My name is Ty’esha Lewis, but folks call me Ty. I am a graduate student in the department of dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). I am also the Independent Media Center’s (IMC) fall 2022 intern. The IMC is dedicated to fostering and hosting local creative voices and emphasizes recognizing underrepresented voices. 

As an intern, I have observed the ins and outs of running a non-profit, and have gained insight and guidance on producing and hosting events for the community here at the IMC.

As their current intern, I have the opportunity to host my first event at the IMC on Saturday, November 12th, which is a “Community Improv Jam: A collaboration of moving bodies, space, and rhythms.” This event is open to the dance community and invites local dancers who are familiar and comfortable with improvisation to come together and engage in an improv jam. The jam will be for 2 hours, from 6pm-8pm, followed by a talkback led by host Ty Lewis.  I am pleased and excited to have musicians Bryan Maxwell, Jordan Smith, and Tyler Wood who will be accompanying the jam. I chose to host an improv jam because I am interested in creating a space for individuals to come together, share space, and freely express themselves through movement and sound. I am also interested in using this event to help further my research, which investigates embodiment, rhythm, and space.

The process of creating the jam has been extremely informative, and I had a few obstacles and challenges I had to overcome. One was finding musicians who were both available and familiar with improvisation and working in collaboration with others. The second was blending and bringing together the university and local dance community, especially individuals who are familiar with and excited to engage in improvisation. The third was contemplating how to cultivate a safe and alive space for everyone to enjoy and freely express themselves. 

After a few weeks of reaching out to musicians who study at UIUC, and musicians recommended to me by Miriam Larson, IMC’s executive director, I finally found 3 amazing musicians to join the jam! Thanks to local musicians sharing the word about the search. To overcome my challenge of including both students from the University and locals from the community I had the pleasure to meet and chat with Melih Sener, the co-host of Queertango. After our meeting, they offered to share my event with their mailing list, which is local individuals who join their Queertango event. My discussion with Melih also reminded me of an important element I utilize in my dance teaching as a way of cultivating a safe space. I do this by guiding students through an improvisation, which offers them the opportunity to connect to their bodies, with each other, and with the space.

Because of the assistance I have received from Miriam and the community, I am confident and excited to host and present this event! I am curious about how it will affect and I hope to expand the dance community!