual filming by Joshua Cleveland, Childs’ colleague and fellow PlySpace resident artist, took place only after sundown.

“I could definitely feel the energy shift when I got to work with the students in person,” Childs said.

Throughout the process, she urged the students, “I know you have opinions. Let’s bring them into our art!” — Susan DeGrane