On February 22nd, seniors Elise Ferguson and Emily Margolis headed the Friends Seminary branch of Dancers Responding to AIDS. With faculty advisor Barry Blumenfield and choreographers and dancers in kindergarten through twelfth grade, Friends Seminary students put up a dance concert benefit to raise money for Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA). The organization itself is a part of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and funds raised by DRA go through Broadway Cares to AIDS and family-service organizations all over the country and to The Actors Fund. DRA’s mission statement focuses on how individuals can contribute to a nationwide fund for treatment (one aspect of the mission is “to mobilize the unique abilities within the entertainment industry to mitigate the suffering of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS” – http://www.dradance.org/page.aspx?pid=2551). However, DRA’s mission also includes spreading awareness and understanding of both HIV/AIDS itself and the entertainment industry’s ability to make a difference. My personal experience with DRA involved rehearsing for a piece set to “Figure 8” by Ellie Goulding. I rehearsed the piece with small groups of people and slowly learned the ever-shifting choreography, which was shaped by many of the dancers themselves. At some point there was an additional DRA bake sale. There were longer rehearsals immediately before the performance, and finally the performance itself.
Before this service experience, I had volunteered as a teaching aid in a lower-school classroom and as a peer tutor (other positions as well, but not ones relevant to this realization). These service opportunities had always resulted in a surprising learning experience for me As a peer tutor, I improved my own learning strategies and my skills in explaining concepts, and I was also able to reflect on what my own school experience had been like when I was the age of my tutee. It was gratifying to get results in improvements in my tutees’ grades, and the experience made me realize that community service could help me as much as it could the recipient – not just on a large, moral compass/understanding-of-the-world way, but in a concrete, immediate result. Alternately, working as a teaching aid introduced me to a crop of kids who had no judgements of the world and who decided that I was wonderful, and the reaction whenever I came into the room made me want to become a teacher. This experience showed me that service could bring joy – not from the knowledge of completing a good deed, but from the action itself. Both of these experiences had taught me about community service and its potentially positive results for me, but the experiences had still stemmed from the motivation of service rather than the motivation of doing the activity. However, this year’s experience with DRA showed me that service can come from different motivations. At the beginning, I hadn’t been averse to earning service credit for DRA, but my main motivation had been to rekindle my love of dance and learn some new styles. I had wanted to improve my tap skills by participating in a group tap piece, and that was about it. And I got so much joy from the experience, both from the dancing and from the service aspect, and I was able to find the connections and overlap between the two categories.