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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Gillian Ebersole, Education and Community Engagement Intern at Colorado Ballet. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

Despite virtual formats, Movement Exchange’s network of university chapters continues to forge ahead in dance, and they want you to consider joining!

Movement Exchange is used to adapting – this nonprofit connects dancers across the nation and world through local and international dance diplomacy. Their mission unites dance and service through its network of university chapters, international dance exchanges, and year-round programs in underserved communities. 

When the pandemic hit, Movement Exchange pivoted from their in-person work to meaningful virtual counterparts. This transition happened swiftly because Movement Exchange focuses on centering dance around sharing cultural and embodied knowledge, which naturally gives way to an ebb and flow in format, pandemic or not. 

Since their last in-person exchange in March, Movement Exchange has hosted four virtual dance exchanges, attended by over 200 people from over eight countries, and a variety of workshops to continue their tradition of exchanging dance. These virtual workshop experiences provided opportunities to mindfully engage in an interactive cross-cultural exchange through dance. Their virtual programming highlights different dance styles and provides space for embodied and verbal dialogue about the cultures surrounding various dance forms. In August, they also released their new short documentary, Movement Exchange: More than Dance produced by Katy Scoggin and edited by Taj Kokayi.

A group of young adult students gather in a clump for a photo

Movement Exchange has also continued their commitment to the sustainability of their dance education programming in Panama. Through the hard work and creativity of their Panamanian staff, since June, Movement Exchange has provided over 60 free virtual dance classes to students in orphanages and other at-risk youth foundations. They are also working with six different dance organizations around the world to create a collaborative dance video to submit to UNESCO’s International Dance Council.

In addition to their dance exchange programs, Movement Exchange has facilitated a variety of workshops exploring the intersection of dance and social justice. Throughout August, Movement Exchange partnered with dancer and choreographer Kiera Breaugh to research and explore the intersection between social justice and dance. In September, they collaborated with Next Level USA to provide professional development workshop with their Panamanian staff to discuss the history of Hip Hop and its role in facilitating a unified global community.  In October, they hosted a discussion led by Dr. Nyama McCarthy-Brown on the importance of diversifying dance pedagogy and implementing culturally relevant teaching. Throughout the rest of the year, Movement Exchange will continue to facilitate community discussions on using dance to cope with the effects of the pandemic, the role of dance in cultural appropriation, and will host an Indigenous dance exchange highlighting traditional Ojibway and Hawaiian dance forms in November.

In a time where there are so many calls to action regarding racial injustice, sustainability, and equity, Movement Exchange gives students and dancers of all ages the opportunity to make real their commitments to social justice.

This semester, chapters around the country are working to provide resources for their communities. For some, this includes virtual and socially distant dance classes. For others, this time has provided the opportunity to further pursue dance activism. 

  • Loyola Marymount University’s Movement Exchange chapter has continued their weekly dance classes with partner school Hawthorne Math and Science Academy even through the summer.
  • Western Michigan University’s chapter is planning the first virtual dance exchange between a university chapter and Movement Exchange students in Panama.
  • The University of Cincinnati chapter provides yoga in the park for students living on and around campus.
  • At Ohio State University, chapter members developed curriculum around social justice and presented this to panels about arts and social justice. They are also working toward establishing a movement “pen pals” program with Movement Exchange students in Panama.
  • The Butler University chapter is providing weekly socially distant dance classes in local parks to their community partners in Indianapolis. They are currently working with a local grant funding agency and local bank to create a scholarship for students in their community programming to attend a local studio.

Movement Exchange continues to provide a sense of community for dancers, educators, and activists alike, giving meaning to dance while our stages and theaters remain dark. Their work has always emphasized a commitment to justice, and their presence in the dance world continues to uplift and support the call to action so many of us have heard in these past months. 

Movement Exchange welcomes anyone to join their growing network of dance diplomats by:

  • Starting or joining a university chapter
  • Participating in their upcoming virtual programming 
  • Organizing virtual dance exchanges for your students 
  • Brainstorming with Movement Exchange new ways to collaborate together.

Move to Change! For more information on how to become involved with Movement Exchange, please email the Executive Director, Dana Vanderburgh, at

Gillian is a white woman with short brown hair, wearing a burgundy shirt

Gillian Ebersole graduated Summa Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University with a dual degree in Dance and English. While at LMU, she merged language and movement through a series of choreographic research projects, culminating in her thesis choreography for eight dancers. She attended the Laban International Conference on an Honors Summer Fellowship and participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program to draft a book proposal about dance literacy alongside Dr. Teresa Heiland. After working with Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post during the Institute for Dance Journalism and Advocacy, she began working as a dance critic, publishing work with LA Dance Chronicle and Bachtrack. She has published dance research and dance-inspired literary criticism in the William H. Hannon Library and Criterion. During her presidency in the LMU Chapter of NDEO/Movement Exchange, Gillian started an after-school dance program at a local STEM high school and traveled to Panama City to share dance in the community there. She recently became a yoga teacher and currently works for the Department of Education & Community Engagement at Colorado Ballet. With over twenty years of embodied experience and exploration, Gillian connects language, dance, and yoga to share the gift of movement with her community.


Photo Credits:

Photo 1 - Virtual workshop hosted by Movement Exchange

Photo 2 - Members of Loyola Marymount University’s Movement Exchange Chapter, by Eve Robinson

Photo 3 - Head shot by Josh S. Rose

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