KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Twenty years ago, Edgar Page, B.A.'07, was just finding his footing as a first-year dance major at Western Michigan University. One of just a handful of students of color in the program, he longed for a platform where their diverse backgrounds and aesthetics would be celebrated—setting the stage for the Ebony Vision registered student organization (RSO).
"We were seeking to create a space of love and support where we knew that there was somebody who had your back. There was somebody who looked like you that wanted to be in community with you, that wanted to ensure you were loved and appreciated even in the way you hear music and dance to it and seek to create art that is valued," Page, one of five founding members, says.
Two decades later, the RSO is thriving and preparing to celebrate the milestone during the Ebony Vision Dance Ensemble Showcase, featuring live performances choreographed by current students and alumni.
"The show is going to be beautiful," says Jordan Jackson, RSO president and dance student, who is preparing for her final Ebony Vision showcase before graduating in April. In addition to performing, she helped choreograph some pieces. "Coming to the show, you should expect a mixture of different aesthetics, and it's so beautiful to see one group create so many aesthetics."
Three live performances are planned for Friday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Dalton Center on campus. Tickets, which are $15 to the public or $6 for students with a valid WIN number, can be purchased online. As part of the 20th anniversary celebration, several Ebony Vision alumni are volunteering their talents to host a free mini dance intensive for Western students on Friday morning as well.
"I am really excited about returning to the campus to meet others who have been influential in the journey of Ebony Vision getting here. But also (I’m excited) to reconnect with some of those who were right here walking the halls of the Dalton Center with me in the same modern, jazz and ballet classes that I was in, who really know what it took to thrive in this program and also create a space that celebrates the uniqueness of the human condition, centering persons of color through dance," Page says.
He's also excited to see how much both the organization and the Department of Dance have grown over the past 20 years.
"Now you're seeing the evolution of Ebony Vision alongside the evolution of the dance department, which has been encouraging more diversity and has been attracting more humans who fall into the category of Black, Indigenous or persons of color."
PLATFORM FOR GROWTH
Jackson, who grew up in Detroit, initially started her collegiate dance journey at another school. She chose to transfer to Western after her second year because of the Department of Dance's stellar reputation.
"(At Western), I've grown so much as a dancer. I feel like in transferring here, I found the dancer that I am and the type of dancer I want to be," she says. "Finding myself was probably the best thing for my dance career in the future; I feel like it has helped me so much. I'm more confident in myself. I'm more confident taking classes. I can set goals for myself now that I know what I want out of dance training."
Her training has been enriched by the support she's found in the Ebony Vision Dance Ensemble. Not only has it helped her discover her love for choreography, it's also provided space to find community and belonging.
"I've been in the RSO for three years, and I've met my best friends here," Jackson says. "It's very important to dance with people who look like you. They know your experiences; they know what you go through. And it's just very important that we have … an RSO that is multicultural within the dance department."
Her experience has provided a full-circle moment for Page, who has witnessed the growth of the RSO over the years and returned to campus several times to help train fellow Broncos and create a network of support that will carry into their careers.
"It's incredible to see that, number one, things are still going, (the RSO) is still in operation, and, number two, they upheld the legacy of who and what we are and what we do," Page says. "I'm incredibly proud of the work that these young people have done to keep the momentum and also understand that it's about forward growth, forward momentum, forward movement and progression."
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