November 26, 2018
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When Kenyon dance professors asked students to choreograph pieces on concepts of identity and place, there was a catch: The students were paired with dancers who could not share the same space.
It was an exercise in using technology to connect international partners in solving a specific problem. Six students in Professor of Dance Balinda Craig-Quijada’s choreography course communicated online with six students from Greece to weave ideas into filmed performances. The project was part of the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s Global Crossroads initiative, which builds international connections for classes at liberal arts colleges.
“Establishing connections between dance students in disparate places seems like a natural development of what we already do as choreographers and performers,” Craig-Quijada said. “We are always building communities — in the classroom and in the rehearsal studio — finding ways to connect and communicate non-verbally. This was a wonderful way to expand those parameters.”
The GLCA put Professor of Dance Julie Brodie in touch with dance professor Ana Sanchez Colberg at the American College of Greece in Athens. They met in Greece last summer to design the assignment that the students presented in December.
“The projects turned out better than I expected, given they only had about three weeks to work long distance,” Brodie said.
“Part of the idea was to share how their identity is informed by place, so the students were working and dancing in unusual places: in a bed outside in the cold, in the catwalk over the Bolton Theater, inside and outside their apartment, going up a staircase in a science building with other students passing by, and in a shower stall.”
Marc Ferraro ’17, a dance major from Belmont, Massachusetts, was the student moving furtively in the darkened Bolton Theater. His partner in Greece, Nadja Mattioli, performed inside a brightly lit freight elevator. Ferraro edited their parts into a film called “Resistance.”
Ferraro, who has taken film and drama classes at Kenyon, saw the advantage to making a dance film that could be shared broadly. “To me, it’s an equally valid and interesting form that we don’t explore enough,” he said.
“We slowly built up our ideas until we knew where we wanted to go,” Ferraro said. “We recorded something for the other person to review. It was all filmed, and that way we didn’t need to be awake at the same time. It allowed us to be more flexible in our communication.”
Laura David ’18, a double major in international studies and dance from Wilmette, Illinois, said she messaged on Facebook with Greek student Ioanna Thanou to explore ideas about beds, insomnia and technology.
“We got kind of meta,” David said. “Here it was 3 a.m., and I was Facebook messaging a girl in Greece from my own bed.”
David wrote in a blog post about their seven-minute piece, “Inbedia”: “The actual movement was, in my case, very much inspired by Ioanna. She sent me many videos of both her and others to feed off of, and I think both of our choreography ended up consisting of playing with many, many, different ideas — some improvisatory, some carefully planned.”
After watching the films, the professors held a live feedback session for students. Brodie hopes this collaboration between the dance programs will continue. David used the feedback to hone the editing on “Inbedia” so she could submit it this month for a regional conference of the American College Dance Association.
“I normally don’t like to collaborate on an art piece, but maybe because we had this distance, I had time to process it and think about her ideas,” David said. “It would have been so different if we had just done what I had envisioned. But it turned out really well.”