Mary Francis “Cissy” Whipp has been working as a performer, choreographer, and dance educator for over 40 years. She received her B.F.A. in Choreographic Design from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and her M.A. in Performing Arts: Dance from the American University in Washington, D.C. She co-founded Louisiana’s first professional modern dance company, Moving South Dance, Inc., toured for several years with Young Audiences of New Orleans, and performed in France and Belgium with La Compagnie Louisianaise. She has taught for university dance programs at American University, George Washington University, Potsdam State University of New York, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1999 she joined the John F. Kennedy Center’s roster of National Teaching Artists and presents workshops nationally for teachers on integrating dance into the curriculum. She is the author of three professional development workshops for the Kennedy Center: “Kinesthetic Learning: Linking Language and Dance,” “Exploring Ecosystems Through Movement,” and “Moving Ways to Read and Write About Culture: West African Textile Art.” She recently retired as the Dance Specialist at the J. Wallace James Elementary School for Arts & Technology, where she worked for 19 years. Ms. Whipp is an Artist Fellow with LA A+ Schools. She is currently working for the Louisiana Board of Regents’ LOUIS project to help write an OER (Open Educational Resource) Dance Appreciation course/textbook for dual enrollment. She is piloting it at UL Lafayette, where she is currently teaching Philosophy and History of Dance. Cissy is thrilled to be a part of the Basin Arts team and share her love of dance with the children in the Modern Dance classes.
Who makes up your art circle?
My art circle comprises people in the arts – dancers, actors, visual artists, writers, and musicians. These are the people who inspire me with their creativity and work ethic. When you are in the arts field, you are not doing it for money or fame but for the love of what you do. My Basin Arts dance circle is a source of joy. I also have a theatre art circle with my friends in Acting Up in Acadiana under the direction of Amy Waguespack. I joined another UL Lafayette performing arts circle as an adjunct faculty member.
How do you expand your art circle?
I expand my circle by attending plays, and dance concerts, hearing live music, and checking out gallery exhibits at Art Walk and beyond. I recently expanded my art circle by going back to teach Philosophy & History of Dance at UL Lafayette. I love the energy there.
What value do you see in having a creative community?
We support and feed each other. I love seeing some of the things I put in motion back in the 1980s when I had my dance company, Moving South, reappearing in the local dance scene. I see so many growth opportunities.
How does your artistic approach contribute to your community?
I like to think of my teaching as contributing to the community. My life has been dedicated to absorbing different dance techniques, performing, choreographing, improvising, educating, and learning about dance history and philosophy. Last year, I worked with three other dance educators around the state to write a course and book for Dance Appreciation. It is an online interactive resource that can be used for high school or college. It is called “So You Think You Know Dance” https://louis.pressbooks.pub/danceappreciation/. I love teaching and spend a lot of time planning and researching ideas for my classes at ULL and my Basin Arts/Bluebirds Modern Movers children’s classes.