Student spotlight: Jasmmine Ramgotra uses art as a conduit for social change

Avi Loud
Jasmmine Ramgotra.

For Jasmmine Ramgotra, dance is a way to engage with the community, and a means to express tough social and environmental issues we face in today’s society. She’s looking to shift the culture of dance away from abstraction, in order to lead the way for a more connected and inclusive tomorrow.

Jasmmine recently received the honor of being named Miss Next Century by Future-ish, a creation of UW Sustainability’s Sean Schmidt. Future-ish celebrates and promotes the ideas and people that shape our future through science, design and culture. The Miss Next Century award was created to honor “next century citizens” who are ahead of their time and actively creating a better future, today. You can catch Jasmmine’s performance “Change from Within” next week to see her in action.

We sat down with Jasmmine to learn how she is making change through her art, and why she sees it as a tool for deeper collaboration.

Who are you?

I’m a performer, choreographer, visual artist, student and social change agent.

I grew up in Saskatoon, Canada and I have been dancing since I was four years old; first classical indian dance (influenced by my Punjabi heritage) and later, jazz, modern, ballet and various improvisation-based street styles (when I moved to Seattle). In high school I trained intensively in the pre-professional division at Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater, but decided that my heart was set on pursuing choreography and my own compositional work.

Why do you study the environment?

When I was a student at Seattle Central University, I saw Oceans, a nature documentary narrated by Pierce Brosnan. It depicted the stories and lives of stunning marine creatures around the world, and also highlighted the negative effect humans have on our planet. The film was beautifully shot, unexpectedly funny, and truly memorable – and it was the first message that connected my feelings to the real and horrific impacts of climate change.

It made me ask: “What can I do about it?” And I knew then that I had to study the environment. After an extra year at Seattle Central and practicing dance, I transferred to the UW, and am a double major in Environmental Studies and Dance.

After taking Kristi Straus’s sustainability course (ENVIR 239: Sustainability: Personal Choices, Broad Impacts) I was compelled to switch my major from Environmental Science to Environmental Studies, because I wanted to focus on people, the economy and social justice in addition to science. Once I saw how much of an impact I could have, both positive and negative, I couldn’t turn away.

What do you see as the most critical environmental issues?

Climate change, because it shows how we are all interconnected. Also, I’m very concerned about the lack of diversity in the environmental field. I feel there is a need to intersect and work together with people that come from different places, have different experiences, and hold different perspectives. We have more to offer when everyone is involved. We need to bring all the values and stakeholders to the table!

What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

My Environmental Studies Capstone and upcoming performances! Through my internship with the Center for Creative Conservation, I conducted a series of interviews about the current state of diversity within the environmental field and brainstormed ideas about how we can improve human social diversity within the various sectors – government, NGO’s, business, and academia. The research is culminated into a written report and a public, movement-based performance and deconstruction/feedback session.

The performance “Change from Within: Diversifying the Environmental Movement” asks: What comes to mind when you say diversity and conservation? What solutions do you recommend for improving diversity in your organization, and the environmental field at large?

The performance is a collaboration created between myself, 4 dancers, and local compositional artist Eli Hetrick/HETRIK. My focus is to make connections across disciplines in order to create the most meaningful experience for collaborators and the audience alike. 

The ultimate goal is the sharing of ideas and creating a bridge between art, knowledge, and comprehensive understanding that leads to insight, inspiration and positive behavior change.

Change from Within is my first attempt to combine both performance art and intensive research to educate, entertain, and inspire: connecting facts to feelings. 

What are your career aspirations?

I have a vision to build my own company, Culture Shift, an interdisciplinary group of visual and performance artists and designers, scientists, researchers, photographers and other collaborators to broaden our collective understanding of social and environmental issues, rooted in feelings and creative expression. I enjoy organizing people and want to use art for the purpose of engaging others, as an outlet for community connection and expression.

Culture Shift is the group, and the ultimate goal is to make art that is meaningful and accessible to all people regardless of their status or upbringing – to bridge the gaps in our knowledge through expression, discussion, and collaboration.

Upcoming performances

Jasmmine’s work will be performed:

Support Jasmmine’s GoFundMe campaign and her upcoming work so everyone can attend at no charge.

You can also check out her work on Instagram at @jasecreations and follow her on Twitter @jasecreations.