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December 20 2021

We made our mark on 2021

It's the time of year for reflection, appreciation, and celebration of all that has been accomplished during the past year. 2021 was filled with highlights in the University of Utah College of Fine Arts and its five academic units. Between performances, exhibitions, guest artists, and special anniversaries, one thing is for sure – we made our mark. 

Let's take a look at the recent news and accolades! 

Department of Art & Art History

  • "Space Maker," a group exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, featured 33 faculty artists and was curated by alumna Nancy Rivera. 
  • Michelle Peterein (Assistant Professor in Graphic Design), Moses Williams (Assistant Professor in Sculpture Intermedia), and Meekyung MacMurdie (Assistant Professor in Art History) joined the faculty.
  • The Department hosted renowned visiting artists Rick Griffith, Amy Cutler, Maria Theresa Elves, and Del Harrow. 
  • Graphic Design students, led by faculty mentor Carol Sogard, hosted the Worn Again Clothing Exchange, encouraging all of campus to consider fast fashion, sustainability, and the global impacts of consumption. 
  • The Department hosted PaperWest – the 3rd National Works on Paper Juried Exhibition, showcasing contemporary works on paper by 63 artists from throughout the country.
  • Exhibitions in the Gittins Gallery, featuring student and faculty work, included: Sam Wilson's "Face It...I seem to be drawing a crowd," Sandy Brunvand's "It's Not Always Black and White," the Painting and Drawing Exhibition, Holiday Art Sale, and more. 

School of Dance 

  • In September, the College of Fine Arts celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance alongside many esteemed friends, including the Marriott family. 
  • The School welcomed new faculty members, Alexandra Barbier (Morales Fellow), Joselli Deans (Visiting Associate Professor), Cherylyn Lavagnino (Visiting Professor), and Monica Stephenson (Adjunct Assistant Professor). 
  • Students showcased their work in Fall Dance 1, Modern Student Concert, Fall Dance 2, Ballet Showcase, and the MFA candidates' production of "Coddiwomple."
  • The School of Dance hosted guest artists Dean Vollick, Ephrat Asherie, and Bashaun Williams. 

Department of Film & Media Arts

  • The Department of Film & Media Arts welcomed two new screenwriters to the faculty: Hubbel Palmer and Max Adams.
  • Students participated in the annual Pitch Competition, presenting not only ideas but also budgets, casting processes, and production plans. 
  • The second drive-in F&MAD Festival shared student films with a public audience who tuned in from their individual vehicles. 
  • Award-winning filmmaker and photographer Robert Machoian visited campus. 

School of Music 

  • Dozens of recitals were livestreamed via Live at Libby, the School's YouTube channel, showcasing the work of undergraduate and graduate musicians. 
  • The School of Music welcomed Dr. Rebekah Daniel as Visiting Director of Wind Ensemble, and Dr. Stephanie DeLuca as Assistant Director of Athletic Bands. 
  • Students had the opportunity to work with guest artists Vadim Guzman, Kyle Johnson, Boris Berman, Lauren Hunt, Tyler Nelson, Cecily Ward, and more. 
  • The new Electroacoustic Ensemble was formed. 
  • The School established a new Certificate of Entrepreneurship for Musicians, to prepare students with critical skills in finance, management, and entrepreneurship. 

Department of Theatre

College of Fine Arts

  • Arts Pass Dash gave University of Utah students the opportunity to learn about the arts on campus (and the Arts Pass program!) at 16 selected locations, where they could enter to win wonderful prizes! 
  • The annual CFA Gala 2021 showcased student work, celebrated scholarship recipients, honored Distinguished Alumni Tina Misaka, Tyler Nelson, and Lee Isaac Chung.  
  • ArtsForce provided opportunities for students to gain insight into the professional world: Career Treks, conversations with alumni on Instagram Live, interviews with professionals on ArtsForce Asks, and more!
  • The College welcomed 3 student representatives on the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee in an effort to further serve and provide important perspectives to the student population. 

Here's to a fantastic 2022!

Published in Finer Points Blog

The University of Utah's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) gives undergraduate students and faculty mentors the opportunity to work together on research or creative projects. The program provides a stipend and educational programming for students who assist with a faculty member’s research or creative project or who carry out a project of their own under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may apply for UROP any semester and may be eligible for a one-semester renewal. UROP awardees are hired as temporary, part-time UROP Participants by the Office of Undergraduate Research and are paid $1,200 for 120 hours of research or creative work during the semester.

