Dance students travel to Berlin for immersive dance study
On May 15, shortly after the 2022 commencement, nine dance students departed for Berlin, Germany to participate in a Beloit College Global Engagement Seminar of immersive dance study, creation and performance. The seminar was conceived of by dance professor Chris Johnson in collaboration with dance alum Zee Hartmann’04, and had been in the works since the fall of 2020. The long planning period was partly due to the extra travel restrictions COVID-19 had caused, but additionally they knew funding would be a challenge. Fortunately, the trip was made possible with the help of the Career Channels program (specifically the Arts Channel), the Global Experience Office, and alumna Nor Hall’69.
The two seminar leaders first began brainstorming when Professor Johnson had reached out to Zee asking them to participate in the new alumni mentoring program that Chris was starting up. The program connects dance alumni with current Beloit College student choreographers. The many online meeting platforms that are now regularly in use made it possible to connect students with alumni from all over the world including dramaturg and choreographer Hartman, who is from South Africa but is currently living in Berlin.
During the seminar, students were able to see many cultural sites in the city, take morning master classes with leading dance professionals residing in Berlin, and see cutting-edge performances in the evenings. In the afternoons, they participated in a workshop conducted by Hartmann called “Saying No: Dramaturgical Strategies in the Dance-Making Process.” In this workshop, Hartman led them through a compositional dance process that aimed to strengthen collaborative work while maintaining individuality and personal conviction and employing a productive critical thinking initiative where questioning takes precedence over answering. The students also utilized a writing practice as part of the workshop and their creative processes.
The seminar culminated in a performance of works the students made during the workshop, as well as four full-length dances they had prepared before the trip. The showing was open to the public.
The students had an incredible experience and learned so much about themselves and their approach to making art. Mateo Marek’24 remarked, “Zee’s mentorship and teaching through this workshop experience has greatly developed my artistic process and self-growth.” The overall atmosphere that was created was exactly what the students needed to be able to try new approaches. Julia Newmark’25 shared, “I felt as though the studio space, company present, and creative mindset allowed me to stop thinking so much and simply try things until they flowed or felt correct. Overall, I found this experience to be so fulfilling.”
Some of the students had just graduated (on the day they left for the seminar!), and are looking to professional careers in the world of dance where one often does not have the luxury of a whole semester or even a year to create. One senior, Charline Davis-Alicea’22, shared that they valued the approach taken in the workshop and are leaving this experience “with a deeper appreciation for creating work quickly. The fast-paced process allowed little time for us to be precious or perfectionistic about what we created, allowing for very raw and intuitive products.”
Another senior, Kelli Badgley’22, has recently been experimenting with stillness, very slow movement and pushing her audience’s comfort zone. She found the workshop with Zee to be a perfect opportunity to keep investigating these approaches and was more than satisfied with the result. After the public performance, Kelli noted “my art was invoking the kinds of reactions I am interested in.”
Zee, who is a highly sought-after dramaturg, choreographer, critic, and teacher in Europe’s dance scene was quite impressed with the students. About the students, Zee said they “were incredible and so intensely committed to the work.”
In addition to the classes, performances, workshop and public showing the students had many opportunities to see Berlin. Julianne Angeli’12, Associate Director of Global and Immersive Learning at Beloit College, was along on the trip to help plan and coordinate the many activities. Julia Newmark felt this was an important aspect to the success of the seminar, remarking, “I think being able to experience a city in the way we did is very eye-opening and meaningful. Even though it is a new place and should be slightly nerve-racking, it almost felt like we were living and working there instead of just being tourists.”
The Global Engagement Seminars are new, and the college is hoping to continue with these opportunities for students going forward. The students are enthusiastic about the prospects. As Emma Logas said, “I really enjoyed being able to step out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges. All in all, it was an amazing experience, and I would love to do it again!”