From Aspiring Dancers to Active Performing Artists in Our Community

Published: May 23, 2024

Queensborough students in dance program performing

Dance instructor Kevin McEwen says this about the piece Quintessence that he collaborated on with female dance students at the Spring Dance Concert held on May 9-10 at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC).

“The piece explored what these young students feel as they step into womanhood – they actualized that experience through their solo choreography. I stepped back and watched them lead as they represented themselves in their solos. I advised only if they needed my direction. But it was their journey.”

He added, “This dance piece was a reminder that as a society we must do a better job of holding up our women—to give them space to celebrate who they are.”

McEwen, BS, MA, PM, who teaches African Diasporic Dance at Queensborough Community College is also a full-time lecturer at Lehman College where he was hired in August of last year to teach in the Music, Multimedia, Theater & Dance Department.

“In this position I can offer a pathway for our Queensborough students to continue their bachelor’s. I am also developing a graduate degree program that offers state certification for dance students who want to teach at the K-12 level.”

His energy and drive seem boundless. He is founder and a director of the Kofago Dance Ensemble which will hold a fundraiser on June 22 called “Kassoumaii Gala” at the Malcom X and Betty Shabaz Cultural Center in Harlem.

He is a believer that students gain empowerment at Queensborough. “Lots of students are looking for a second chance because their grades in High School were not strong, or something else in their life derailed their college education.  We give them a safe space to learn dance from a pedagogical and ethnographic perspective. Those who graduate become active performing artists in our community because they have graduated from Queensborough.”

To participate in the Annual Spring Dance Concert, students agree to the details of their responsibilities. The number of students who audition in the fall for the spring workshop varies. Each student participates in two choreographies. There are three faculty choreographies plus one guest choreographer. Students are also given the opportunity to choreograph their own piece.

In the six years since McEwen joined the dance program, he says he has collaborated with incredible faculty. “Emily Berry brought me into the dance program; Aviva Geismar, the Director of the dance program has provided outstanding leadership to us all and Nicole McClam teaches the fundamentals of ballet that inspires other Black women to pursue a career in this competitive field.”

McEwen is a long-time resident of Brooklyn whose dance training is focused with traditional African dance techniques from the countries of Mali and Senegal. His choreographic work highlights topics of social justice, and ancestral memory, using dance as a creative form of expression. 



As a lecturer in traditional African dance ethnography, Kevin McEwen has presented his research at several conferences, including the Season of Dance in Barbados and the African Theater Associations Annual International Conference in Abjua, Nigeria. Kevin created a foundation for him to provide mentorship to four young boys from the Southside of Chicago which inspired the film, “Walk All Night: A Drum Beat Journey,” which documents the sojourn of these young men back to Senegal, West Africa to study the musical and cultural traditions of the Gewel (Griot) caste of musicians. McEwen holds an MA in Dance Education from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education.

Aviva Geismar is an Associate Professor at Queensborough Community College and the coordinator of the Dance Program. She also directs the contemporary dance company Drastic Action. Aviva’s dances have been performed at many national and international venues such as “Inside/Out” at Jacob’s Pillow, “Fresh Tracks” at Dance Theater Workshop, Dance New Amsterdam, The Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Studio 303 (Montreal) and Dance Place (DC). In 2005, she was included in Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch Series, which recognizes notable dance artists nationwide.

Queensborough’s Dance program is accredited by the National Association of Dance.

The Accreditation process is rigorous; it not only examines everything the dance program offers--Dance as a major, the A.S. degree in Dance and General Education dance courses—but the college itself and the support systems that are in place to ensure a rich, diverse educational experience. The accreditation demonstrates that Queensborough is meeting those standards.


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