Students plié to international dance seminar

Six students and two faculty from the USF School of Theatre and  Dance will perform in the International Creative Dance Seminar in China. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/BRYCE WOMELUDURF

When language becomes a barrier, USF dance major students choose to communicate through the art and movements of dance as the universal language.

For the first time in four years, six students and two faculty from the USF School of Theatre and Dance will showcase their passion in the International Creative Dance Seminar at Beijing Normal University (BNU), in China.

During the seminar, students will participate in workshops, classes and perform with dancers from six different countries.

The trip will take place from Oct. 18-28, where students will participate in workshops and classes during the first week and then perform their choreographies during the last two days.

Jeanne Travers, USF/China Dance Exchange coordinator, said that BNU will provide housing; however, the remaining costs will have to be fundraised by the students and faculty participating in the program.

“We have to come up with all the funding to get them there and pay for the major expenses which can become quite costly,” Travers said. “Students are not supposed to have any costs during the trip.”

The total cost for the trip is $9,600, which will be used to cover all students' airfare, visas and food throughout the trip. A HerdFunder campaign has been created with a goal of $2,500. As of June 11, $1,500 had been raised in 40 days.

According to Travers, the experience will be life-changing for the students as they will be immersed in a new culture and get in contact with top-notch performers around the world.

“We have to rely on fundraisers to get us there, but I think for these dancers it will be a major event in their lives,” Travers said. “Having been involved in this for seven years, this experience is something that they take with them for the rest of their lives.”

In order to be selected for the program, dance majors went through a rigorous process of auditioning where they were chosen based on their level of skill and interest in the idea of global citizenship. More than 50 students auditioned for a chance to fill the six spots, according to Travers.

Established in 2012, the USF/China Dance Exchange Program was created to help students take the next step toward their professional careers as performers and artists by immersing into a new culture. The trip takes place every other year, with this one marking its seventh edition.

According to Travers, BNU decides how many spots will be available for the trip, varying over the years. In 2015, 14 students and three faculty members participated in the program, compared to six students and two faculty this year.

Sofia Downing, a senior majoring in dance with a ballet concentration, said that the program will expose them to new cultures while gaining from experiences and dispersing knowledge about the art.

“It’s always fun to meet dancers from different cultures and I think it’s pretty amazing how dance connects all of us, even though we may come from different countries and even speak different languages, we just all find comfort in dance," Downing said.

While having the opportunity to perform on an international stage, students will get the chance to learn from top-notch performers from all over the world.

Kate Alava, a senior majoring in dance with a modern dance concentration, said that the lessons learned and the network built will be critical factors that will play a significant role after graduation.

“It was an insane moment to see our names on the list and it took some time to sink in,” Alava said. “It’s a great opportunity since some of us are in our senior year and this program will only bring us closer together, teach us lessons that we will carry to our future careers and show how dance has manifested in other countries.”

Caitlyn Schoen, a senior majoring in dance with a ballet concentration, said the fundraiser is a way for the community to support the arts at USF.

“This trip will allow us to be immersed in the culture and learn from people all over the world, which will certainly play a role in our future careers,” Schoen said. “If it weren’t for the fundraiser, we would be paying out of pocket, so any help we can get would help us live this experience and show how the community supports the arts.”

Besides learning from workshops and about new cultures, USF students will network with people from different countries during the program, according to Travers.

“Dance is a universal language because we are not dealing with a language barrier,” Travers said. “It’s a language of movement and a way of communication with one another. With that, dancers become very close to one another without having to speak with one another. Students will create lifelong relationships with colleagues, peers and teachers from other countries.”