This fall, three College of Fine Arts students were awarded funding and are now hard at work on their research projects.

Here’s what they’re up to:

Makena Reynolds
Department of Theatre
Faculty Mentor: Alexandra Harbold

Reynolds is developing a musical based on the life and work of Emily Dickinson through the lens of those who shaped her legacy. What started as a commemoration of a famous poet's works turned into the investigation of her living life and how a falling out in the family shaped how we perceive Emily Dickinson in present day. After reading “Lives Like Loaded Guns” by Lyndall Gordon, the intrigue to tell Emily’s story grew amongst Reynolds' creative team. 

"It’s timely to tell the story of Queer women in theater. More specifically, it is important to tell the story of women through the female lens. Theater has the influence to sway audiences and tell them what is or is not important. The material currently available to produce within the theater industry does not accurately mirror the values of society today. Plays and musicals written by women for women are scarce, and to foster female theater artists intent on making change to the industry and society they require good material that supports it.

For this research I have paired with the registered student organization, Open Door Productions at the University of Utah, to use a departmental performance space and produce this show. A portion of this research project will be conducted in person and will involve producing a script, collaboration with other creators and artists, and ultimately stage a performance of this piece."

Mara Magistad
School of Dance
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Clifton

Mara Magistad, senior Modern Dance BFA student, is working on a UROP project titled "Developing Effective Personal Training Programs for Contemporary Dancers". The project looks at fitness levels, attitudes and behaviors towards fitness training in pre professional track contemporary dancers, and works to create specified programming for the individual based on their artistic and physical goals. Modalities used include weight lifting, high intensity interval training, core and balance training, and plyometrics, to name a few.

Brynn Staker
School of Music 
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Titrington Craft 

Brynn Staker is conducting musicology research with Dr. Elizabeth Titrington Craft. Dr. Craft is currently writing a book on George M. Cohan and early American musical theater. Staker's research involves cataloguing archived newspaper articles from around 1890-1942. She is creating a database of compiled and annotated articles that reference Cohan, his songs, or his work. 

"I am looking into the role of “international relationships” in early American music and musical theater. These relationships are a point of interest for many composers, and I find their fascination compelling. I will be comparing and contrasting different portrayed relationships, the perspective of the composers, and the affect this representation had on the public."



Published in Finer Points Blog
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Seven students from the College of Fine Arts were recently selected as Spring 2020 scholars in the University of Utah's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

UROP gives undergraduate students and faculty mentors the opportunity to work together on research or creative projects. The program provides a stipend and educational programming for students who assist with a faculty member’s research or creative project or who carry out a project of their own under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may apply for UROP any semester and may be eligible for a one-semester renewal. UROP awardees are hired as temporary, part-time UROP Participants by the Office of Undergraduate Research and are paid $1,200 for 120 hours of research or creative work during the semester.

These incredible students, along with their dedicated faculty mentors, are making us proud.

Read about each of their projects:

Alan Chavez, Music
Recording the History of the University of Utah Department of Music
Faculty mentor: Elizabeth Craft

“My project this semester is to begin an oral history for the SoM Piano Pedagogy program. It was one of the first of its kind and has a unique influence on SLC and Utah. I will be interviewing past and present faculty and seeking information on the program’s founding.”

Nate Francis, Art
Queer Isolation
Faculty mentor: Jaclyn Wright

“As a photography student here on campus, I’ve been so honored to have the opportunity to conduct research related to imagery, identity, and loneliness and create imagery that contains my findings. I grew up in Provo, Utah, not far from the U of U campus. As a queer person, growing up in an LDS family and culture has not been an easy journey, and I know I’m not the only one who has experienced the loneliness that comes with growing up queer in Utah. My research is an exploration of Utah’s landscapes, the photographic studio, and my own identity. The work features many iconic Utah landscapes and elements that are used as visual analogies for desolation, weight, and solitude, but which appear from the surface to be beautiful and other worldly. The work also includes the use of the photographic studio, which is a sort of sanctuary and place of self-creation, and my own body in relation to all of the above.”

Ashley Goodwin, Theatre Teaching
The Not Broken Monologues
Faculty mentor: Alexandra Harbold

“My UROP project is called "The Not Broken Monologues", which is a performative theatre piece that I have written and am now working on producing this semester. As a member of the arts community with disabilities I have developed a passion for inclusion and advocacy, and I am a firm believer that there can be space for everyone within the arts. "The Not Broken Monologues" is a piece that embodies that idea, while telling a wide range of stories of the disabled experience and fostering a sense of community and support. With my own experiences and dozens of hours of one-on-one interviews as source material I hope to convey the message that we (people with disabilities) are not just our disabilities, and most importantly - we are not broken.”

