DANC361 – 005 /Syllabus                      VCUarts Fall 2019

Dance and Commemorative Justice: Brother General Gabriel


Course Information & Location

Tuesdays & Thursdays

10:00AM – 11:30AM

Dance Center 105

Richmond African Ancestral Burial Grounds* See Map & Directions below

VCU Student Required Attendance: August 20 – October 17

UR Student Required Attendance: August 27 – December 5


Professor Information


MK Abadoo



Free Egunfemi – Guest Lecturer



Course Overview

This course introduces the principles and practices of dance-making within the framework of cultural organizing and community justice. It is a process-based journey, moving in alignment with the premier of the new site based commemorative justice dance work, Brother General Gabriel, choreographed by MK Abadoo and co-directed by Free Egeunfemi. Brother General Gabriel transforms the previously unmarked gallows at Shockoe Bottom’s African Ancestral Burial Ground by calling forth the re-emergence of young Gabriel’s invisible army from the year 1800. This exciting project amplifies the deliberately submerged legacy of Richmond’s audacious warriors for Black Freedom, as the narrative continues to inspire new generations towards self determination, intersectionality and resistance.

We will study the justice work of Urban Bush Women, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, and Richmond-based community organizers. We will utilize community-valuing creative methodologies. Using an anti-racist framework, we will learn how to openly, boldly and compassionately dialogue about power and accountability when participating in community partnerships. Examining each class as its own unique community gathering, students will witness, explore, participate in, analyze, and reflect upon intention setting and power dynamics in creative practice.

This class will be co-lead by recurring guest lecturer Free Egunfemi, founder of UntoldRVA and historical strategist. This class is also being offered for enrollment by students at the University of Richmond (UR), with Alicia Diaz, Richmond-based choreographer and UR dance department faculty, instructing from a supportive facilitative role.

Course Materials

Assigned readings

Creative Process Books (Journal, Sketchbook, etc.)


General Gabriel Article

African Burial Ground Article

Emergent Strategy Excerpt by Adrienne Maree Brown

Entering Community” Article by Lizzy Cooper Davis


Non-Required Reading/Resource List

  • Essays from the Dance Exchange Toolbox
  • Interviews from “Social and Community Based Practices,” conducted by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage
  • “Cracks in the Creative City: The Contradictions of Community Arts Practice,” by Heather E. McLean (available in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. You can find by searching your library’s journal database.)

Community Event Attendance and Participation

Students are required to attend and participate in a Gabriel Week event onsite at the African Ancestral Burial Ground on Friday, August 30. 6:00PM – 9:00PM

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Learn how dance-making can contribute to social transformation and community justice.
  • Study and participate in creative practice within the principles and values of anti-racist cultural organizing.
  • Increase personal and political awareness of cultural identity affiliation and difference, as well as increased knowledge about equity and diversity.
  • Demonstrate ability to form alliances, collaborations and communicate empathically.
  • Apply dance based creative methodologies in an applied community setting.
  • Utilize conflict resolution, communication, and critical thinking skills to conduct and/or facilitate mindful dialogue.
  • Apply strategic analysis of systems to arts-making.

Assessment of Learning

55%   Intention Check-Ins/Creative Process Reflections

Recurring student and instructor check-ins designed to anchor student’s responsiveness to individual intentions and creative process dynamics.

Self-Reflections Due: 9/10, 9/24, 10/17

Active Participation in this course is:

  • Full participation** in every activity throughout the entirety of class

**Key Attributes of Full Participation

  • Enacting the shared agreements
  • Leading shared practice
  • Contributing to small group and full-class discussions
  • Moving/participating in class and onsite
  • Listening to and engaging with (taking notes when needed, asking questions) material being presented
  • Viewing and responding to in-class film showings
  • Exhibiting overall willingness to explore, create, discuss, move, question, challenge assumptions and try new things
  • Commitment to responsiveness to student-determined intentions
  • Adhering to course policies
  • Being attentive and responsive to the instructor/facilitator and peers
  • Attendance to outside required community events
  • Contribution to a liberated and joyous learning environment


25%    Community Event Attendance and Reflection

                        Attend Gabriel Week event and write response


20%    Reading Responses

Complete four readings and write responses

Course Procedures and Policies

Attendance Policies*: Consistent attendance is an essential factor in determining active participation assessment, and critical towards successful completion of class. *Please see the VCU Dance + Choreographer Attendance Policies, in more detail, below.

