Living (in the woods) for Dance // Wang Ramirez in Monchichi

For the past 8 weeks, I have been living in a cabin in the middle of the woods. The nearest town is a 15 minute drive away and the wifi is iffy at best. There are at least 5 ants a day scurrying around my cabin floor and there have been 3 bear sightings in the past week. To top it all off, yesterday campus was struck by lighting, taking out power and network connections in about half of the buildings.

But I love it.

I am constantly surrounded by people who are passionate about the same thing I am: dance. The mission of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is to support the creation, presentation, education and preservation; and to engage and deepen the public support and appreciation of dance. I feel incredibly privileged to be working towards this goal with 32 other interns from around the world. We work 6 day weeks (many of which go until 8:30 or midnight) to support this incredible organization and make the best experience for our patrons and dancers. However, I must admit, it can be grueling after a long week of work with few breaks. But seeing a show on Wednesday evening is a rejuvenating experience.

I have had the opportunity to see every company that’s captivated audiences here thus far: Ballet BC, New York Theatre Ballet,  Dorrance Dance, Big Dance Theater, BODYTRAFFIC, Nederlands Dans Theater II, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and Company Wang Ramirez. Each one draws your admiration, forces you to think, and brings you to your feet at the end of the performance.

Today, I saw the sublime Sebastien Ramirez and Honji Wang in Monchichi. Our festival brochure advertises it as a piece that “questions intercultural differences within relationships.” This theme is something I have grappled with after growing up Asian-American in a New Jersey suburb, with a 5-year stint living in France, studying abroad in London, and dating my boyfriend who just became an American citizen after living in the Dominican Republic for the first few years of his life. Things are complicated in today’s multicultural world and we cannot let these complexities fall to the wayside for the sake of comfort and simplicity. Race, ethnicity, nationality, and identity are all incredibly relevant topics(/issues) and it was incredibly refreshing to see them portrayed as an “aesthetic marriage” (to quote Executive & Artistic Director Ella Baff). It’s something that can and should be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be the subject of negative news headlines around the country and the world. Ramirez & Wang showed us that there is curiosity and grace in these differences. Be authentic, even if it’s complicated.

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The Not-Goodbye-Because-Here’s-Another-Video Blog Post

Working with Professor Georgia Frank and the NY6 has been a great opportunity for me to continue my dance advocacy work. It has forced me to think even more about the connections between dance and the academics and how to message the information. Although my fellowship ended on May 1, I will continue to post work from the Colgate Dance Initiative and other related projects.

To start off, here’s a video I made of Jenna Walzcak ’17. She choreographed this piece for ENGL 393: Intermediate/Advanced Contemporary Dance in Fall 2014. For our final projects, we chose our own story, emotion, or thing to embody. Jenna’s work focused on trees.

So What Does Dance Have To Do With Harvard Law?

Why dance if you can’t be a dancer? I’d like you to meet Chloe Holt.

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Holt is a law school-bound dancer who graduated with a double major in English and Spanish from Colgate in 2014. Throughout her time at Colgate, she danced and led the Colgate Ballet Company and co-founded and was president of the Colgate Dance Initiative. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and an Alumni Memorial Scholar, Holt conducted research entitled “A Dance of Two Cities,” which took her to Paris, France and London, England.

So, what?

Holt bridged the gap between dance and studies (a gap that should not even exist). She brought her passion for dance together with her studies and took the skills and perspectives she gained through dance to the next step. She said “I have danced almost my entire life, however, with no intention of becoming a dancer, and have found dance to be extremely important to my academic success.”

So what’s next?

This fall, she will be starting the next phase of her life at Harvard Law School. She was inspired by something she was committed to: “I never thought of myself as an advocate, but with the Dance Initiative I found myself tied to a cause that I was passionate about and willing to work so that others might become passionate, too.”

Chloe Holt continued to take her dance experiences to new places, including essays for law school.  Although  she said “writing about dance for my law school personal statement, to many, might not have seemed like the most logical decision, but for me it absolutely was.”

She contined: “Up to this point, dance has always been a means for me to be involved in my community, explore the world, and pursue new interests, but going to law school will give me a new perspective and a new voice to add on to that. Writing about dance seemed like the best way to explain my experiences, show my desire to have an impact and prove that I’m willing to work hard throughout law school and my career.”

Holt teaches us that dance can take us places. Even if we do not intend to continue dance in a professional performance setting, it develops passions and skills that reach beyond the studio. And even if you’re not a dancer, pursue something your passionate about, for it can take you to remarkable places.

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There’s More To Dance Than Dance

Learning and executing movements can be incredible experiences alone, but there so much more to dance than steps. Each style has its own history, theories, and development that result in what we see today.

Take hip hop. Last month, hip hop dancer Duane Lee Holland spoke and demonstrated the development of this style. In the 1970s, the Bronx was central to the underground rise of hip hop music. With the construction of the Bronx Express Highway, people were displaced—uprooted. These communities began channeling their resistance and energy into music and movement.

Through this history, we learn that dance has the power to communicate: it is its own language.

Holland’s dance company participated in a cultural exchange program called DanceMotion/USA. He travelled to Eastern Europe and Russia, where they performed and collaborated with local companies. He had no knowledge of the spoken language, but he was able to connect with the dancers: “I don’t speak Russian, but I speak hip hop.”

As Holland said, “we need to start seeing hip hop as a language that develops globally as a form of resistance.”

We need to understand that our bodies can speak just as well as words.

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Welcome to the Blog!

I am heavily involved with the dance community at Colgate, and have been pushing to have dance integrated into the academic curriculum and receive equal recognition as fine arts, music, and theater have on campus. Dance’s strength as an extra-curricular on campus is immeasurable. Dancefest (a semi-annual showcase hosted at the Colgate Memorial Chapel) is always packed beyond what is established as a safe number by the fire department. It has the student support from the audience, as well as the passion and talent from the participants.

Dance develops skill sets that are incredibly valuable inside and outside of the classroom. We learn about stage presence—having that confidence to stand up in front of 750 people and perform something personal. We learn about trust—knowing that other members of your group (who have likely become family) will catch you during the falls and pull you up during the lifts. We learn about bodies—understanding where we are in space and being aware of others around us. We learn about teamwork—developing those relationships with other members and being comfortable enough around them to explain the past experiences and emotions that go into a piece. We learn about passion—committing ourselves to the pieces and the people.

This is why I dance.

And this is why I am a NY6 Fellow: to present dance as academically rigorous and valuable coursework; and to spread appreciation for dance as an insightful experience of corporeality and inspiration.

This blog will feature profiles of students, professors, and alumni who have been involved with dance in an effort to encourage others to consider dance in a more serious light. It will also display photographs and videos from my work with the Colgate Dance Initiative, which aim to showcase the talent and passion of students on campus, with the hopes that we can garner a greater appreciation for our art.