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UNC Charlotte professor balances teaching and dance advocacy
Tamara Williams extols importance of community
Published Sunday, June 7, 2020 12:49 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

UNC Charlotte assistant professor of dance Tamara Williams earned the College of Arts + Architecture faculty Board of Governors Teaching Award.

Tamara Williams has been teaching for as long as she can remember.

An assistant professor of dance at UNC Charlotte, Williams is the 2019-20 recipient of the College of Arts + Architecture faculty Board of Governors Teaching Award. The $1,000 annual award is given to a faculty member in a given college for excellence and innovation in teaching. She found out last month from College of Arts + Architecture Dean Brook Muller that she had been chosen for the award.

“I was actually fairly surprised and pleasantly surprised, especially during these times where there’s a bit of negativity flowing around us—it was really a picker upper to receive that email from him,” Williams said.

Williams teaches African diaspora dance forms, as well as Silvestre Technique, an African-Brazilian contemporary dance. She recently completed the first manual for the technique, which will be published by McFarland Press titled “Giving Life to Movement: An ethnographic study, cultural-historical examination, and manual to Silvestre Dance Technique.” The technique was created by her mentor, Rosangela Silvestre.

“I also teach dance in the community in which I share methods for students to go out into community and enter and exit community respectfully, teaching dance to diverse populations,” Williams said.

"Williams’ highly-regarded research, teaching, and community engagement work disseminates ideas and practices related to dance forms of the African diaspora,” Ann Dils, chair of UNCC’s Department of Dance said in Williams’ nomination letter. “She has an excellent record of innovative teaching at UNC Charlotte. Williams’ Dance and the Community course brings students into collaboration with members of community organizations such as the Camino Center and Aldersgate Retirement Center.”

While the spring semester concluded with remote classes, no one knows what fall semester classes will look like. Williams confidently said there will be fall performances, but they may rely on dance on camera to share them with the audience. She also intends to use her research on African American Ring Shout traditions during fall performances.

“Williams’ extensive Ring Shout project—Ring Shout is a 19th and 20th century dance form important to African American sacred communities in the Southeast United States—was especially outstanding, a wonderful example of excellence in faculty and student research and teaching,” Dils said.

Said Williams: “There are a lot of historical sites in Charlotte. We will go around to some of those historical sites as places of preservation of historic black dance, and use those to create a dance for our fall dance concert series, and then have it be on camera and share it with the Charlotte community and beyond.”

Williams, who grew up in Augusta, Georgia, took dance classes daily while also teaching there. Teaching while training continued while she attended Florida State University as well as during her time as a professional dancer in New York City. While pursuing a master’s in dance at Hollins University, she decided to focus on academia to broaden her impact in the community as well as her students.

“I’ve always taught,” Williams said, “even when I was still learning, and I’m still learning. I haven’t stopped. Educators are always continuing to learn, but even as an adolescent I was teaching as a shadow of my teacher.”


It is very exciting to me as I pass the torch of leader ship when it comes to the Gullah Geechee culture and the ring shout. Tamara Williams Please do continue to teach the dance of the Ring Shout and the history of the ring shout to the younger generation and to all that would like to learn of this wonderful experience Of music and dance, that is labeled the Ring Shout. From Griffin Lotson, manager of the world renowned, Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, Choreographer for the new roots movie episode one featuring to Ring Shout: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06y0l33
Posted on June 8, 2020

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