Absence due to religious observance will not be penalized, however, it is the student’s responsibility to notify the instructor within the first 3 weeks of class regarding any religious observance absence(s) for the entire semester.

Dress: Loose Fitting clothing you can move (and sweat) in. Dance shoes, socks or bare feet in the studio. Remove shoes before entering the studio.

Food/Drink: Water in re-closable bottles is allowed, encouraged, and required for all onsite participation.

Technology Policy: Cell phones should be out of sight for the duration of the class, unless prompted to use by instructors. Laptops may be used only at designated times and for the specific purposes outlined in class. Please show respect for the instructor and your fellow classmates by using computer only for note taking and in-class research, and not for social sites, email, non-class related task, etc.

Injury: Previous applicable injuries should be shared with the instructor before class begins. If injured during class, stop dancing immediately and bring it to the attention of the instructor.

Tactile Work: This class may involve tactile hands on work between instructor and student and/or student to student as a part of the learning process. Please share discomfort with this type of “hands on” training, with instructor privately.

Video: Students will be filmed as a component of documentation of the creative process.

Email: List class name or number and your last name in the subject line. Address the instructor by name. Sign your name. Please allow 24 hours for a response.

Contemplative Component: I incorporate moments of stillness, silence and guided breath to prepare for mindful navigation of emotional duress during challenging dialogue. I also utilize quite moments of reflection to bring visibility to the seemingly “invisible” dynamics of power when engaging in dialogue across difference. “I encourage you to take advantage of these ways of knowing, which may be new to you, and see how they contribute to your more familiar modes of learning:” – Dr. Veta Goler


Course Calendar



Week 1 VCU




Establishing Liberated Zones – Values, Agreements and Intentions


Entering, Building & Exiting




8/20 – VCU Dance Center Room 105


VCU students only



8/22 – Onsite at Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground


VCU students only



Week 2 VCU

Week 1 UR




Establishing Liberated Zones – Values, Agreements and Intentions


Entering, Building & Exiting



8/27 – VCU Dance Center Room 105



8/29 – No Class in Person



8/30 – 6:00PM onsite at African Ancestral Burial Ground


Attend Gabriel Week event





Week 3 VCU

Week 2 UR




Community Value as Creative Practice – Asset Mapping and Making



9/3 – VCU Dance Center Room 105



Entering Community” Article by Lizzy Cooper Davis



9/5 – Onsite at Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground

General Week Reading Response and Event Reflection


Week 4 VCU

Week 3 UR




History and Place Matters



9/10 – Onsite at Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground



Emergent Strategy Reading Response – Intensions




9/12 – Virginia Museum of History and Culture



Week 5 VCU

Week 4 UR


Establishing a Power Analysis



9/17 – Onsite at Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground



9/19 – VCU Dance Center Room 105


Week 6 VCU

Week 7 UR




Power Analysis Continues – Cultural Organizing as Creative Process



9/24 – Onsite at Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground



Intention Check-in/Self Reflection


9/26 – Enslaved Trail Walk guided by Free Egunfemi



Week 6 VCU

Week 5 UR




Creative Process Intensive



 10/1 – Onsite at Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground



10/3 – VCU Dance Center Room 105





Week 7 VCU

Week 6 UR




Performance is a Practice


 10/8 – TBD No class in person; Attend Performance/Creative

Process Intensive Rehearsals



 10/8 – TBD No class in person; Attend Performance/Creative

Process Intensive Rehearsals



Week 8 VCU

Week 7 UR




Embodied Synthesis Reflection and Endings



 10/15 – VCU Dance Center Room 105




 10/17 – VCU Dance Center Room 105, or Offsite Brunch (Lulu’s Café)



Intention Check-in/Self-Reflection

Creative Process/Community Power Dynamics Reflection



Week 8+ UR




Archive and Documentation


 10/21 – 12/5 – UR Dance Department


UR Students and Faculty ONLY

MK+ guest lecturing – TBD



Richmond African Ancestral Burial Ground Map

Departmental, School and University Procedures and Policies

Department of Dance + Choreography Policies

  1. DANC/DANZ Class Participation HONOR CODE

VCU Dance strives to cultivate an environment of professionalism and to encourage respect for one another and our processes, recognizing that we are part of a larger community and share responsibility in the maintenance of the health and history of our art.

