In Department of Dance, Experiential Learning

For the first time, BYU’s Department of Dance is taking students to Europe to study Contemporary Dance.

 

BYU’s Department of Dance has a storied history of taking its students abroad to further their education. “We have had study abroad opportunities for the past 20 years or so,” said Pam Musil, the department’s associate chair. “We started out going to China every three years.”

However, the department is doing something new this year. This June, faculty and students from the Department of Dance will travel to Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague and Vienna for a contemporary focused study abroad.

Students who participate in the five-week program will participate in five international dance festivals. These dance festivals bring together some of the most renowned names and companies in contemporary dance, giving the students and faculty in attendance the opportunity to watch performers they may not have the opportunity to see otherwise.

“It’s a big deal,” Musil said. “It gives them the opportunity, not only to learn from artists throughout the world, but also to network. A lot of our students who are going are interested in forming their own dance companies, even working in Europe for a time, and it gives them a chance to do a lot of networking. Some of the people we’ve brought in as guests artists will be teaching at these festivals, so the students can reconnect with them.”

“It’s a great ambassadorial experience for our students to be out in the world and representing BYU and our values,” Musil added. “The dance discipline can be kind of questionable sometimes in terms of the standards they embrace. We have a chance to present an alternative and be able to let the world see what a great dance program BYU has and what great students we have. I think generally when we go out in the world, people are sometimes surprised and often impressed at the quality of our students and their skills. We’re excited for that aspect as well.”

Some attending students will also have the opportunity to perform while attending the New Prague Dance Festival. Musil said, “Our Contemporary Dance Theatre company has been to the Prague festival before and they came home with the grand prize that year. Regardless of the outcome of this performance, the adjudication is important, to be able to get feedback from professionals out in the world on the choreography and performance is important.”

Students participating in the study abroad will also have the opportunity to go to historical sites and view art in various museums throughout Europe. This expansion of the students’ life experience and cultural exposure has been planned by involved professors to help inspire future artistic expression. “One opportunity that a study abroad like this offers is that choreography can be inspired by social or political events, other works of art or any number of things that we encounter out in the world,” Musil said. “That inspiration can happen in an isolated way in the studio, but going out into the world and actually experiencing and seeing a work of art makes the resulting work more rich and authentic.”

Musil and other involved professors aim for the study abroad to be nothing less than a definitive part of their students’ college experiences and, hopefully, their lives. “It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students. I would hope some of our juniors and seniors and any students who go really consider this program a capstone. This is the pinnacle of the kinds of work they’ve been doing at the college level. It takes everything they’ve learned here at BYU and allows them to synthesize and apply it in a real-world way; to prepare for grad school and for performing careers by making connections and networking. It is a great capstone to their whole college career, a crowning experience.”

Further information regarding the study abroad may be found here.

 

(Photo courtesy of the BYU Kennedy Center)

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