Connor Johnson, Theatre
Of Ronald and Edith
Faculty mentor: Tim Slover

“My project is full production of a play called Ronald and Edith which I wrote and workshopped at the U of U in 2020. The play is about J.R.R Tolkien and his wife Edith, and it centers around a story that Tolkien wrote in his earlier years called Beren and Luthien. The performance is going to be outdoors, hopefully with a small, socially distanced audience in the beginning of May.” 

Matt Peterson, Art
Mokume allow compatibility
Faculty mentor: Paul Stout

“I am working on a Japanese metalworking technique called mokume gane. The process involves taking dissimilar non-ferrous metals, stacking and firing them, and then manipulating the resulting billet through forging and gouging, into a sheet of patterned metal. If you have ever seen damascus steel, or pattern welded steel, the patterns in the metal look similar. The process itself has been around for about 400 years, so what I am working on specifically is trying out some newer alloys of silver to see how well they work in the process itself. Making mokume is rather time consuming and challenging, but I think the results are worth it.” 

Duke Ross, Film & Media Arts
"Osaru-Chan" Short Film
Faculty mentor: Miriam Albert-Sobrino

“Osaru-Chan follows the story of two brothers who steal a valuable family heirloom from an elderly Japanese woman, and in the process, awaken her demigod son, who exacts prompt retribution. The film explores concepts of familial relations, Americana, and colonialism, and utilizes the visual style of high contrast black and white widescreen used in many of Akira Kurosawa’s early films. I thoroughly enjoy the East/West blending of cultures and film genres seen in some of Shinichiro Watanabe’s work (“Cowboy Bebop,” “Samurai Champloo,”) and I would love to see more of that in the American cinema. Additionally, due to the rising anti-Asian sentiment in the United States following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump Administration, I feel as though it’s essential to see more Asian people in the media. The project is currently in post-production and should have the picture locked within the next month or so.”

Paige Stephenson, Music
Power and Patronage: A Study of Female Leaders in Early European Courts
Faculty mentor: Jane Hatter

“While musicology as a discipline is beginning to recognize the key role of female musicians in all eras, there is still a tendency to evaluate their significance using the same criteria used to understand the musical work of men. In Early Modern Europe, women of various social levels had significantly different modes of accessing and participating in musical activities from their male counterparts. My research project explores females as patronesses of music in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. I am discovering how women used their role as a music patroness to further advance their personal goals and ideals.”

Visit UROP's website to find out upcoming deadlines for future creative and research projects! 

Published in Finer Points Blog

Research from two University of Utah College of Fine Arts undergraduate students was recently published in the university's 2020 Undergraduate Research Journal. The Undergraduate Research Journal collects and celebrates the contributions our undergraduate students from all over campus make to scholarship in their fields.

Sydney Porter Williams from the Department of Art & Art History focused her research on the outcomes and benefits of a collaborative mural project in Murray, while Amelie Bennett from the School of Dance examined the role of dance therapy in improving empathy and emotion recognition in non-clinical adults and children. 

We encourage you to learn more about these important student projects, as well as discover the work of many other undergraduate researchers from across campus disciplines! 

 

THE MURRAY MURALS PROJECT: CONNECTING LIVES ON CANVAS -- Sydney Porter Williams, Department of Art & Art History
Faculty Mentor: V. Kim Martinez

"The Murray Murals Project is a collaborative effort between University of Utah art students and thousands of Murray youth and community members. These groups worked collaboratively over the course of the fall 2018 semester to create community-engaged, portable murals for nine Murray elementary schools. These murals now hang in the halls of these schools, giving students ownership of their artwork and of their communities." 

HOW WE MOVE WHEN WE FEEL: KINESTHETIC EMPATHY THROUGH MIRROR NEURONS – Amelie Bennett, School of Dance
Faculty Mentor: Kate Mattingly

"This work examines the commonly accepted notion of dance/movement therapy that mirroring another person’s movement will increase both participants’ levels of empathy. Mirroring involves a participant creating expressive dance; in a therapeutic setting, the therapist mirrors their movements to establish a relationship and gain insight into their physical and emotional experience."