    • Growth in dance technique is dependent on participation; absences are strongly discouraged.
    • Be in the space and ready to begin class when the instructor begins.
    • If you arrive late by less than 15 minutes, get the instructor’s expressed approval before joining class.
    • Students are responsible for keeping track of their own tardy and absence totals. If you are unsure of how many tardies/absences you have, it is your responsibility to check with your instructor.
  1. Tardiness:
  • Arriving less than 15 minutes late = marked as Late, student may participate only with permission of the instructor.
  • Arriving more than 15 minutes late = full absence.
  • Tardiness will affect Work Habit and/or Participation grades. A pattern of consistent tardiness may result in failure of the course.
  1. Absenteeism: Absences should be reserved for illness or emergency.
  2. Policies by DANC/DANZ class meeting frequency:
  • Classes that meet Once a Week for the Entire Semester or Twice a Week for Half of the Semester: There is one absence without penalty allowed in a class that meets either once a week for the entire semester or twice a week for one-half of the semester. Each absence beyond this amount will result in the lowering of the student’s grade by one letter. Two absences yield a reduction of two letter grades. Three absences constitute an automatic failure of the course.
  • Classes that meet Twice a Week for the Entire Semester: For classes that meet twice a week for the entire semester, there are two absences without penalty allowed. Absences beyond this amount will result in the lowering of the student’s grade by one letter per additional absence. Four absences constitute an automatic failure of the course.
  • Classes that meet Three Times per Week for the Entire Semester: For classes that meet three times a week for the entire semester, there are three absences without penalty allowed. Absences beyond this amount will result in the lowering of the student’s grade by one letter per additional absence. Six absences constitute an automatic failure of the course.
  • Classes that meet Four Times per Week for the Entire Semester: Students are allowed four absences without penalty for the semester in Technique classes that meet four times per week. Absences beyond this amount will result in the lowering of the student’s final grade by one letter increment per additional absence. Six absences during a semester (over both sessions) will result in the automatic failure of the course.
  • Classes that meet Five Times per Week for the Entire Semester (MODERN/WORKSHOP): Students are allowed five absences without penalty for the semester in DANC 101/2, 201/2, 301/2, 401/2 classes that meet five times per week (Modern Mon-Thurs plus Friday Workshop). Absences beyond this amount will result in the lowering of the student’s final grade by one letter per additional absence. Seven absences during a semester will result in the automatic failure of the course.*

*The following types of tardies and absences WILL COUNT toward your Modern/Workshop absence total for the semester: 

  • Absences from Departmental concerts and events.

FOR SENIORS ONLY, the following types of tardies and absences WILL COUNT toward your Modern/Workshop absence total for the semester:

  • Absences from Departmental concerts and events.
  • Absences from crew and/or cast calls.


1 absence 2 absences 3 absences  4 absences 5 absences 6 absences 7 absences
Classes that meet one day per week Allowed Final grade dropped by one full letter grade Automatic failure of the course (F)
Classes that meet two days per week Allowed Allowed Final grade dropped by one full letter grade Automatic failure of the course (F)
Classes that meet three days per week Allowed Allowed Allowed Final grade dropped by one full letter grade Automatic failure of the course (F)
Classes that meet four days per week Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed Final grade dropped by one full letter grade Automatic failure of the course (F)
Classes that meet five days per week (Modern/ Workshop)* Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed Final grade dropped by one full letter grade Automatic failure of the course (F)
*PLEASE NOTE: Absences in Modern AND Workshop class count toward these totals.
*PLEASE NOTE: Absences and tardies to departmental concerts and events count toward these totals.
SENIORS: The following types of tardies and absences WILL COUNT toward your Modern/Workshop absence total for the semester:
Absences/tardies to Departmental concerts and events.
Absences/tardies to cast and/or crew calls.



