Incoming chair of Department of Dance: 'Artists find a way'
Exactly three months ago, I gave a talk to the students, staff and faculty in the Department of Dance explaining why I wanted to become their next chair. Believe it or not, in my five-year vision for the department, navigating a pandemic did not come to mind! In fact, in part of my speech I joked about how most of my leadership experience (interim chair in the Department of Theatre and Dance at UC San Diego, president of The Congress on Research in Dance) had involved major crisis management on my part and how excited I was to lead a strong department, in a strong institution with growth on the horizon. I seeded some ideas for study abroad programs, community engagement projects, big events in collaboration with the other arts departments at the launch of the new Arts District.
I should have known better!
None of us imagined ourselves in the current situation. I’ll admit that as a faculty member of almost a certain age, I had not embraced online teaching. I love being with my students in a classroom or studio. As the emergency situation progressed and announcements were made, I had no idea how we would move our deeply embodied work online. But after a few Zoom meetings with faculty and grad students sharing their brilliant ideas about how to be artists, scholars and teachers in this new situation, I was profoundly moved.
Of course, artists find a way! We always have! The arts are where we go for inspiration, emotional connections, love, hope, joy and escape.
Graduate student Emily Craver, one of only 10 selected for Ohio State’s Graduate Association Teaching Award this year, met the challenge of taking movement practice classes online with aplomb! She records herself for 40 minutes and uploads the lesson to Carmen so her students can access the class when they able.
She then asks them to think deeply about their journeys as artists and write about this moment.
This week I took a yoga class which was a really calming way to center myself and strengthen my core. I did the exercises in the class you posted, focusing on extending and executing each movement to its full potential. I also worked on improvisation, mostly to ground myself and build up my strength again. I am realizing that being stuck in one place has taken a lot of my strength so I am working on building up my endurance and stability.
This week I have been inspired by the neon green walls of my childhood bedroom. I have been trying to find the joy and gratitude in each day I am home and healthy, which I always find easier with color around me. Appreciating the color in my room and outside has been a really nice, calming experience. I also have been compiling playlists in my free time and love everything by the artist Surfaces; feeling inspired by the calm, breezy music.
— Ally Evans, Dance Minor from Contemporary Practice
Today’s movement inspiration is to “just keep going.” I’m not thinking about what I am doing, why I am doing it, or what it looks like. I’m just moving. Movement, in general, feels like a task this week—so I am allowing myself to disconnect my mind from my body. I am being gentle with myself, and listening to the body’s instinct. Today was a rare instance where I had the house to myself, and so I decided to leave my make-shift studio and engage with movement in the comfort of our living room in front of the fireplace. This room is calming and warm, and as soon as I finally begin to move, I re-find my love for it. It’s difficult to begin, but once I am into it, I am thankful.
— Michaela Neild, Graduate Student from Contemporary Practice
Going that extra step, she checks in with each of them individually to stay connected during these isolating times.
And she builds on the music they love to create class exercises and soundtracks!
Students in Associate Professor Mitchell Rose’s Senior Seminar partnered with David Dorfman’s senior class at Connecticut College to explore Zoom’s creative possibilities and make work together 700 miles apart. They gave the students four prompts they had to incorporate and they had 40 minutes to make two-minute trios in individual Breakout Rooms. Former Ohio State Dance musician Richard Schenk, who’s now at Connecticut College, met with them in their breakout rooms to determine what they wanted for music.
I’ve been going for daily constitutionals in the parking lot near my home everyday day around 5 p.m. and have often been calling grad students to check in on them while I walk. In a recent chat with Yildiz Guventurk, talking about how she is dealing with the uncertainty around her thesis project, she talked about allowing herself to be patient with the world and exist differently in time. She named this liminal time “sacred.” That really resonated with me. Although I’m buoyed by the university’s commitment to #KeepTeaching, I think we must all take this time to pause and do something I tell all of my students — put our fingers on our pulses. How has your rhythm changed? How is your body responding? Where are you placing your energies now? How do we relate to each other through Zoom? What IS Zoom? My daughter keeps moonwalking in the background of my business meetings and I think it is great! My best friend cleaned her entire house, rearranged the furniture and is tackling that long home projects to-do list. I am not.
When I put my finger on my own pulse looking ahead to July 1 when I take over as chair, I feel nothing but love for this department. The students, faculty and staff in the Department of Dance have created the most outstanding teaching and learning environment I’ve experienced in my 25 years of teaching in higher education.
Things are changing every day. I look forward to the day we can come together face-to-face again! I know we will face some struggles in the next few months, but I couldn’t ask for a finer group of people to help us move through this crisis together (but, you know, socially distanced apart)!
Looking back, moving forward…
— Dr. Nadine
Professor Nadine George-Graves, incoming chair of the Department of Dance