First Semester Reflections

(L to R): Katie O’Loughlin, Mollie Wolf, John Cartwright, Quianna Simpson, Ishmael Konney, Forrest Hershey, Jackie Courchene, and Yukina Sato Crul

It’s hard to believe that this time last year I had just submitted my applications for grad school and was planning my trips to visit campuses for auditions and interviews. A lot has changed in the past year, to say the least, but one thing remains constant, my curiosity for the new and my openness to learning. While the realities of Covid-19 have reshaped what my vision of grad school would be like, I am happy to say that I feel I made the right decision in continuing on in this journey. It is an honor to be a part of the community which is defining how we navigate the newness of this era and to have the opportunity to grow and evolve with the changing times. 

I have to give props to OSU, and specifically the department of dance, for taking health and safety precautions so seriously. Both the department and the university have created a space where inquiry and investigation can still thrive will everyone works together to keep each other safe. I can’t thank the staff and work-study students enough for providing us with clean spaces in which to work while we’re on campus. There aren’t enough words to describe how creatively and valiantly the instructors and professors worked to create challenging and inspiring classes in which students thrived personally and academically. And of course, I am grateful for Dr. Nadine George-Graves, chair of the department of dance at OSU, for leading us through this frustrating time with transparency and grit. 

During my first semester I’ve been involved in a plethora of classes, all of which have provided me with tools and insight to propel me forward with success as I continue my journey. I’ve had the pleasure of being a teaching assistant for a general education course called Western Concert Dance. The lead instructor is 3rd year PhD student Alex Christmas and I’ve learned so much from observing her teach and interact (virtually) with students. I’ve been able to take movement classes from the newest faculty member and a faculty member who is retiring at the end of this semester. Professor Momar Ndiaye is new to the department this semester and I was in his African Dance class, my first full African dance course outside a master class, and I made so many connections to my previous dance training and learned how many of the roots of the movement I know are based in West African dance forms. I was lucky enough to be part of Dr. Karen Eliot’s ballet class where I tried to soak up as much of her wisdom as I could before she heads off to retirement. I’ve also taken Sound Design this semester with Jonathon Hunter, the Production Manager for the department, and learned how to use software I never thought I would need to know about. 

Dance Film I with Professor Mitchell Rose has proven to be one of the most important courses I’ve taken this semester. Not only is dance film something I’ve been interested in learning more about, it is a skill and medium that has become essential during a time when in-person performances are dangerous and prohibited. Not only have I learned the skills of using film editing software I’ve learned important lessons about creativity, storytelling, and maintaining a subjective, critical eye. I appreciated Mitchell’s candor and honest feedback, but more importantly, I appreciated his openness to interpretation and encouragement for his students to develop and express their own opinions. 

Speaking of creativity, my Choreography Workshop course with Professor Susan Petry has been a source of inspiration and productive frustration. Professor Petry gave us the huge challenge of creating 8 pieces throughout the semester. Once piece was to be a 3-minute solo, one a 1-minute piece, one a durational piece, one a group piece, and four others left up to our imaginations. I won’t lie, I definitely got fatigued creatively, but I think being able to find the strength to work through the exhaustion brought a clearer understanding of the importance of the dailiness of creating. Most of the other posts in this blog are about the process of making these works, so please check them out – there are videos to watch too!

 At the core of my courses in my first semester was Foundations in Dance Research with Professor Norah Zuniga Shaw. In this course Norah led us through the ins and outs of what it means to be a graduate student in dance at OSU. She provided us with guidance on developing our research statements, navigating the university’s library system, and improving our digital literacy skills. In fact, she is the reason I have this blog! I’m so thankful I’ve had Norah and this course to get me started on this journey back into academia. Starting back to school after 12 years of working in the field, I was feeling nervous about what it would mean to be a student again. However, with Norah’s guidance and advising I feel more confident that I can do this! 

It is certain that 2020 has been a rough year for most, and this first semester of grad school has brought its highs and lows for me, but I couldn’t have made it through without the support and inspiration from my cohort. I am so privileged to be on this journey with 7 of the most talented, creative, and generous individuals I know. Through feedback in class, collaborations on projects, and hilarious group chats, this cohort has been a lifeline and support system I needed to survive. I feel honored to be part of a group that lifts each other up, cheers each other on, and will hold each other accountable as we move forward in our journeys together. To my cohort: thank you, I love you, and “to uncertainty and beyond!” 

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