Dance inherently involves physical, mental, and emotional components; accordingly, satisfactory performance in dance requires that students draw from all these areas in demonstrating their knowledge and progress. Additionally, dance training takes place in group environments and often, in the case of partnering or improvisation, for example, requires interdependence and collaboration. If you have a physical, learning, developmental, or psychological disability that may affect your ability satisfactorily to perform the fundamental requirements of a dance course, please inform VCU’s Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity.

When requesting accommodation for a disability, early notification (during the first week of classes) is imperative. It is your responsibility to timely disclose any disability for which you wish accommodations to be made. Accommodations are never retroactive. VCU’s Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity outlines the process for requesting accommodations here:  http://saeo.vcu.edu/registration/process/

Allowable absences in technique classes are designed to accommodate illness, injury, or other emergencies. If you use up your absences for frivolous reasons, additional absences for illness or injury will count against your grade. If illness or injury affects your participation in technique classes, you should keep your instructors informed in person and by email, and follow the policies below:

  1. If you have a fever, stay home. You should be fever free or on antibiotics for 24 hours

before returning to class.

  1. A doctors’ note does not excuse an absence automatically. In the case of serious illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia, mononucleosis, etc, which require longer recovery time, a doctor’s note should be provided to the Chair of Dance, in order to develop a plan for accommodating the student’s recovery. Under no circumstances should doctor’s notes be handed to the teacher of the class.
  2. Excessive absences due to injury or other physical/mental health issues typically call for a medical withdrawal from the course.

For injury prevention and wellness information, please see the resources list in the Student Handbook.

  • Students who have experienced the death of a close family member may request up to three days of excused absences to accommodate attendance at funeral/memorial services.
  • Students should inform the Chair immediately via email of the need for bereavement exemption.
  • Per the University Undergraduate Bulletin: It is the policy of VCU to accord students, on an individual basis, the opportunity to observe their traditional religious holidays. Students wishing to observe a religious holiday of special importance must provide advance written notification to each instructor by the end of the second week of classes. On these dates, instructors are encouraged to avoid scheduling one-time-only activities that cannot be replicated. Through such strategies as providing alternative assignments or examinations, granting permission for audio or video recordings or the use of the Internet, faculty members are expected to make reasonable academic accommodations for students who are absent because of religious observance.
  • Friday, August 30, 2019 is the fall deadline for students to provide advance written notification to instructors of intent to observe religious holidays, and Friday, January 24, 2020 is the spring deadline.
  • It is recommended that the student remind instructors within two weeks of upcoming religious observances.
  • Observations are considered one-half absence, as the student is not fully engaged in the activity of the class. Observation Forms must be completed and handed to the instructor at the end of each class observed. Forms may be found in the lobby of the Dance Center.
  • If a student leaves class early without the consent of the instructor, it is considered an absence. Early departures from class may affect attendance totals, including leaving class to move your car.
  • “Excused absences” are ONLY those that are sanctioned by the Department, usually for specified Departmental activities such as festivals and conferences.
  • For any other absence to be deemed “excused,” expressed approval of the instructor and/or the Department Chair in consultation with the faculty is required.
  • The grade of “incomplete” is rarely appropriate in technique classes.  It is, therefore, rarely assigned.
  • To participate in any rehearsal, it is strongly encouraged that the student participate in the day’s modern or ballet technique class.
  • THERE ARE NO “MAKE-UP” CLASSES in any departmental technique class.
  • Attendance at all departmental events, i.e. concerts and screenings, is required.
  • If a student takes a medical withdrawal from technique classes, they must also no longer participate in any rehearsals until the following semester when they resume technique classes.
  • Seniors requesting “excused absences” to attend professional auditions:
    • Must make their requests to the Chair by email at least TWO WEEKS before the audition date/s. Absences to attend professional auditions will only be excused if approved in advance by the Chair.
    • Absences may be excused for a maximum of two audition trips that impact classes during one semester.
    • This policy only applies to senior Dance majors.
    • NO ABSENCES WILL BE EXCUSED DURING PRODUCTION WEEKS for seniors involved in any aspect of a concert.


