back to news Nov. 2, 2015

Pelotonia Fellowships Awarded to Department of Dance’s Serena Chang and Mimi Lamantia

Serena Chang (BS, molecular genetics; BFA dance, fifth year) and Marie (Mimi) Lamantia (BFA, dance, pre-med track, fifth year) are Ohio State’s 2015 Pelotonia Fellowship recipients.

The Fellowship Program started in 2010 and has awarded 292 student fellowships through an annual allocation of $2 million in Pelotonia revenue. Scholarship recipients include more than 129 undergraduates, 77 graduates, four medical students, 61 postdoctoral fellows and 21 international scholars. Chang and Lamantia are the first dance majors, the first artists, to receive this award, underscoring the important of somatics as well as science in the curing of cancer.

The Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowship Program provides one-year research fellowships to Ohio State undergraduate students who want to help cure cancer. So no matter what their field of study, from traditional scientific fields to areas like engineering, history and business, all Ohio State undergraduate students may apply.


Chang and fellow dancers

Serena Chang, a lifelong dancer, initially came to Ohio State to pursue medicine with a degree in molecular genetics. She didn’t think collegiate dance was for her, but after taking a few non-major dance classes, she decided to audition for the Department of Dance.

She said, “Ohio State offers so much variety and opportunity within its curriculum and has given me the opportunity to pursue all of my interests, enabling me to conduct genetic cancer research within my molecular genetics degree while studying dance.”

Chang believes dance unifies and provides emotional outlets within a community, offering strength and healing. Chang has gotten to know the Columbus cancer community through her genetic cancer research in Dr. Gustavo Leone's lab, volunteering on the oncology floor at Nationwide Children's Hospital and shadowing breast oncologist Dr. Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy.

She was inspired to combine science and dance to choreograph a new piece involving dancers and three cancer survivors. She hopes it will provide a different lens into the cancer community built on support and encouragement while providing an emotional release for the cancer survivors.

Receiving a Pelotonia Fellowship helps Chang feel supported and has encouraged to keep pursuing her two seemingly unrelated interests.

“I will use my fellowship to not only research and integrate the cancer community, but to hopefully provide a gateway to encourage other arts to collaborate with the cancer community,” Chang said, “I think that receiving this fellowship will show both the dance and medical fields, which I intend to pursue after graduation, that taking alternative approaches to research is possible and innovative.”

She plans to move to New York after graduation to pursue dance professionally and later apply for medical school.


Lamantia and the Argentine Tango dancers

Mimi Lamantia has danced her entire life. She was initially interested in the performing aspect of dance, but as her collegiate decision approached, her interests began to shift. She found that she didn’t get the same joy from performing as she did from teaching and sharing dance with others.

When she auditioned at Ohio State, she met a professor who encouraged her to build a career merging dance and medicine. Since then, her teachers and peers in the Department of Dance have continued to support her passion for bringing dance to the medical field.

In her first year at Ohio State, she connected with Professor Lise Worthen-Chaudhari of Ohio State’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department who was conducting research on dance-based interventions. In her studies, Lamantia discovered that group dance classes have been found to improve markers of quality of life and physical health (i.e. balance) among some populations engaged in rehabilitation, such as the elderly and individuals with Parkinson Disease. However, such interventions had yet to be studied among cancer patients.

She hopes her dance-based intervention, Argentine Tango for Cancer Survivors, will provide participants with an engaging, expressive and personalized journey to recovery and improvement of quality of life. The Argentine Tango has improved balance and quality of life markers for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease and she is seeking to extend and replicate this work.

The Pelotonia Fellowship will allow Lamantia to conduct three 10-week sessions of Argentine Tango classes for cancer survivors and their caregivers.

“Being awarded a Pelotonia Fellowship is an absolute honor. This award means I have the opportunity to help in the fight against cancer and shows that others believe in me and in my dreams,” she said.

She plans to attend medical school to continue to pursue dance-based research in the medical field.

To read more visit the Department of Dance.

By Tatiana Tomley, ASC Communications student