Dancers fight ‘Corps’ of the cause

Alumna Jen Gladney gets a lift from a dancer at Princeton Ballet School during a rehearsal for Dances for Africa, which will be performed this weekend.By Katelyn Friel

Darkness fills the small space; an electric energy penetrates every corner. Pure white lights flicker against the backdrop of the intimate space. Soon the stage is overflowing with crimson figures moving to a pulsating beat.

This newest production of Rider Dances, Dances for Africa: An Apple’s Corps, to be performed tonight, is a collaboration created by Kristin Scott, a dancer with Princeton’s American Repertory Ballet (ARB).

Scott spent six weeks in two orphanages in Africa working closely with children who either lost parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic or are suffering from it themselves.

All the proceeds from the performance benefit the Ongata Rongai Christian Women’s Works for Charity Orphanage.

“I have had previous experiences similar to my trip to Kenya in Peru, Mexico and Belize,” said Scott. “Africa is another level of heartache and struggle. If I didn’t believe I could make a difference in lives there, then I wouldn’t have made the trip.”

Upon arriving back in the States, she embraced the lessons she learned in Africa and focused her energy and
emotions on reaching out to the community, including Rider.

At Rider, Scott’s vision has been implemented in Dances for Africa with the help of Dr. Kim Chandler-Vaccaro, director of the University’s dance program. Chandler-Vaccaro was assisted by two student directors, seniors Jordan Owen and Crista Vaccarello.

Dances for Africa involves 29 dance students as well as members of the ARB. The program ranges from tap to classical ballet.

According to Scott, Chandler-Vaccaro helped convert the stories, memories and experiences for the program.

“I think my favorite part of Dances for Africa is the number of people involved,” Scott said. “I love that it’s a community effort, everyone joining together to make an impact.”

Chandler-Vaccaro, along with Owen and Vaccarello, has taken Scott’s belief that one person can make a difference. The dancers lend their time and passion to raise awareness of the destitution and destruction that Africa is struggling to overcome.

“Dances for Africa has been a positive event for the dance students at Rider in numerous ways,” Owen said. “The students love being able to dance for a good cause. We learned that there is so much suffering in this world and everyone can make a difference.”

According to (RED), Africa is home to 60 percent of the globe’s HIV/AIDS patients. Nearly 25 million in Africa are living with the disease, 13 million of whom are children. Thousands are orphaned every day and close to 2,000 are infected daily.

It is almost inevitable to question how one person could make a difference when the numbers are so overwhelming. But for Scott, the numbers did not remain meaningless facts; they represented human beings with faces, stories and

“A lot of days, honestly, I’d be in the kitchen helping sort the little rocks and dead bugs out of the rice,” said Scott. “It’s easy to start thinking, ‘What am I doing here? Is this really making a difference?’ But sometimes the most menial tasks are the great ones. It was often a humbling experience.”

Dances for Africa will be taking place in the Spitz studio theater tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults. Also, log on to to find out more ways to help.

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