“I have had a magical life,” says Thomas Warfield, assistant professor in NTID’s Cultural and Creative Studies Department; and former chairperson of RIT’s President’s Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion. Other titles Warfield can claim are world-renowned dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, director, producer, educator, activist and poet.
“In some ways I haven’t chosen my life’s direction,” he says. “I’ve tried to allow it to unfold and be open to the opportunities they present themselves.”
Warfield has welcomed many opportunities. Names of people he’s worked with—Spike Lee, Marvin Hamlisch, Carl Sagan, Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo, and places he’s performed—the Joffrey Ballet, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Alvin Ailey School—give an idea of the scope of Warfield’s experiences.
The son of a minister and a musical conductor, Warfield grew up in Rochester, N. Y., and started performing as a first grader. At age 12, he performed with the Opera Company Children’s Chorus in Rochester and by sixth grade, he had written his first play. After graduating from SUNY Purchase, he joined the Dragon Dance Company of Macao and was influenced by his global experiences to become the founder/artistic director of PeaceArt International, a global outreach not-for-profit organization using the arts and the creative process to foster world peace.
In 1995, he returned home from his world travels to help care for his ailing father. He took a temporary job at RIT and interviewed for a dance faculty position even though he wasn’t planning on teaching. Warfield has never left. His influence within the community is broad, serving on boards of Rochester City Ballet, Arts and Cultural Council and president of ARTWalk.
“Some people might think that working with deaf students might be difficult because of what some perceive as the hearing component to dance,” says Warfield. “Actually, it made me develop new ideas and expand my thinking about dance and the meaning of it as well as embrace the many levels of experience and the diversity here.”
Warfield enjoys having the ability to create his own dance composition/choreography program and aims for an equal number of hearing and deaf students in his dance company.
“The word ‘adventure’ comes to mind when I describe my work here,” says Warfield. “It’s both challenge and discovery. The challenge is making it all happen—the discovery through that process is unparalleled.”
This story appeared in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of FOCUS Magazine.