Moves that bind: Katie Schetlick finds connections through dance

We fidget as we sit, we walk, we run and dance—we’re all in constant motion. But how often do we think of it as something that we share with others, something that links us together? Katie Schetlick, ballet instructor at the Charlottesville Performing Arts School, considers this connection between people, dancing, and movement every day. 

“I’ve always just been interested in movement in general, and not even just dance movement," Schetlick says, noting that dance can manifest itself in different activities you might not think of– skating, or even surfing. "Those things can, in my eyes, also be considered dance," says Schetlick, who finds inspiration for her choreography in everyday movements.

“I find that the thing that really inspires me the most, no matter what form it is, is finding movements where people are really present in what they’re doing.”

The belief that dance can be transformative was the inspiration for The Movement Party, a program Schetlick founded with her close friend Zena Bibler. Described on its website as "a growing body politic committed to communication through a physicality currently threatened by the encroachment of a sedentary, voyeuristic life," Schetlick says she and Bibler wanted “to kind of fill the gaps in what we saw happening with dance in New York. We wanted to branch out and make dance more accessible for audiences and in a way, demystify dance.”

After launching The Movement Party, Schetlick and Bibler co-founded Fleet Moves, an annual dance festival in Wellfleet, Massachusetts where local and visiting artists engage with one another, the residents of the town, and the local environment using the town as inspiration to create dance performances and other events that converge visual arts and dance.

For Schetlick, dance is an art form that can break down barriers between people, reducing conflict and increasing understanding. In her studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she explored the relationship between human rights and dance.

“Once you go to language, things get lost, things get confused. In my mind, dance in this way has the ability to reveal the human qualities that we all share,” she notes. “It’s easy to have hatred for someone you never see and never share a room with. Dance offers a different way to think. What if you had to move in that space with that person? It’s harder to inflict something harmful on someone else if you realize that they’re also a body that moves through space in the same way you do."

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