Program Spotlight: How is the dance program responding to remote learning?
As Salve Regina tackles the challenge of remote learning in ways that the University has never explored before, there are particular issues that come into play in remote learning for different programs. The dance program at Salve Regina is one that must navigate new and unfamiliar territory as dancers and artists while moving through the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.
In the dance program, there are lecture classes, studio technique classes, performance classes and choreography classes that have to somehow learn, collaborate and grow in an artistic medium that is usually physical, tangible and community-oriented in a remote, digital setting. For Lindsay Guarino, associate professor of dance, it’s a unique and challenging opportunity that has both excited her and left her grappling with the limitations that the dancers in the program must face.
“The work that we do is meant to be in person, and there’s no substitution for that,” said Guarino. “My job is to see and hear and respond in real time, and I realize that what I can’t sacrifice or let go of is the community that we’ve built in the dance program. That’s the foundation for all of the dance courses.”
Video: Students in DNC400 Choreography worked on “Quarantine Phrases” where they explored movement inspired by words like Isolate, Stillness and Support. This is Issy Patriquin ’22.
Art brings hope and courage then and now
Guarino herself has seen the significance of maintaining a connection through art during challenging times. She was a junior in college at the State University of New York at Buffalo when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, and she remembers the rock-solid ways that her professors helped her and other students wrestle with and cope with such a difficult time for the country by creating art no matter the challenges.
“This is what our job is. There’s no being an artist and then just letting go of it because the situation is what it is,” said Guarino. “What we do is: we persevere and we find the answer, and even if it’s not what we hoped for or wanted, we make the best of it.”
Video: Students in DNC400 Choreography worked on “Quarantine Phrases” where they explored movement inspired by words like Isolate, Stillness and Support. This is Rose Bogardus ’22. “The dance community is such a crazy loving place,” Bogardus said. “Everyone comes together and brainstorms about what they can do to keep dance alive during these times.”
While there are honest challenges to teaching dance remotely, Guarino has also been excited about the possibilities of helping her students explore the range of emotions that each individual, as well as the country, faces right now during a current national crisis.
“I’m looking at my classes in ways where we’re observing and exploring and venting and reflecting together in a community,” Guarino said. “Overall, art gives us the chance to look inward and grapple with what it means to be human, and that’s where we’re going to stay the rest of the semester: still connected with each other while working through our current reality.”
Online classes using individual expression and community collaboration
Guarino is giving her students lots of prompts to respond to on an online discussion board. The prompts are things like: “What are expectations of normal am I letting go of? How am I moving my body today. What types of beauty am I creating or inviting in today?” All of the prompts are ways to help students remain emotionally connected during these incredibly strange times, and the prompts will naturally evolve over the coming weeks, according to Guarino.
Video: Students in DNC221 jazz class shared the ways they are continuing to explore jazz concepts while letting go of expectations of “normal.” Zoe Banks ’23 danced outside the window of her great-grandma’s apartment complex. Her grandma used to be a dancer, and she can be seen dancing along through the window.
The Salve Regina dance program is having more even dance technique classes than is usual on a weekly basis virtually at the request of the students. Students are also sharing individual projects that Guarino has assigned where they explore individual movement while remote. As they move in the confines of their personal spaces and record themselves, they can share their movements with peers to get feedback and support, and students are collaborating and engaging with other’s movements.
“Everything is coming back to collaboration and sharing, so at the end of every project, they’re coming back together,” said Guarino. “And that’s what is most important to me.”
Guarino also reached out to her network of jazz artists and started thinking about ways that collaboration could spark something new within the university setting. Her colleagues and she came across a dance project called “Exquisite Corps” by Mitchell Rose.
“He had a large group of some of the most well-known contemporary dance artists today create something that’s kind of like a visual chain letter where one artists starts, and then the next adds on, and then the next and the next,” described Guarino.
Video: The original “Exquisite Corps” by Mitchell Rose.
Salve Regina students are now collaborating with Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Western Michigan University (WMU) to create their own jazz version of this idea entitled “Exquisite Corps, Jazz Revamp: A Collective Groove (inspired by Exquisite Corps by Mitchell Rose).” Students are dancing to music by Diana Krall and James Brown, and every single dancer involved in the project will be using collaboration and connection to keep the dance chain going until it’s completion.
“[This project] creates this community of dancers who would never normally cross paths during the semester. And it’s going to really challenge them to explore the jazz concepts that we’re always talking about in the studio — which are community, individuality, rhythm, energy — and that’s going to be the guide, the exchange from one dancer to the next,” said Guarino. “So it’s going to be really cool to come out of this with something tangible and documenting this bizarre time we’re living through.”
A strange new world, one dance at a time
Nakyah Dagraca ’22, an early childhood education major, has been appreciative of Guarino’s efforts to ensure that the dance program continues on no matter what and that their vital community isn’t neglected and forgotten. Even as students enter a strange new world, it has been helpful to feel so supported — and while learning from a laptop isn’t ideal, it hasn’t been as bad as Dagraca thought it would be.
“Although we aren’t together, [Guarino] is still giving us the tools to express ourselves,” said Dagraca. “I have learned that even though I’m not in the studio, nothing can stop me from dancing …. I feel so lucky to have a director who is determined to bring light to her dancers during this hard time.”
Throughout this time, the dance program is trying to focus on the process, not the end product. The journey is more vital than the destination, and both failure and successes carve the way to growth and beauty. An important lesson for any artist in the midst of the upheaval of life that happens more often than anyone would care to admit in adult life.
“Seeing the way artists immediately become the most resourceful and supportive and innovative people — everyone just kind of sets their ego at bay and says, ‘How are we going to do this together?’ “ said Guarino. “That will help the students to get through if they can tap into that …. When we look back at this, we will find something beautiful or good or valuable from what we’ve learned.”
Bekah Mendoza ’21 has been taking as many virtual dance classes as possible. She shared a clip of some new choreography she learned.
Check out stories every Tuesday that showcase the world of academics at Salve Regina and how faculty, programs and students are innovating with remote living and learning during Virtual Salve. #academictuesdays #salvesgotthis