IMPORTANT NOTE:  Class participation/attendance is essential to the development of every dancer. It is a base-level requirement. Perfect attendance does not mean that the student will earn an “A,” but not attending is equivalent to missing opportunities for growth.

  • The dancer’s work in the studio is just that – work. Come prepared to actively attend to your growth as a dancer/artist.
  • Do not talk when the instructor is talking.
  • When the instructor is offering feedback or guidance and addressing a student, every student in the class should be attentive and all should process the information in their own body.
  • When phrases are being taught, students should be moving as well, getting the material in their bodies, unless they have been instructed to “just watch.”
  • Do not leave class during an exercise, unless there is an emergency.
  • Go to the restroom between classes, not during.
  • Get water between classes or at a time that the instructor has indicated is ok.
  • If it is necessary that you keep hydrated throughout class, then place yourself on the perimeter of the room, with your water bottle nearby.
  • No chewing gum.
  • No food or beverages other than water.

Any student who demonstrates behavior that is not in accordance with these guidelines, can expect to be addressed by the instructor. Depending on the severity of the student’s conduct, the instructor may ask the student to sit, observe and take notes. This will count as ½ absence.  The instructor might also ask the student to leave the class.  This will count as a full absence.

  1. GRADING: Departmental Grading Policy for All Dance (DANC/DANZ) Courses
  • VCU students must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.
  • The Dance Department adheres to the University letter Grade Policy:

A – Superior

B – Good

C – Average

D – Passing

F – Failing


In evaluating students, the faculty is looking at skill level, comprehension and/or creativity, progress, work habits, and fulfillment of potential. If a student fulfills minimum requirements of class, adheres to the attendance policy, and performs adequately in the above areas, the department considers that student to be doing average work which means a “C” grade.  To attain a “B”, a student must be do more than just fulfill minimum requirements, and excel in one or more of the above areas. To attain an “A”, the student’s work must be superior in all areas.


The Departmental Grading Scale is as follows:


Grade            Percentage

A+                   98-100

A                       95-97

A-                      91-94

B+                     88-90

B                       85-87

B-                      81-84

C+                     78-80

C                       75-77

C-                      71-74

D+                     68-70

D                       65-67

D-                      61-64

F                          0-60



VCUarts Syllabus Statements


The School of the Arts is deeply committed to the university’s mission of advancing knowledge and student success. We do this in a number of ways, including fostering an inclusive environment and ensuring students’ well-being.


Any member of the community that would like to report an incident of bias, a violation of academic integrity, a Title IX incident, concerning behavior or a general conduct violation may do so by clicking the ‘VCU classroom safety’ link found on the desktop of all university computers, or by going to https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?VirginiaCommonwealthUniv

The aim of University Counseling Services is to provide comprehensive evaluation and consultation for students on best options for their mental health care. This can include any of the following: case management, referral services to a community provider, brief individual and couples therapy, group therapy, consultation, and resiliency workshops.

Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (SAEO) is the designated office that provides reasonable accommodations and services to students with disabilities enrolled on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus.

University Student Health Services offer a wide range of primary care services in the following areas: allergy shots, blood and/or body fluid exposures, immunizations, mental health & ADHD, nutrition consults, sexual health & wellness and more.

The Wellness Resource Center offers a wide range of services and resources for students, including information on mindfulness, stress reduction, nutrition, sleep, substance use, and recovery support.

Gender inclusive restrooms within the university can be located with this online map: students.vcu.edu/gib-map.

Holly Alford, VCUarts director of diversity, is available to provide assistance and support. She can be reached at artsinclusive@vcu.edu or (804) 827-3476.

The Student Code of Conduct can be found at conduct.students.vcu.edu. Students should note that VCUarts values artistic freedom and expression. Because safety is a top priority, students should consult their instructor for guidance as they assess potential physical safety concerns related to a proposed project or performance. Any project or performance that is determined by the school to present an unreasonable safety risk, including to the physical safety of the artist or any other person or to property, will not be graded and may result in additional university administrative and disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct and/or other university policies.

This Syllabus is subject to change

Students will be notified in advance of important changes that could affect grading, assignments, etc.