Cherokee Ellison, 40 years old, coach at Capoeira Chattanooga and co-founder of Move and Groove Kids, demonstrates strength and agility by doing a hand stand. Developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil, Capoeira is an Afro-Brazillian martial art that combines elements of dance and acrobatics. Thursday, April 8, 2021. (Photo by Serretta Malaikham)

By Mary Kate Sheppard, Staff Writer —

Dance, for some people, is simply another way of expressing emotion and relaying ideas. For others, it is an art form that requires talent, dedication, and creativity. 

At the Hunter Museum of American Art, both are explored. 

One of the museum’s newest visiting exhibitions is called “Under Construction: Collage from the Mint Museum.” This exhibition explores the use of collage and the beauty that can be created by placing two seemingly unrelated things side-by-side. 

According to the museum’s exhibition hall, collage is an “artistic technique in which elements are cut from different sources and recombined to create entirely new images.” 

The gallery itself featured collage work from textile, abstraction, photography, texts, and other mediums. Some of the mediums explored at the Hunter Museum included book pages, newspaper clippings, and even a piece of art by Sheila Gallagher that featured a massive canvas of melted and glued plastic. 

In addition to the physical art handing on the walls, one of the biggest thrills was the art of movement that Hunter Museum presented. 

Inspired by the exhibit, choreographer Belle Alvarez, in collaboration with dance coach Cherokee Ellison, created a beautiful collage of movement with their bodies.  

Alvarez called the dance a “kinesthetic approach to assemblage” that “weaved together dance and movement vocabularies of the Latin and African diasporas.” 

The two dancers also brought together cultures, histories, languages and ethnicity, stitching them together using motion and sound. 

“Dance: Under Construction” was inspired by the collage gallery and the diversity of the mediums used. Similarly, Alvarez and Ellison used music and dance from both Latin and African culture. 

Alvarez has danced all over the U.S., from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, but this was her first performance in Chattanooga. In conjunction with his wife, Cherokee Ellison is also the co-founder of Move and Groove Kidz, a program that teaches children to dance and express themselves. 

“I always recommend finding your movement — when you’re doing the dishes or anything,” Ellison said. “Don’t worry about the words, just feel the music and let your body express that.”


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