 

EXPLORE THE 2020 UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH JOURNAL

Published in Finer Points Blog

The College of Fine Arts is delighted to present the 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher award to Alicia Ross from the School of Dance.

In 2015, The Office of Undergraduate Research established the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award to recognize an outstanding undergraduate researcher from each college. Faculty mentors are invited to nominate students, and awardees are selected by committee. The criteria for the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award include: a record of sustained commitment to developing research skills and knowledge under the supervision of a faculty mentor, evidence of independent and critical thinking, active participation in research-related activities on campus, and positive contributions to the research culture of the department, college, and university.

Alicia's impressive accomplishments as an undergraduate researcher and student leader in the College of Fine Arts center around her commitment to her work as a movement researcher and performer.  In the last three years, Alicia has engaged in 14 research related activities, as a performer, collaborator, choreographer or participant.  These include her being selected to participate in work by internationally recognized artists Doug Varone and Anouk van Dijk.

“Alicia is the first undergraduate artist-scholar that I can remember who has made such a compelling case for movement research as a valid form of critical inquiry. Her proposal for the Outstanding Researcher Award articulated the multifaceted modalities that artists draw on at all times when creating and dancing in movement—physics, musicality, psychology, design, spatial-awareness, history, physicality, kinesiology— all at the neuromuscular level. Her work in the department has exemplied this multiplicity, as she has shone as a performer, maker of dances, and writer/scholar. It was a joy to see her synthesize all of this vast body-mind knowledge at receive this deserved award.”
-Satu Hummasti 
Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs and Associate Professor, School of Dance

 

In Her Own Words 

Name: Alicia Ross
Major: Modern Dance
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Three words that describe you: imaginative, passionate, intuitive 
Favorite CFA class or teacher: My favorite College of Fine Arts class is improvisation because I get to explore all kinds of movement and the infinite possibilities of the body.   
Most memorable moment at CFA: My most memorable moment here was performing "CLEANSLATE" by Satu Hummasti. It was a significant work that encouraged kindness and equality in today's world. 
One thing you learned at CFA: The most important thing I've learned at the College of Fine Arts is that I can make a difference as an artist. I have a powerful voice as a dancer and choreographer that can be used to enact change in society.  
What inspires you: I'm inspired by all of the courageous and graceful women in my life.
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: On campus I have performed in works by Stephen Koester, Anouk van Dijk, Satu Hummasti, Eric Handman, and more. I have also choreographed and performed a solo entitled Introspection, and showcased two of my dance films in our Modern Student Concert. Off campus I have participated and performed in programs such as the Ririe Woodbury Summer Intensive and the Doug Varone Summer Workshop. Lastly, I look forward to continuing my off campus performance career after graduation in a local show at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.    
One sentence that describes your work: My work aims to convey the beauty, complexity, and intensity of the human experience through movement and emotion.

“Throughout my four years here I have been able to explore the potential of the body for creating art that is meaningful and alive. Studying the creative process with my professors has allowed me to make discoveries and figure out what it means to be a movement researcher and performer. Each professor has taught me a new way to study dance and produce material that conveys a message to the audience… Being able to physically create and feel movement that portrays intellectual thoughts and ideas is complex yet fulfilling. Through my corporeal research I have found a deep understanding and appreciation for the creative process and the expression of the dancing body within my discipline. The guidance I have received from my professors and mentors to develop that will definitely impact my future projects and long-term artistic career.”
-Alicia Ross, Class of 2020

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Kate Mattingly 

As a researcher who teaches courses in dance histories, dance studies, and dance criticism, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we communicate through our bodies and our words. My dissertation, which I completed in 2017, analyzes how dance criticism not only responds to a performance but also shapes and influences our value systems and priorities. Historically, dance critics have wielded a lot of power: John Martin named the genre “modern dance” and heavily influenced the success of certain choreographers, like Martha Graham, in the 20th century. 

But digital platforms change the status and authority of critics’ words because there are more immediate opportunities to challenge a viewpoint and to use social media platforms to offer different perspectives. A great example of this happened in 2010 when a New York Times critic wrote that Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy with New York City Ballet, looked “as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” The outpouring of support for Ringer led to her appearance on The Today Show and Oprah. These interviews are still available online, making the critic's words less definitive. jennifer ringer

In my scholarship I analyze how the digital sphere opens spaces for a co-existence of different perspectives, and how this brings attention to artists and ideas that have been misrepresented or completely ignored. Much of my current research focuses on how criticism in the 21st century can challenge the sexisms, racisms, and classisms that have circulated through print critics’ writing.  On April 14, I gave a lecture for students and faculty at UCLA on digital dance criticism, and how traces of a project by Amara Tabor-Smith called “House/Full of Black Women,” circulated through photographs Amara posted on Facebook, thereby extending the reach of her processions that happened in Oakland, California. This is an important example of how artists bypass a critic who speaks “for” a project and instead gives the artist access to self-representation and self-definition. 

