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The Power of Dance

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Meet Arcos Dance Co-founder Erica Gionfriddo and learn how she uses dance for social good.

By Chelsea Pribble, Photo by Lynne Lane

Dance is a complicated language, one that while aesthetically alluring and awe inducing can look and feel foreign to non-dancers and even other dancers. Although most people have heard of the “stanky legg” and can dance at home like nobody’s watching, contemporary dance performances can elicit confusion. However, when dance and social good partner up, leaps become informative and issues are easier to digest.

Since relocating from Santa Fe, N.M., to Austin in 2014, Arcos Dance is doing a lot of good for the Austin dance scene, as well as for the community as a whole. Arcos not only creates contemporary performance art that is accessible and thought provoking, but it also offers opportunities and training for Austin-area dancers to “cultivate the whole artist.” Austin Woman sat down with Arcos Dance Co-founder Erica Gionfriddo to learn how she uses dance as a tool for social good.

Austin Woman: What inspires you to do what you do?

Erica Gionfriddo: I personally struggled so much with confidence, finding my voice and feeling valid and living up to the standards that are set before me. Early on, I was drawn to drama and the darker side of whatever it was I was looking at, but almost always using female bodies and the female experience to convey that you can be strong and feminine. I think young women cannot be supported enough in their development and more than role models, they need opportunities and tools and the chance to prove to themselves that they are strong and powerful.

AW: How does Arcos make dance accessible?

EG: In 2016, we did a whole 360-video series. Technology is potentially a thing that links all of us. Why not use these things that are attached to our face all day long as a mode of expression and a way of storytelling?

AW: Why is it important to question dominant understandings of the world in your work?

EG: It’s so important to challenge our audiences. If we can challenge them to question the way they think about something, then that creates a ripple effect that moves out into their life. 

AW: How does Arcos give back to the Austin dance community?

EG: We started to incorporate these professional-development sessions into our workshops. The bigger picture is giving more theoretical and historical context to think about your work and not just the doing of it, but the how and the why and the effect it has on you and the immediate world and the world at large. We now offer a microgrant, the Dance Artist Development Award. We really want to give people the opportunity to develop, to take the interest in themselves and invest in themselves.

AW: How can artists impact their communities and the world?  

EG: Our philosophy on coming to a new community has been how we can all benefit from offering what we know to each other. I think it becomes increasingly important to make sure what we’re doing at the personal level is the way we want to see the global level act.

AW: What is the impact of doing good?

EG: I see, especially the young women I teach at the University [of Texas], when they’re given the chance to take ownership or realize their own agency, they really blossom and almost immediately can pay that forward to other people.

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