In my dance studies course this semester, when we shifted to an online format, students shared final projects through PowerPoint presentations and then we opened online discussions about the topics. The students’ work was stellar and the online discussions deepened and extended the conversations we had begun earlier in the semester when we were meeting together. One particularly timely project, by Todd Lani ’20, examined social media users who can promote social justice or their own fame. Todd used Matt Bernstein as an example of a social media “activist” who thinks of others and dismantles hate and violence against LGBTQ+ communities. Todd wrote, “Growing up in a smaller rural area, the media (more specifically social media) was the only outlet and opportunity that I had to see any representation of someone like myself.” 

During this pandemic, as we find ourselves relying on the digital sphere, we might also be noticing the differences between attending a live performance and watching dancing through a screen. There are undoubtedly things that seem to be missing, like the communal experience of watching a performance with a hundred-plus people, or the feeling of liveness and immediacy as an artist creates the movement in your presence. But there are also advantages: many companies are offering performances to view free of charge, and events that happened in far away places are now visible in our homes. 

A student-run group at the University of Utah, the Dance Studies Working Group, took a trip to San Francisco in 2018, supported by funding from a FAF Grant, to see a festival called Unbound and attend a Symposium of guest speakers who included Dwight Rhoden, Virginia Johnson, and Marc Brew. When the company’s current performance season had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, SF Ballet released performances from Unbound online. This Friday students and alumni of the Ballet Program are hosting a zoom conversation, organized by Victoria Holmes Johnson ’19, to discuss the possibilities of online transmission, and also what’s missing in this virtual realm. 

We think these conversations are important during this time of uncertainty because we hope that the future of dance, like the future of dance criticism, will be more inclusive and equitable. Artists are known for their imaginations, able to problem-solve and think creatively, and their expertise is invaluable at this moment. 

Finally, when people use words like “unprecedented” to describe this pandemic, they are making invisible a lot of people who have not had access to services or movement for years, if not decades. People who are confined and dependent on others due to disabilities could be our teachers. I hope that this moment of "uncertainty" is an opportunity for us to look at our interconnectedness: how do we support and nurture one another? how do we honor  our different needs and capacities? I hope we do not return to a world that is about individualism, convenience, and control, but rather one that embraces the interdependencies and indeterminacy of life. 

Author Kate Mattingly is an assistant professor in the University of Utah School of Dance. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Edward Bateman 

This is a guest post by Edward Bateman, artist and Associate Professor in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Utah, and head of the Photography and Digital Imaging area.


Artists have always used the power of their work to rise the challenges of their times. Together with my Advanced Digital Imaging students, we doing something very different for the end of our semester… a creative response to our current pandemic situation. We are basing our group project on a work of classical Italian literature: "The Decameron" by Boccaccio that aptly reflects our circumstances: 

In Italy during the time of the Black Death (March 1348), a group of seven young women and three young men flee from plague-ridden Florence to shelter in a deserted villa in the countryside. To pass the evenings, each member of the group tells a story each night, resulting in ten nights of storytelling. Thus, by the end they have told 100 stories. Each of the ten characters is charged as King or Queen of the company for one of the ten days in turn. This charge extends to choosing the theme of the stories for that day.

We have been doing the same thing photographically – telling the stories of this time… and are creating a book to document what it is like to live in this pandemic crisis. Like the storytellers in "The Decameron," we are sharing our art. Twice a week we gather together on Zoom to look at our images, compare experiences, and get our next theme from the one designated as our leader for the next “day.”  

Their willingness to share their trials and also their optimism and creativity has been a genuine source of strength and hope for me at this time. Our book will go beyond this moment to show the complexities, feelings and responses that we as a group, sheltering from the plague, have experienced together.

For our new "Decameron," each student has given us a theme which will be a chapter in the book. Their choices have been remarkably challenging, and given us all much to consider as we go through this time of isolation. Out images have become a place to creatively embody our experiences.

  • Day 1 - At This Time
  • Day 2 - Collectively Disconnected
  • Day 3 - Routinely Interrupted
  • Day 4 - Photographs Not Seen
  • Day 5 - Silver Linings
  • Day 6 - Solace and Inspiration
  • Day 7 - Indoor-Outdoor
  • Day 8 - Collapsing
  • Day 9 - CHAOS! in the supermarket
  • Day 10 - Heroes 

We all have a need to share our stories and feel connected. Art is a way to create meaning, especially in times of uncertainty. Also, we are doing what photographers have always done – produce a lasting record documenting this moment in time. The eight of us (I am included at their invitation) have now completed our images – 80 of them! So along with a personal text from each, it is time to make our book.

I couldn’t be more proud of my students! Both in how they have faced the difficulties of these past weeks, but also in how they have creatively challenged themselves and produced art that far exceeded my expectations! These are my heroes: Will Betts, Sam Devine, Ethan Edwards, Brandi Gilbert, John Moffitt, Claire Palmer, and Heather Pierce. Their willingness to share their trials and also their optimism and creativity has been a genuine source of strength and hope for me at this time. Our book will go beyond this moment to show the complexities, feelings and responses that we as a group, sheltering from the plague, have experienced together.


The gallery below offers a sneak peek into the work of the Advanced Digital Imaging class!
Take a look. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Jessica Boone 

Suspended in chaos and uncertainty, we root to what we know. But what happens when we are studying an art form that depends on shared spaces, experiential learning, and community? We keep dancing.

I have struggled to gather the right words to describe our current situation. The School of Dance’s online classes are in full swing. And just as we settle into a new ‘normal,’ the end is in sight.

I am a first-year graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts in Modern Dance program. It has already been a year of bumpy transitions, but I could never have guessed the school year would end with this upheaval. Dance has grounded me before, and it grounds me now in changing ways.

My professors have been flexible and receptive. They are encouraging, offering ways to challenge us creatively, but with great kindness, they acknowledge the real struggle we are all facing.  There is a mutual understanding and respect in knowing we are all doing our best. We are doing our best to show up for ourselves and each other.

I am deeply grateful for the synchronous physical practices. Yes, that means live dance classes on Zoom in my cleared out living room. Though it will never compare to being in the same place as moving bodies engaged in physical exploration, it is the closest we can get at this point. I am happy to move my body with others, see friendly faces, and have some semblance of normalcy. On a base level, it reminds me that I am not alone.  

 

I was visiting Austin, Texas, over our spring break when the dangerous reality of the pandemic escalated. After the announcement that our classes were moving online, I decided to stay put. I spent time grieving the loss of my routine and home inside of the Marriott Center for Dance building. I mourned the loss of face-to-face interaction and body-to-body learning.

I was skeptical of continuing my dance studies online. As a graduate student, I had the privilege of listening in on conversations our faculty were having as they reimagined plans for our classes. I was relieved and reassured by their commitment to finding new ways to support and engage students creatively. I sensed their focus on grace and humanity, as they too were navigating the same shocking shift of daily life.

My worries further eased as my professors reached out to discuss class plans moving forward. Each of my classes developed unique methods for meeting and completing course work. I have classes that meet live online at the same scheduled time as they always have. While communication and learning for other courses are all virtual through videos, discussion boards, and submitted writings. Some classwork is structured, with deadlines, other assignments I work on at my own pace.  

I am deeply grateful for the synchronous physical practices. Yes, that means live dance classes on Zoom in my cleared out living room. Though it will never compare to being in the same place as moving bodies engaged in physical exploration, it is the closest we can get at this point. I am happy to move my body with others, see friendly faces, and have some semblance of normalcy. On a base level, it reminds me that I am not alone.  

Still, continuing classes has been hard. Focus and motivation are often stubborn to rally. And though dancing doesn’t always feel good right now, I am trusting the lessons it has taught me in the past. I think the dance community will understand when I saw we have always relied on community – we know we need each other. We know how to adapt and improvise – we are resilient. We know how to listen patiently with our whole selves. We know how to tune into our bodies, how to care of them and the bodies of others.  We know how to use our energy to propel us forward, to soften our joints, to brace for impact and heavy lifting. We know how to relish moments of joy and abandon when they come.  

These are distressing times, but I am hopeful. Though I am relatively new to the University of Utah and am finishing the semester states away, I feel supported by a network of faculty and peers that is rooting for my well-being, my academic success, and the endurance of our broader arts community. 

Author Jessica Boone is a first-year graduate student in the School of Dance Masters in Modern Dance program. 

Published in Finer Points Blog